Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Ashley 'Frightened' Says Committee MP; TOON BOSS DECLINES SECOND CALL TO ATTEND PARLIAMENT

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Ashley 'Frightened' Says Committee MP; TOON BOSS DECLINES SECOND CALL TO ATTEND PARLIAMENT

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN WALKER Political Editor jon.walker@trinitymirror.com @jonwalker121

AN MP claimed Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley is "frightened" - after the Newcastle United owner confirmed he won't attend a House of Commons inquiry into the retail chain.

Mr Ashley has told the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee he won't turn up for a meeting on Tuesday, when MPs hoped to quiz him about claims some Sports Direct staff are effectively paid less than the minimum wage.

But his decision earned an angry rebuke from Committee chairman Iain Wright, the Labour MP from Hartlepool.

Mr Wright asked: "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?" And he said the committee "will decide on the next steps" at its meeting. This could mean asking the House of Commons to hold a debate about Mr Ashley's behaviour.

The Commons could issue a second summons, demanding he attend a committee hearing to answer questions.

While the committee has already issued one summons, telling him to attend the meeting on Tuesday, June 7, a second summons would have the authority of the entire House of Commons behind it.

MPs could also potentially debate and vote on a motion declaring that Mr Ashley is not a "fit and proper person" to be a director in a business.

And, in theory, they could attempt to impose a fine for his failure to attend Tuesday's meeting, or even jail time. It is unclear what powers the Commons has to punish Mr Ashley, but the mood among MPs at Westminster is one of anger and they are likely to take whatever steps they can to try to establish the principle that people who are ordered to give evidence to Commons committees must comply.

Mr Ashley had originally refused to attend, and instead asked MPs to visit the Sports Direct warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire. …

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