MPs have refused Mike Ashley’s offer to accept his parliamentary summons in exchange for a visit to his Shirebrook warehouse.
On Monday night the Sports Direct founder wrote a letter to MPs in the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee in which he agreed to appear in parliament on 7 June on the condition that they visit his Shirebrook headquarters the day before, even offering the use of his private helicopter for the trip.
When approached by Retail Gazette the Committee said Ashley’s offer would be considered at its meeting next week. Instead the response has been swift, with one member of the Committee simply saying: “You don’t do a deal with parliament.”
“We take up almost every offer that comes our way, we are a really constructive committee,” said Peter Kyle, a Labour member of the Committee.
“But this should not be a quid pro quo. This is not a deal, it is a process, [which] starts with him getting his backside on a chair in a room with elected members of parliament and let’s take it from there.
“To do anything other than that is not bravado, it is just cowardice.”
Following an investigation by The Guardian it was revealed that workers at the Sports Direct Shirebrook warehouse had been forced to stay late, for no additional money, for mandatory security checks, resulting in their overall pay adding up to less than minimum wage.
Mike Ashley snubbed the Committee’s summons in March, accusing them of creating a “media circus.”
Ashley is notorious for failing to attend summons in person. In 2015 he sent his company Chairman, Keith Hellawell, in his place to meet the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.
“He is very reluctant to make public appearances that are not on his own turf, because he knows that is an environment in which he does not perform well,” a former associate of Ashley’s said.
“That is why you rarely see him at analyst presentations. It is also why he has been so reluctant to go to parliament.”
In March Ashley was threatened with ‘contempt of parliament’ if he refused his summons. The meaning of such a threat in a modern context has not been defined, though it is entirely possible that the millionaire could face jail time if he does not appear.