Yesterday’s surprise visit to Sports Directs’ Shirebrook warehouse by six MPs has led to the retailer being accused of “spying”.
The Business Select Committee, who issued the critical report into the company’s working practices, gave billionaire owner Mike Ashley just one hours’ notice before turning up for an inspection.
Despite the MPs completing a three-hour tour without incident, during a private meeting after the tour, Redcar MP Anna Turley discovered a covert recording device.
She told The Telegraph that a woman entered the MPs’ meeting room with a tray of sandwiches and placed a recording device underneath a chair.
“I couldn’t believe it. I watched her put the device on the floor and when she left I said ‘bloody hell guys they are trying to record us’. It’s not James Bond, more Austin Powers,” she said.
After confronting the Sports Direct spokesman Gary Thompson, MPs were soon on the phone to Ashley who promptly accused them of planting the device.
Committee chairman Ian Wright told The Telegraph: “I was put on the phone to [Ashley] and he said ‘you must have planted it there’. Then the PR said that it must have been there before from a previous meeting. But that is all nonsense and I said as much.”
The incident follows a previous, well-publicised visit by MPs and media in which Ashley, embroiled in a scandal involving underpaying his workers, produced a wad of £50 notes in front of cameras and a live audience during a body search.
More recently he readily admitted to being a PR disaster in live TV, while also admitting to flying to work on a private plane due to “efficiency”.