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MPs demand explanation for ‘amateur’ Shirebrook recording attempt

MPs have written to Sports Direct chief executive Mike Ashley to demand an explanation for an alleged attempt to record a private meeting during their visit to the retailer’s warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire.

Members of the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee visited the warehouse on Monday, Ashley invited them to attend unannounced earlier this year.

The group of six MPs claimed they found a camera placed under a stool when they were brought a plate of sandwiches for lunch, posting photos of it on Twitter. Sports Direct later said it ”did not authorise or have any knowledge of the possible recording device”.

“For an organisation in the process of reviewing its corporate governance and working practices, it is difficult to understand how a representative of the company thought such an action would assist Sports Direct and why this action was authorised,” said Iain Wright, chairman of the committee.

He demanded an explanation of how and why the camera was placed in the room, who authorised it and what steps Ashley has taken as a result.

“It would be reasonable for other interested parties, such as current and potential investors, audit teams and providers of finance to business, now to question whether they have been recorded without their permission during visits to Shirebrook,” he wrote. “It is staggering to think that nobody thought to think of the long-term damage such an act, amateurishly carried out, could inflict upon your company.”

He called the action “utterly unacceptable” and said it was consistent with the way the rest of the visit was handled.

“Although we were treated with courtesy, there were few opportunities to speak to agency staff unmonitored, delayed access to the specific areas we wanted to see and obviously organised and stage-managed staff interventions,” he said.

Wright accepted that Ashley had made some progress with regards to the treatment of workers and his approach to corporate governance, but said he must demonstrate a degree of trust, openness and constructive engagement to receive further support from the committee in highlighting progress in the future.

Sports Direct has said it was disappointed the MPs chose to visit on a day when they knew Ashley would not be on site. It said there was an impromptu session where workers shared their views with MPs, with many expressing dissatisfaction with how the company was being portrayed by the committee and the media.

The retailer has not responded publicly to the most recent letter from the MPs.

Read the full letter attached.

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