Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley set to defy summons to appear before MPs

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley in the retail outlet during a tour of the Sports Direct headquarte

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley in the retail outlet during a tour of the Sports Direct headquarters in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has said that he will not attend a parliamentary select committee to discuss the treatment of his workforce, insisting that he would not “stand idle” while the company is “subjected to public vilification”.

Mr Ashley has been summoned to appear before the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee following criticism of working practices at the company’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

He said: “I do not pretend to get everything right all of the time, but I am not willing to stand idle while this company is subjected to public vilification which is against the best interests of everybody who works at Sports Direct.

“My current intention is that I will not attend Westminster on June 7 as I believe the proposal by [committee chairman] Iain Wright, whom I have offered to meet in Shirebrook, is an abuse of the parliamentary process.

“If they genuinely cared, they could genuinely come and see it for themselves. They can come to Sports Direct Shirebrook 365 days a year, we will make ourselves available. Sports Direct has nothing to hide.”

The committee has been seeking to question Mr Ashley about working practices at the Shirebrook warehouse, including reports of poor working conditions and the alleged use of controversial zero-hours contracts, although Mr Ashly had denied that this is the case.

In a letter earlier this month, Mr Wright warned that if Mr Ashley failed to appear before the committe on June 7 it reserved the right to take the matter further “including seeking the support of the House of Commons in respect of any complaint of contempt”.

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Mr Ashley had previously declined to agree a date to appear before the committee, instead offering them the oppportunity to visit the warehhouse – an invitation he has now repeated in response to the formal summons.

He said yesterday: “The current intention is not to go because they [the committee members] ought to come here and see it for themselves. They would make a more informed decision if they are able to see it themselves.

“They clearly don’t care about the people at Sports Direct. In my opinion, they are just showboating,” he added.

However, Steve Turner, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, said yesterday: “If Mike Ashley is so confident that he has nothing to hide then he should have nothing to fear from appearing in front of MPs.”