Use of “gagging orders” comes under increasing scrutiny

The head of the BBC is set to face questions this week about the broadcaster’s handling of harassment and discrimination claims

The head of the BBC is set to face questions this week about the broadcaster’s handling of harassment and discrimination claims, amid allegations that “gagging orders” had been used to silence victims.

Director General Tony Hall is to be quizzed by members of the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee over the organisation’s use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

The veteran journalist Carrie Gracie, whose resignation as China editor earlier this month had prompted fresh scrutiny of the BBC’s employment practices, is also due to appear before MPs.

In a candid blog post a few weeks ago, Ms Gracie had specifically criticised the use of non-disclosure agreements.

Conservative backbencher and Select Committee chair Maria Miller told The Independent that she had concerns.

“Across the board non-disclosure agreements are being used to silence people and stop them talking about their experiences within organisations,” she said.

“There is a real concern that these agreements are being used to disguise unlawful activities.

“Public bodies should not be using taxpayers’ money to potentially stop people talking about their experiences of behaviour that is unlawful.”

It is actually the second time in a week that the use of non-disclosure agreements has fed into a major news story.

Concerns were raised a few days ago about the fact that women hired as hostesses at the now infamous Presidents Club dinner had also been forced to sign NDAs.

The ‘men’s only’ charity evening, attended by businessmen, politicians and public figures, was mired in controversy following allegations that the young women hired to work at the event were groped and propositioned for sex.

The use of NDAs has reportedly prevented women who suffered abuse at the event from speaking out.

Subsequently, a Downing Street spokesman has said that the Prime Minister will review the use of the agreements.
“Questions have been raised about the operation of non-disclosure agreements. The Prime Minister will look into the way these non-disclosure agreements are applied to see if changes are required,” he said.