Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley will seek legal advice before deciding whether to appear before MPs on June 7 and give evidence about working practices at the retailer.
The business, innovation and skills (BIS) select committee has issued a summons to Ashley to attend the hearing after concerns were raised about the treatment of Sports Direct staff, particularly at its warehouse in Shirebrook.
However, a war of words has broken out between the two parties. Ashley wants MPs to visit Shirebrook first, so they can observe the working conditions for themselves.
But Iain Wright, chairman of the BIS committee, wrote to Ashley yesterday to say he must attend the hearing or risk being found in contempt of parliament. He said the committee would not accept conditions on Ashley’s attendance.
“Business leaders regularly give evidence to select committees in Westminster without imposing conditions,” said Wright. “This is part and parcel of living and operating a business in a parliamentary democracy. It is highly unusual for select committees to have to resort to issuing a summons.”
In response, Sports Direct has issued a statement, reported in The Times, which states: “The committee are well aware that Mike Ashely’s proposal to attend Westminster on June 7 was made on the understanding that MPs would visit Shirebrook on any day in advance of June 6.
“The committee are clearly being unfair; Mike will seek legal advice with regard to his position.”