Government warns Sports Direct boss he risks contempt of parliament by not agreeing a date to give evidence over treatment of workers

 
Billy Bambrough
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Billionaire Mike Ashley is also the controversial owner of football club Newcastle United after paying around £135m in 2007 (Source: Getty)

Billionaire founder of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley faces being found in contempt of parliament after he failed to set a date to appear in front of MPs to answer questions on the retailer’s treatment of workers.

He has been given a deadline of 21 March to reply to the letter told he must set a date before 1 June.

A spokesperson for Sports Direct has said Ashley will respond to the letter "in due course".

9 March 2016 @ 2:30pmSports Direct Intl (SPD)

Ashley offered to host the business, innovation and skills (BIS) committee privately at Sports Direct’s headquarters in Derbyshire but the invitation was declined due to concerns over transparency.

Responding to the letter, the company spokesperson said the invitation remained open.

Iain Wright, the chairman of the BIS committee, wrote in a strongly worded letter to Ashley, dated 3 March:

A number of alternative dates have been offered to you by the committee clerk, but as yet you have not accepted any of them, nor agreed in principle to attend. As you will be aware, select committees do not normally need to have recourse to our formal powers to summon witnesses in order to secure attendance; refusal to attend without good reason may be considered a contempt of the house.

A media investigation in December claimed thousands of workers at Sports Direct warehouses were receiving hourly rates effectively below the minimum wage.

Last year Ashley dodged an invitation to appear in front of the Scottish affairs select committee last year, after the company was accused of behaving “backstreet outfit” when it laid off around 200 workers at a warehouse with only 15 minutes’ notice and disputes with suppliers over pay.

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