Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field has called on The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to reveal any dealings it has had with Arcadia Group over a potential sale.
Field ignored Sir Philip Green’s public calls for a “truce”, urging TPR to lay bare any conversations it has had with the Topshop owner, which is understood to have a pensions deficit of £565 million.
This follows media speculation that Green is planning to sell part of Arcadia to Chinese firm Shandong Ruyi.
Field has called for powers to be granted to the TPR to halt the sale while it investigates the possible impact of a sale on thousands of staff pensions.
Green has strongly denied he plans any sort of sale, even after The Sunday Times revealed a leaked email that HSBC was contacted by Arcadia to help find a buyer.
Field’s concern over Arcadia’s pensions deficit follows the collapse of BHS just over a year after Green sold it for £1 to former bankrupt Dominic Chappell.
The massive deficit affected 22,000 employees’ pensions and required the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) to foot the majority of the bill.
He has also pushed for more information on the TRP’s voluntary clearance system which allows companies to seek the watchdog’s backing ahead of a sale.
“The voluntary clearance system has been used sparingly in recent times,” Field said in a letter to the TRP.
“Could you please confirm that you believe that undergoing voluntary clearance is responsible corporate behaviour; that the sale of a sponsor (…) of a large pension scheme with a substantial deficit would be an appropriate transaction for which to apply for voluntary clearance; and that you have been in contact with the trustees of the Arcadia regarding the potential implications of the mooted sale.”
Last weekend, Green sent a letter to Field calling for a “truce” on the long-running public quarrel between them.
He wrote: “Mr Field, why don’t we call a truce. You say it is not personal, it could not be more personal. Go and tackle Carillion or someone else.”