Sports Direct chief Mike Ashley rejects demand to appear for Parliamentary committee

Sports Direct chief and Newcastle United FC owner Mike Ashley.
Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Sports Direct chief and Newcastle United FC owner Mike Ashley. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley appears to be on a collision course with MPs after brushing off a call to give evidence in Parliament about the treatment of his workers.

Iain Wright, the chairman of the Commons Business, Skills and Innovation Committee, last week warned Mr Ashley he could be held in contempt of Parliament unless he agreed a date to appear before them.

But Mr Ashley has hit back accusing the MP of “abusing parliamentary procedure” in order to create a “media circus” which was not in the interests of his staff.

In his reply to Mr Wright’s letter, he 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.”

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The committee has been seeking to question Mr Ashley about working practices at his Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire, 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”.

A spokesman for the committee said members would consider Mr Ashley’s letter and their next steps when they meet on Tuesday.

It is thought that no one has been charged with contempt of Parliament since the 1950s.