Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley accuses Hartlepool MP of '˜abusing Parliamentary procedure'
Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has hit back by brushing off a call from Hartlepool MP Iain Wright to give evidence in Parliament about the treatment of his workers.
Mr Ashley has accused Mr Wright of “abusing Parliamentary procedure” in order to create a “media circus” which was not in the interests of his staff.
This comes after Mr Wright, who is the chairman of the Commons Business, Skills and Innovation Committee, warned Mr Ashley that he would be in contempt of Parliament unless he agreed a date to appear before them.
In a letter to Mr Wright, the Sports Direct boss makes no offer of a date to give evidence – although he repeats an invitation to the committee to visit Sports Direct’s premises at Shirebrook in Derbyshire.
“I was disgusted to learn that you have adopted a stance that is deliberately antagonistic,” he wrote.
“By refusing to visit Sports Direct to see things with your own eyes, you are missing out on a genuine opportunity to gain a detailed and balanced understanding of the matters you wish to discuss.
“I believe you are abusing Parliamentary procedure in an attempt to create a media circus in Westminster, which is not in the best interests of any of the people who work at Sports Direct.”
The committee has been seeking to question Mr Ashley about working practices at his Shirebrook warehouse, including reports of poor working conditions and the use of controversial zero-hours contracts.
In his letter, Mr Wright warned if Mr Ashley failed to agree a date to give evidence, the committee reserved the right to take the matter further “including seeking the support of the House of Commons in respect of any complaint of contempt”.
Mr Wright wrote: “The treatment of low-paid workers and enforcement of the national minimum wage are issues that the committee will be keeping under review over the coming months.
“A number of alternative dates have been offered to you by the Committee Clerk, but as yet you have not accepted any of them, nor agreed in principle to attend.”
It is thought that no one has been charged with contempt of Parliament since the 1950s.
However, in the Commons on Thursday, the shadow leader of the House, Chris Bryant, said the House could “force him to attend”.
“He may be the 22nd richest man in Britain, but he is running a modern-day sweatshop and this House will get to the truth,” he said.
Mr Ashley also owns Newcastle United Football Club. A spokesman for the committee said members would consider Mr Ashley’s letter and their next steps when they meet on Tuesday.