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Local MPs refuse Ashley his chance to “avoid public scrutiny”


Things continue to deteriorate for Mike Ashley as local MPs threaten to pull out of their scheduled Shirebrook visit unless the billionaire agrees to appear in parliament.

On Tuesday it was revealed that Mike Ashley, Founder and Owner of Sports Direct, will be officially ordered to appear before the MPs of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee to answer allegations of employee mistreatment at the business’s Shirebrook Warehouse.

Having called MPs “deliberately antagonistic” for their treatment of the situation, Ashley had invited them, as well as “all forms of media”, to the Shirebrook warehouse to inspect the business themselves. Although Committee Chairman Iain Wright turned Ashley down, certain local Labour MPs had agreed. Now, however, the same MPs are threatening to pull out of their visit unless Ashley agrees to his summons.

“We would be grateful if you could confirm that you will be making an appointment to answer questions from the BIS select committee in advance of our meeting on Monday 21 March… or, regrettably, we will have to reschedule.” Said the letter from local Labour MPs Dennis Skinner, Toby Perkins and Gloria de Piero.

“To be clear, we are not prepared to meet at the facility in Shirebrook until you have set a date to respond to the BIS select committee.”

Perkins reiterated in the letter that the MPs had agreed to meet with Ashley in “good faith”, but that the occasion would not be an opportunity for him to “avoid public scrutiny.”

Ashley himself is notoriously press shy. He was quick to make the visit offer to MPs after the initial story by The Guardian that brought the employee mistreatment to light, and when asked to appear before the Scottish Affairs Select Committee last year he instead sent Sports Direct Chairman Keith Hellawell, who struggled to answer Committee questions.

“Unless he confirms his intention to attend the select committee, we won’t be holding the private meeting in an effort to make sure that the practices and concerns at Shirebrook don’t go unscrutinised and don’t become the norm in the British workplace,” Perkins continued.

Mike Ashley is to appear in parliament on 7 June, provided he accepts his summons. Should he fail to, it is possible that he may be held in contempt of parliament.

Published on Thursday 17 March by Philip Gallagher

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