Tesco must decide by September 15 whether to accept an apology and damages from The Guardian, following the newspaper’s incorrect tax avoidance story, a judge has ruled.

In a preliminary court hearing over Tesco’s libel action, Mr Justice Eady also ordered a stay on a parallel claim made by the grocer, alleging malicious falsehood against the paper and its editor.

The judge said that details of tax avoidance schemes operated by Tesco could be introduced as evidence.

The Guardian has made an offer of amends to Tesco, but the grocer said the wording of the law made it impossible to either accept or reject it. Tesco could still proceed with full-scale libel action.