Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley will go before MPs to defend firm's 'good name'

Billionaire says he will now appear before the select committee this week to answer question on his company's working conditions despite previously refusing

Caroline Mortimer@cjmortimer
Sunday 05 June 2016 18:06
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Mike Ashley (centre) has previously refused to give evidence to MPs about working conditions at his company
Mike Ashley (centre) has previously refused to give evidence to MPs about working conditions at his company

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said he will now appear before MPs to defend his firm's "good name".

Mr Ashley has backed down after months of refusing to give evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) select committee about working conditions at his sporting goods chain.

The billionaire had been originally ordered to appear before the committee on 7 June but last week claimed he could not attend the hearing because his lawyer, Richard Gordon QC, was unavaliable.

He had previously said he would meet with the committee if they travelled to seehim at his firm's headquarters in Derbyshire and had even offered to fly them there in his own aircraft.

He was warned that he could be found in contempt of Parliament if he continued to refuse to meet the committee which he had previously dubbed "a joke".

Speaking to Sky News in March, Mr Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United Football Club, said he thought the MPs were just "showboating" and that "they don't care about the people, they care about the business of politics".

BIS chair Iain Wright MP told the BBC last week that is was "entirely reasonable" for the committee to respond to allegations that forced its staff to undergo mandatory searches when leaving warehouses after their shifts had ended, penalising ill staff and "naming and shaming" workers over the warehouse tannoy system.

Many staff are on controversial zero hours contracts and can be docked 15 minutes pay for being a minute late, the Guardian revealed last year.

He said: "We are very disappointed by this eleventh-hour notification, having given him a notice period of three months to make the necessary arrangements.

"Business leaders regularly come before the committee and answer our questions. Sir Philip Green, for example, has agreed to attend as part of our joint inquiry into BHS.

"Does Mr Ashley, owning and operating a business in a parliamentary democracy, see himself as being beyond such public scrutiny? What has he got to be frightened of?".

The committee will also hear from representatives of the Unite union - which is leading a campaign to highlight conditions at Sports Direct - and from the agency which provides workers for the company's warehouses.

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