Hartlepool's Iain Wright among MPs on surprise inspection visit to controversial Sports Direct warehouse

Mike Ashley.
Mike Ashley.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has made an unannounced visit to Sports Directs's controversial Shirebrook warehouse.

Mr Wright and five colleagues from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, of which he is chairman, told the retailer on Monday morning that they would be arriving for an on-the-spot inspection in the afternoon.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

Sports Direct boss and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley had previously invited MPs for a tour of the Derbyshire site, but select committee members said they would visit the company at a time of their choosing.

The firm has faced sharp criticism over corporate governance and working practices at Shirebrook after it was revealed that some warehouse staff were paid below the national minimum wage.

Mr Ashley has also come under fire for using zero-hours contracts and presiding over "Victorian" working practices.

The other MPs taking part in the inspection included Peter Kyle, Michelle Thomson, Anna Turley, Amanda Solloway and Craig Tracey.

As part of their visit, the committee wants to see what improvements Sports Direct has made since Mr Ashley was hauled before them in June.

However, it is understood the billionaire tycoon and owner of Newcastle United football club will not be able to meet them because he is out of the country on business, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Ashley has faced a stacked in-tray in recent months after Sports Direct became engulfed in a string of controversies.

It was revealed that staff were not paid during security searches at the end of their shift, meaning they took home less than the minimum amount required by law.

Shareholders later rebelled at Sports Direct's annual general meeting (AGM) in September over the reappointment of chairman Keith Hellawell amid mounting concerns over corporate governance at the firm.

Mr Ashley also drew fresh criticism at the AGM when he pulled out a wad of £50 notes during a mock security search in front of his staff.

Sports Direct has vowed to make improvements, promising to offer casual retail staff guaranteed hours instead of zero-hours contracts and ensure all warehouse staff are paid above National Minimum Wage.

It also said it would suspend its ''six strikes and you're out'' disciplinary procedure following the report conducted by professional services firm RPC.