Wellbeing & Benefits

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has said he will appear before a Commons committee on Tuesday to defend his “good name”. The retail tycoon announced on Friday he would not attend Parliament for the grilling about working conditions at his company.

But Mr Ashley, who was facing a Parliamentary summons, said he had since decided that a “lengthy legal battle would be of no benefit to either of us”. The Newcastle United boss insisted he has nothing to hide and had been “open and honest” at every stage of the process.

MPs took the unusual move to summon Mr Ashley in March after he refused previous invitations on the grounds that he would not ”stand idle” while Sports Direct was ”subjected to public vilification”.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BIS) wants to examine working practices at the businessman’s Shirebrook warehouse, including reports of poor working conditions and the use of controversial zero-hours contracts.

Committee chairman Iain Wright questioned what Mr Ashley had to be “frightened of” when he announced last week that he would not be attending.

In a letter to the Labour MP, Mr Ashley said: “I am mindful of your statement to the press on Friday in which you question whether or not Sports Direct has anything to hide.

“I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth. I believe my repeated invitations for you to attend Shirebrook are a clear demonstration that in fact we have nothing to hide. I was merely seeking to avoid an unnecessary media circus.

“However, after much reflection over the last 48 hours, I have concluded that a lengthy legal battle would be of no benefit to either of us.

“It would also no doubt lead to further unwarranted accusations that I am being secretive, whereas in fact I have been open and honest at every stage of this process.

“I have therefore reconsidered my position and I am writing to confirm that I will now be attending Parliament on Tuesday in order to defend the good name of Sports Direct on behalf of all of the great people who work here.”

Mr Wright said he was “pleased” that Mr Ashley has “finally agreed to give evidence”. He added: “Mr Ashley announced in December he would personally oversee a review of working practices at the Shirebrook warehouse in response to serious allegations made and we look forward to Mr Ashley answering our questions, including in response to these allegations and the progress of his review.

“As a committee, we want to get a sense of the genuine and balanced picture at Sports Direct and establish whether there are issues for the wider economy which need further examination, such as the status and rights of agency workers.”

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