The war of words between Sir Philip Green and Frank Field MP has continued, with the latter warning Green his settlement deal over the BHS pension deficit will be scrutinised.
Field, who chairs the government‘s work and pensions committee and co-led the parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of BHS last year, said the details of the £363 million agreement struck between the retail tycoon and The Pensions Regulator must be revealed so the government can shore up regulation and prevent another similar collapse.
In a letter to Green, Field welcomed the out-of-court settlement but urged the Arcadia Group boss to publish the regulator’s warning notice against him as they would not reveal the details.
“The fact remains that, incorporating indexation, the pension scheme members can expect to receive on average 88 per cent of the benefits they were promised by you. Many will receive less,” Field wrote.
“As you are aware, the committee has expressed concern about the capabilities of [The Pensions Regulator] and has made recommendations for changes to pensions law and regulation which may help it better perform its functions.
“BHS was its largest avoidance case. It is incumbent on the committee to examine not just whether that was a good settlement, based on evidence they had, which might act as both a template for other cases and a deterrent to avoidance occurring in future.”
Last weekend, Field reignited his public spat with Green after saying he had not done enough to keep his knighthood and remained ”on the hook” for the failure of BHS.
In response, on Tuesday Green wrote to Field where he defended his BHS pension settlement.
He also accused the MP of using him as a “political football” and for being ”disingenuous” for calling into question his agreement with the regulator.
Green owned BHS for 15 years as part of his Arcadia Group – a retail empire that includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Evans in its stable.
In March 2015, the billionaire sold the department store chain to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell for £1.
Just 13 months later, BHS collapsed and a £571 million pension deficit was soon revealed, sparking months of media coverage and a parliamentary investigation with Green and Chappell at the centre of it.
Around 11,000 jobs were affected by the collapse, as well as 19,000 pension holders.
Earlier this year, Green agreed to pay £363 million, less than the £571 million figure, to plug the pension black hole after being urged to do so for months by MPs.
It has been one year since BHS collapsed, and an estimated two thirds of the empty shops the chain left behind have not yet found new tenants.