Pressure is mounting on Sir Philip Green to either be stripped of knighthood or give it up, after a Parliamentary report into the collapse of BHS savaged his reputation.
Green, who owned the department store from 2000 until last year, is accused by MPs of taking part in the “systematic plundering” of BHS and dubbed the “unacceptable face of capitalism” in a report published on Monday.
BHS collapsed into administration in April of this year, less than a year after Green sold it. The department store had been struggling for years and the report blames under-investment and excessive dividend payouts for sending it into a downward spiral.
Labour MP Frank Field, who cochaired the select committee inquiry into BHS’ collapse, has consistently called for Green’s knighthood to be reviewed and told Sky News on Monday: “I hope there’ll be punishment way beyond a loss of knighthood for this behaviour. The only chance he has of keeping that knighthood, which I think seems to mean much to him and his wife, is paying up very, very generously on the pensions settlement.”
BHS’ pension scheme collapsed into the state-backed Pensions Protection Fund when the chain went under, with an estimated funding shortfall of £275 million.
Sir Philip had told MPs he is in talks to “sort” the pension issue, but Field told Sky: “What I cannot understand is that this man has plundered the company, made money beyond the dreams of avarice, and yet he still cannot sign that cheque. There is something seriously wrong with him.”
Field also revealed that his fellow cochair, Conservative MP Iain Wright, is requesting meetings with the new Business Minister and Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss further action against Sir Philip over the BHS collapse.
He said he thought May “would not let go,” saying: “The first statement she made … was that she’s not going to tolerate this type of behaviour. It’s a great challenge for her.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, told BI: “This case shows why the Government is determined to tackle corporate irresponsibility and reform capitalism so it works for everyone – not just the privileged few.
“Today’s report is very concerning, and the Insolvency Service is now carrying out an accelerated investigation. Jobcentres are also standing by to provide support and advice to those who were affected. But in the long run we need to do more to prevent this kind of irresponsible and reckless behaviour.”
The Cabinet Office on Friday confirmed that Sir Philip’s “case under review” in a letter to Labour MP Jim McMahon, however, the department said in a statement to the Guardian: “Applications for forfeiture are considered by an independent committee. They have been clear that they will not consider reviewing an honour until any formal reviews or investigations which establish the facts of a case have been completed.”
As well as the joint select committee inquiry, The Financial Reporting Council, the Pensions Regulator, the Insolvency Service, and the Serious Fraud Office are all still investigating the collapse of BHS.
Richard Graham, a member of the joint select committee that prepared the BHS Report, said in an emailed statement to BI: “Philip Green’s reputation hangs on a thread. I hope he seizes the moment to do the right thing and inject enough capital into the scheme for it to continue outside the PPF, without members taking a haircut. It would be the best result of a long inquiry into one of Britain’s less glorious corporate episodes.”
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