Former BHS boss Sir Philip Green needs to ‘get his chequebook’ out to plug the massive hole in the shop chain’s pension fund, Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said today.
BHS went into administration shortly after being sold for £1 by Sir Philip, with a £571million pension scheme deficit.
The House of Commons debated a motion calling on the billionaire to honour his pledge to make good the shortfall, as well passing as an amendment calling on the Honours Forfeiture Committee to recommend stripping him of his knighthood.
Iain Wright is chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, which published a damning report into the collapse of the firm, and told the Commons: “(Sir Philip) took the rings from BHS’s fingers, he beat it black and blue, he starved it of food and water, he put it on life support, and then he wanted credit for keeping it alive.
“His extraction of value early on in his ownership made the company less able to innovate, to retain a market share or have a competitive place in the retail market, which would allow the firm to generate the profits and be in more of a position to survive the growing pension deficit.
“This drip, drip decline provided the back-drop to Sir Philip’s wish to sell the business.”
BHS is the biggest corporate scandal we’ve seen for something like a decade but I think there are lessons to be learned.Iain Wright MP
Mr Wright said it was difficult to come up with “a more unlikely or incredible knight in shining armour than Dominic Chappell,” the former bankrupt with no experience of major retailers who bought the business for £1.
And he hit out at Goldman Sachs for giving credibility to Mr Chappell’s purchase by offering informal advice to Sir Philip over the sale.
“Goldman Sachs’ attitude to document management seemed to be on a par with some dodgy and ramshackle cowboy operation rather than supposedly the world’s premier consulting firm,” he said.
“Although they were ultimately not responsible for the decisions taken - that was Sir Philip Green - their involvement mattered, they were up to their necks in it, even to the extent of offering a £40million credit facility.”
Speaking on BBC News’ Victoria Derbyshire show before the debate, he said: “Sir Phillip Green is seen as a consummate deal maker - he has bought and sold companies worth billions of pounds in a weekend.
“If he has the mind and the will to do something, it happens quickly. He came before us on the committee on the fifteenth of June and said he’d sort it. We’re discussing this on the twentieth of October. No progress has been made.
“Is that really reflective of someone who wants to sort this? He does need to get his chequebook out.”