Derby

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley to miss Commons committee

Mike Ashley Image copyright PA
Image caption Sports Direct was founded by billionaire Mike Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United

An MP has questioned whether the boss of Sports Direct is "frightened" and thinks he is "beyond public scrutiny" after he said he will not be attending a Commons committee.

Billionaire Mike Ashley had been ordered to appear in Westminster to give evidence about working practices.

Mr Ashley told MPs on Thursday he would not be at the hearing because his legal representative is unavailable.

The committee will decide its next steps at the hearing on Tuesday.

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Mr Ashley informed the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee of his non-attendance by letter, explaining that he would not attend because the lawyer he wants with him is not available.

He had previously said he would meet MPs if they travelled to his firm's base in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, and offered to transport them in his own aircraft.

Image caption Mr Ashley invited the committee to come to the Sports Direct premises in Shirebrook, Derbyshire

BIS chair Iain Wright MP said it was "entirely reasonable" for the committee to ask Mr Ashley to respond to allegations over working practices at Sports Direct and comment on how a review of those practices is progressing.

"We are very disappointed by this eleventh-hour notification, having given him [Mr Ashley] a notice period of three months to make the necessary arrangements," Mr Wright said.

"Business leaders regularly come before the committee and answer our questions. Sir Philip Green, for example, has agreed to attend as part of our joint inquiry into BHS.

"Does Mr Ashley, owning and operating a business in a parliamentary democracy, see himself as being beyond such public scrutiny? What has he got to be frightened of?"

The committee will question representatives from the Unite union and hear from employment agencies who provide workers to Sports Direct at their warehouse.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sports Direct has come under fire in recent months over its "Dickensian working practises"

Mr Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United Football Club, has turned down invitations to meet with MPs in the past and at one stage said the MPs involved were "a joke".

He has been warned he could be in contempt of Parliament if he continued to refuse to appear before the committee.

Mr Ashley was asked to attend on the back of a BBC investigation into working practices at Sports Direct's headquarters.

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