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Summary

  1. Sir Philip Green apologises for the 'sad' demise of BHS
  2. Rescue plan being worked on for £571m BHS pension deficit
  3. 'Bad mistakes' made over the pension scheme
  4. Sir Philip concedes he regrets selling BHS to Dominic Chappell

Live Reporting

By Bill Wilson

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Good night

That is all from us here at Business Live for the day, hope you will join us again tomorrow morning. 

Wall Street closes down for fifth session in a row

Wall Street fell for the fifth session running on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve left US interest rates unchanged. 

Meanwhile, investors remained cautious in light of the forthcoming referendum in the UK on 23 June about whether to leave the EU.

At close the Dow Jones was down 0.20% at 17, 640.17, the S&P was behind by 0.18% at 2071.50, and the Nasdaq lost 0.18% at 4, 834.93.

George Osborne

Laura Kuenssberg

Political editor

Remain still believes its best hope is to shout about the potential downsides to the economy of leaving the EU - but the conduct of the campaign has damaged George Osborne's reputation among his colleagues.

Read more

Yellen quotes on a possible Brexit vote

"Brexit...the upcoming UK decision is something we discussed and I think it's fair to say that it was one of the factors that factored into today's decisions," said Ms Yellen.

"Clearly this is a very important decision for the United Kingdom and for Europe. It is a decision that could have consequences for economic and financial conditions in global financial markets. 

"If it does so it could have consequences in turn for the US economic outlook that would be a factor in deciding on the appropriate path of policy.  It is certainly one of the uncertainties that we discussed and that factored into today's decision."

Would there have to be emergency Brexit tax rises?

Reality Check

George Osborne saying there would have to be an emergency budget.
BBC

The claim: If there was a vote to leave the EU there would have to be an emergency budget.

Reality Check verdict: There is no legal requirement to have an emergency budget but the Chancellor could have one if he wanted to make immediate changes to tax rates or spending cuts.

Read the full Reality Check here.

Fed's Yellen on the Brexit factor

Janet Yellen
Getty Images

Despite the Fed not alluding to the UK referendum on EU membership on 23 June in its formal statement today, chairman Janet Yellen has now been asked about the issue in her media conference.

She says that the forthcoming vote was one of the reasons for leaving rates unchanged, and that a Brexit vote to leave the EU could have consequences for the US economy and financial conditions. 

She is basically repeating what she said last week, when Ms Yellen warned an EU exit could have "significant economic repercussions".

US markets ahead after Fed decision

Wall Street indexes were up after the Fed decision, the Dow by 0.37%, S&P by 0.36%, and Nasdaq by 0.36%.

Investors in Europe, the US and Asia have been becoming more nervous ahead of the UK vote on 23 June on whether to leave the EU.

Fed monitors global conditions but not EU poll

The Fed also said that it was closely watching global economic and financial developments. 

But it made no reference to the vote in the UK next week about whether the UK should exit the European Union.

Uncertainty around which way that vote will go is credited with creating volatility in markets in Europe and further afield.

Fed forecasts now less optimistic

Federal Reserve building
Getty Images

Federal Reserve officials are less optimistic about the economy's growth this year and next, compared with three months ago.

They now expect growth to be 2% this year and next, down from previous forecasts of 2.2% this year and 2.1% in 2017. 

They also expect 2% growth in 2018, the same as in March. Their unemployment rate forecasts are little changed, at 4.7% at the end of this year, the same as it is now.

The Fed projects it will be 4.6% next year and remain at that level in 2018. 

The Fed on US economic conditions

The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run. However, the actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on the economic outlook as informed by incoming data.

Federal Reserve statement

Fed sees 'slower path of future rate hikes'

The Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and indicated it still planned two rate increases this year.

it added that it sees a slower path of future rate hikes, with roughly three per year starting in 2017.

BreakingUS Fed keeps rates on hold

The US Federal Reserve has said it will keep interest rates at between 0.25% and 0.5%.

The bank last raised rates in December.

Flatlining...

Knight Frank's Grainne Gilmore tweets a reminder of the failure to increase the number of houses being built in England.

