Mike Ashley lodges complaint against ex-Labour MP over working practices

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Mike Ashley Debenhams

Mike Ashley has reignited the row over Sports Direct’s working practices by filing a complaint against the former MP who led the parliamentary inquiry into the retailer.

The billionaire founder of the sportswear retailer was dogged by negative press coverage in 2016 after a parliamentary inquiry concluded that he had run Sports Direct, especially at its Shirebrook warehouse, like a “Victorian workhouse”.

It was also found that workers were treated “without dignity or respect” and that Sports Direct and its employment agencies – Transline and The Best Connection – paid staff less than the legal minimum wage.

The three firms subsequently agreed to award the Shirebrook warehouse workers around £1 million in back pay.

Ashley has now lodged a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over the conduct of Iain Wright, the former Labour MP who led the parliamentary in his capacity as business, innovation and skills select committee chairman.

The formal complaint alleged that Wright did not act objectively during the parliamentary inquiry by not fully explaining a donation he received from the Unite trade union, which supplied evidence to the investigation.

Wright was also accused of misleading Sports Direct in regards to when his committee would carry out an unannounced inspection of the retailer’s Shirebrook warehouse.

However, transcripts of the parliamentary hearing indicate that Wright had declared his receipt of a donation from Unite and when he asked if his committee could show up uninvited to inspect the Shirebrook warehouse, Ashley replied: “100 per cent, 24/7”.

Nonetheless, Wright welcomed Ashley’s formal complaint.

“I’m more than happy that he is flagging up what I think was a really good piece of work,” he told the Guardian.

“My colleagues, who were cross party, worked well together to highlight a list of appalling practices. This is obviously still eating him up and he can’t let it go.”

It is now up to parliamentary commissioner for standards Kathryn Stone to determine if Ashley’s complaint should be pursued as an investigation.

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