BHS collapse: Sir Philip Green demands 'biased' MP Frank Field resigns

Sir Philip Green has demanded MP Frank Field resigns as chairman of a Commons inquiry into the collapse of BHS.

The retail billionaire and former BHS owner said he was “not prepared to participate” with the work and pensions committee hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, unless Mr Field stands down.

He said the Labour MP was biased and conducting a “trial by media”.

Mr Field had told the Financial Times he “would laugh” if less than £600m was offered to settle BHS’s pension debts.

Reacting to news of the letter, which he said he had yet to receive, Mr Field said: “The House of Commons decides who chairs these committees, not Sir Philip Green. It’s in his interest to turn up.”

And business minister Anna Soubry tweeted: “Sir Philip needs to understand Parliament is the boss, get a grip [and] get in front of the committee on Weds.”

Attempts to find a buyer to rescue the chain of department stores failed earlier this month, and it was announced it would close with the loss of up to 11,000 jobs.

‘Pre-determined outcome’

Sir Philip, whose Arcadia Group sold BHS for £1 to a former bankrupt in 2015, has been accused of taking money out of BHS while the pension fund sank deep into deficit.

He is scheduled to answer MPs’ questions about the sale on Wednesday.

However, in a strongly-worded letter he claimed the outcome of the inquiry was “pre-determined”, and Mr Field had used his position as committee chairman “to destroy my reputation” ahead of the hearing.

“I am not prepared to participate in a process which has not even the pretence of fairness and objectivity and which has as its primary objective the destruction of my reputation,” he wrote.

“I therefore require you to resign immediately from this inquiry.”

  • 8,000 members of staff and

  • 3,000 non-BHS employees who work in the stores

GETTY

A spokesman for Sir Philip Green’s retail group Arcadia later clarified his position saying Sir Philip was waiting to see how Mr Field replies to his letter before deciding whether to attend on Wednesday.

He added: “This doesn’t appear to be a proper process any more. This is mob rule.”


Analysis

by Joe Lynam, BBC business reporter

Both Frank Field and Sir Philip Green are taking a gamble with this stand-off.

Sir Philip must know that Mr Field will never resign at his behest and ordering him to do so won’t look great.

But Mr Field also knows that publicly disparaging the retail tycoon may give the latter the excuse he needs to not to attend a grilling by MPs.

Although the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House is not a court of law, it could be seen as the court of public opinion.

If that’s the case, then calling for Sir Philip to be stripped of his knighthood before the Arcadia boss even takes his seat next Wednesday, doesn’t sound like Frank Field has an open mind.

Of course we could have a situation where Sir Philip Green attends next week but folds his arms in silence every time Frank Field (who is co-chairing this inquiry) asks a question.

We shall wait and see.


On Friday, the Financial Times quoted Mr Field as saying £600m was needed to cover BHS’s pension hole, which affects more than 20,000 people.

If Sir Philip’s proposal amounted to “anything less than that, the committee will just laugh at him”, he said.

“The committee may have considered a reasonable settlement in the very early days of our inquiry, but things have changed.”

Sir Philip has previously said he would appear before the committee on condition that his wife Tina Green, who owns a company which controls Arcadia Group, was not called.

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