View more on twitter

Clash of Clans maker 'in $9bn takeover'

And in a spot of non-BHS news, the Wall Street Journal reports:

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Sir Philip Green 'not used to being quizzed'

"What was quite clear was that he was not being used to being questioned. Quite reasonable questions asked with some courtesy he took offence at.

Iain WrightMP for Hartlepool
Iain Wright MP
Getty

Sir Philip Green accused Labour MP Iain Wright of being rude to him with his line of questioning earlier this afternoon.

Here are Mr Wright's impressions of Sir Philip's evidence, given to BBC Business Online's Jamie Robertson.

"One of the things that really struck us was the ability of him to have quite vivid recollection of detail such as where that seven million pounds went but in terms of ten years of pension schemes, which went from surplus to deficit, he didn’t know anything, and we were trying to push him on that - that curious mix, that contradiction between knowing the detail and knowing nothing at all is something we really want to push."

And as for his own style of questioning, which inflamed the retailer at times, Mr Wright said this: "What was quite clear was that he was not being used to being questioned. Quite reasonable questions asked with some courtesy he took offence at."

Sir Philip Green became involved in a fiery exchange with Labour MP Iain Wright
The former owner of BHS, Sir Philip Green, became involved in a fiery exchange with Labour MP Iain Wright as he took questions over the collapse of the retail giant.

Frank Field on the way forward for BHS pensioners

Sir Philip Green 'credibility' on the line

BHS store
Reuters

After the Commons hearing today, BBC Business Online's Jamie Robertson spoke to committee chair Frank Field. Here are some of the things he had to say:

"Much now depends on the negotiations with the pensions regulator but it’s not for the first time for the first time BHS pensioners have been at this stage. A lot of the credibility today rests on a very generous settlement. We are writing a huge follow up. We wish to have the minutes of the companies that Lady Green owns."

He added: "You saw how at the end of the session he [Sir Philip Green] said it had been the worst four weeks of his life, well, he wouldn’t have gone those worst four weeks of his life if his family had been generous with the 20,000 pensioners."

FTSE closes higher

FTSE table
BBC

After that marathon BHS hearing with Sir Philip Green it is easy to forget that there has been other business news happening out there.

The FTSE has rebounded after closing down by 2% on Tuesday, to end the day ahead by 0.73% at 5,966.80. So still below the 6,000 mark.

Mining stocks, which had taken a hammering yesterday, filled the top five gainer slots... Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Glencore and Antofagasta finishing the day ahead by between 4% to 7%. 

BreakingSir Philip Green 'before the bar of public opinion'

Philip Green
Getty Images

Iain Wright, chair of the Business select committee, and Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions committee, have issued a statement:  

“We thank Sir Philip for giving us six hours of evidence in Parliament today, and we were pleased to hear that he is still trying to put together a better deal for the BHS pensioners. We hope he will come up with an offer that is satisfactory to The Pension Regulator. However, he doesn’t only have to satisfy The Pensions Regulator, today he is before the bar of public opinion. Much of his reputation now depends on how generously he responds.

“Today’s evidence raised host of further questions and we first want to get much more detail on the structure of various companies, particularly those owned by Lady Cristina Green, the profits they have made and the tax they have paid.

“We have more witnesses scheduled at the end of June and in the last few days we have received a huge amount of further evidence. We have many further questions for Sir Philip, particularly the big questions on the pension fund that he was unable to answer today.”

The Pensions Regulator response in full

A spokesperson for the pensions regulator has issued this statement in response to Sir Philip's testimony:

  • It is not true to say we are refusing to engage with Sir Philip Green, or his advisers, regarding the BHS pension scheme.
  • Our door is always open to discuss credible proposals and we have made initial contact with Sir Philip’s advisers to remind them of this point following comments that we have not engaged with them. We cannot comment further at this stage.
  • We will consider any credible and reasonable proposals that are put to us but we have not received details of any new proposal from Sir Philip Green or his advisers.
  • Where we are approached about a transaction or a restructuring of a pension scheme, we can work quickly if we are provided with all the information we need to make a decision. Clearly this requires the cooperation of all parties and we cannot agree to anything in the absence of credible proposals that satisfies the necessary legal, and where appropriate, published policy criteria. 
  • As a regulator, we seek to ensure that members get the benefits they have been promised. Only when we are convinced that this is not possible will we look at other options that may be available within the pensions regulatory framework.

