Hartlepool MP Iain Wright has spoken of his disappointment that Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley will not appear before a Parliamentary committee next week.
Mr Wright, chairman of the Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) Committee, responded to confirmation from the businessman that he will not be attending its meeting next Tuesday.
In a letter sent to the Committee yesterday, the Sports Direct boss said he will not be at next week’s session because the legal representative who he wishes to accompany him is unavailable.
Mr Ashley had been issued with a summons in March after he failed to commit to a date to appear before the Committee.
The request to attend followed allegations concerning the working practices at Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse in Derbyshire.
BIS Committee chairman Mr Wright said: “Mr Ashley says he has nothing to hide but - following a Parliamentary summons issued back in March for Mr Ashley to attend on 7 June – and when he stated that he was available on that date, he has only now indicated he will not be able to attend next week.
Does Mr Ashley, owning and operating a business in a parliamentary democracy, see himself as being beyond such public scrutiny? What has he got to be frightened of?Iain Wright MP
“We are very disappointed by this eleventh-hour notification, having given him a notice period of three months to make the necessary arrangements.
“As democratically elected MPs, we are responding to serious allegations of exploitative employment-practices and mistreatment of workers at Sports Direct.
“Mr Ashley announced in December he would personally oversee a review of working practices at the Shirebrook warehouse.
“It is entirely reasonable for the Select Committee to ask Mr Ashley to respond to those allegations and comment on how his review – announced over six months ago – is progressing.
“Business leaders regularly come before the Committee and answer our questions. Sir Philip Green, for example, has agreed to attend as part of our joint inquiry into BHS.
“Does Mr Ashley, owning and operating a business in a parliamentary democracy, see himself as being beyond such public scrutiny? What has he got to be frightened of?
“The committee will decide on the next steps when it meets next week.”
The meeting on Tuesday will see the committee question representatives from the Unite union - Luke Primarolo, Regional Officer, and Steve Turner, assistant general secretary.
It will also hear from the employment agencies who provide workers to Sports Direct at their Shirebrook warehouse – Andy Sweeney, CE of The Best Connection, Chris Birkby, managing director of Transline Group, and Jennifer Hardy, finance director of Transline Group.