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Law Society boss locks horns with unswayed Hemming.


Abitter war of words has erupted between Birmingham Law Society president Andrew Lancaster and John Hemming after the Yardley MP was accused of undermining the rule of law when he named footballer Ryan Giggs in the House of Commons.

Mr Lancaster wrote to the MP after he used Parliamentary privilege to name the Manchester United player as the footballer behind a super injunction regarding an alleged relationship with former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas.

Mr Lancaster wrote to the Liberal Democrat MP suggesting he had failed to uphold the rule of law, part of his duty as an MP, and asked him to pledge to uphold it in the future.

But the MP's email response prompted a second letter from Mr Lancaster, claiming it did not offer the reassurance he had hoped for.

Since then a flurry of emails have seen Mr Lancaster accuse the MP of failing to answer his question and Mr Hemming accusing Mr Lancaster of failing to repeat the question.

In accusing the MP Mr Lancaster said: "I believe the consequences of Mr Hemming speaking out in the way he did has undermined the rule of law which we all know to be the cornerstone of our democracy.

"What he has done is attempted a short-cut to a law that he considers should be changed and by doing so has breached this principle.

"As a result I consider that his actions have made it harder to instil respect for the law when it is his duty as a member of Parliament to ensure it is upheld and that any law that is considered to be in need of revision is changed by Parliament and not undermined by it."

"For me, the most worrying aspect is that John Hemming has so far not confirmed that he will observe the rule of law. Here we have a law maker unable to confirm that he will comply with the law.

"I find this astonishing and alarming and I hope that both Parliament and his own party will have more success than I did in pressing Mr Hemming to clarify his position."

In reply to the accusations Mr Hemming said he stands by his actions and added that he had not replied to Mr Lancaster's question because he failed to repeat it - despite being asked.

He repeated his claims that the super injunction was a sideshow to the more "fundamental matter" of people being jailed in secret - the real reason behind his actions in Parliament, Mr Hemming claimed. "I stand by what I did in that we shouldn't be jailing people in secret.

"Also there was no longer anything confidential about this case - 79 per cent of people knew his name - and I hope I have derailed any prosecution over it.

"As far as the more fundamental matter goes I have been talking about secret jailing for some time and the fact you are not allowed to say who these people are or what they have done.

"I have no concern whether the footballer in question is playing away from home or not but what I am concerned about is prosecuting people in secret and giving them sentences of up to two years in jail."

As far as failing to answer Mr Lancaster's question Mr Hemming said that as he was on holiday he did not have time to go through correspondence he received and claimed Mr Lancaster would not repeat the questions he wanted answered.

"I don't mind answering questions as long as people tell me what they are," he added.

"We've had secret courts, secret jailing and now secret questions.

"It reminds me of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy where they said something was hidden in a cellar many solar systems away.

"If he tells me what the question is I haven't answered I will answer it."

Following the last email exchange between Mr Lancaster and Mr Hemming, Mr Lancaster said: "I am not prepared to ask the question a third time.

''I am alarmed that as a Member of Parliament, he is unable or unwilling to provide the reassurance I am seeking."


There has been a flurry of emails between MP John Hemming and Andrew Lancaster (far right) the president of Birmingham Law Society, after Mr Hemming used Parliamentary privilege to break a super injunction
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 2, 2011
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