Pensions regulator issues denial re engaging with Green

Sunday Times reporter Oliver Shah tweets:

pensions regulator again issues denial that it has refused to engage w Green on BHS pension restructuring

pensions regulator again issues denial that it has refused to engage w Green on BHS pension restructuring

'Green runs the show'

Sir Philip's hands wave frantically and the questions keep on coming. Sir Philip turns the questions back on the MPs.

BBC Business Online's Jamie Robertson has been sitting through what he describes as a performance to compare with Shakespeare's Hamlet. 

Read here what he made of Sir Philip Green's role in the drama.

Sir Philip Green
Reuters

BreakingSummary: what we've learned from today's hearing

  • Sir Philip Green is still talking to the pensions regulator about a potential deal, but nothing has been agreed as yet
  • SPG talked to Mike Ashley, Sports Direct founder, about a potential rescue deal - but it remains unclear why that did not go ahead
  • He admits he chose the wrong guy in Dominic Chappell as a buyer for BHS
  • Sir Philip says he invested more than £600m in BHS after taking some £400m out of the business

'Sorry is not good enough'

BHS store
Getty Images

The union Usdaw says BHS staff heard little from today's hearing to reassure them about the future or explain the past. 

John Hannett, its general secretary, says: 

“We welcome the commitment from Sir Phillip to ‘sort out’ the pension and await to see the detail of what he is proposing, but there was precious little said today to reassure the 11,000 staff who are staring down the barrel of a gun, facing unemployment. Saying sorry about the demise of BHS is simply not good enough for the hardworking staff about to be made redundant, many of whom have given their whole working lives to BHS. There are still serious questions that need to be answered and we hope the select committees take up Sir Phillip’s offer to scrutinise his finance team."

'No new pension proposals'

Financial Times pensions correspondent Josephine Cumbo tweets: 

View more on twitter

BreakingDone and dusted...

"You have my commitment that I will work with regulator. It's going to get my best shot," says SPG.

Thanks from Iain Wright - with a promise to be in touch for the details on the questions SPG couldn't answer.

And that's a wrap - just shy of six hours later...

'A very clear conscience'

Sky News' Mark Kleinman tweets:

View more on twitter

Any lessons?

Asked whether there are any lessons that might restore public trust in business, Sir Philip responds: "I'm used to getting attacked over the last couple of weeks ... I haven't been able to visit my shops for past five weeks.

"I made a bad call selling this business to Mr Chappell," but he adds that many others also need to take responsibility.

Pluses and minuses

Has today's session with MPs added or detracted from your reputation, Sir Philip is asked.

"It's easy to see now that it wasn't the right buyer," he replies.

He argued that his employees know he would not have let BHS collapse on purpose, but adds: "We can't take away the sad ending."

'Very sad episode'

The Guardian's Sarah Butler tweets:

View more on twitter

'Life's moved on'

Would SPG buy BHS back now?

"Life's moved on," says Sir Philip. He reckons many of the 11,000 people employed by BHS will get jobs elsewhere.

'That's an insult'

Co-chairman Iain Wright implies that for reasons of ego Sir Philip Green did not want anyone else - such as Mike Ashley - to succeed where he had failed.

"That's an insult...that's really rude...that's disgusting," Sir Philip responds.

Sky News City editor Mark Kleinman adds:

View more on twitter

Green 'spoke to Ashley'

Sunday Times reporter Oliver Shah tweets:

View more on twitter

The Mike Ashley connection

The MP Iain Wright reads out a letter from Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, in which Mr Ashley says he had a phone conversation with Sir Philip Green about a possible bid for BHS.

Sir Philip had previously denied knowing that Mr Ashley was in talks with Mr Chappell about a bid.

He repeats again that he had "zero knowledge" of a meeting that took all night between Mr Chappell and Mr Ashley.

"Mike Ashley phoned me up and said 'you knew it was me, didn't you?''" says Sir Philip.

"From there we had a few conversations over the Saturday ... I had no involvement in the negotiations. I don't know what the deal was," he adds.