The verbal battle between MPs and retail billionaire Sir Philip Green over the collapse of BHS, which Green owned until last year, continues to rumble on.
Green on Thursday attacked the two Labour MPs chairing inquiries into the collapse in a letter circulated to the press. He accused them of encouraging the “public vilification of witnesses” and said he was subject to “trial by media.”
Green then called for Labour MP Frank Field to resign his position as head of the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into BHS. That came after Field told the Financial Times he would recommend stripping Green of his knighthood if the billionaire did not meet the pension deficit left by the failing chain.
Field has not responded to BI’s emailed request for comment. But fellow Labour MP John Mann, who has also called for Green to be stripped of his knighthood, emailed BI a short statement in response to the spat:
Sir Philip Green should have nothing to fear from a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing. It’s the Committee’s job to ask questions and his job to explain his actions. Something went wrong with BHS and Parliament wants to know what. If I were Sir Philip that’s what I’d be spending my time thinking about.
While Field has yet to respond to Green’s call for him to step down, his actions speak louder than words. Field is ploughing ahead in setting up the inquiry, appointing two of Sir Philip’s former rivals to oversee the investigation.
They are: Lord Myners, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer who fought off Sir Philip’s takeover bid in the 2000s; and Sir David Norgrove, former chairman of M&S’ pension fund who was similarly pivotal in fending off Green.
BHS, which collapsed into administration last week, faces an estimated pension shortfall of £571 million, although Green disputes this figure. MPs are angry that Green did not do more to tackle this pensions black hole during his time in charge of the retailer. He took £400 million in dividend payments from the business during his tenure.
They also question the due diligence done on the sale of the business. Dominic Chappell, who bought the chain from BHS for £1, is a twice bankrupt former racing driver with no prior experience of retail.