MPs are preparing to invoke a list of sanctions against Sir Philip Green should the billionaire retailer fail to appear before this week’s parliamentary select committee examining the collapse of BHS, reports The Guardian.
The move, which could include the Topshop tycoon being found in contempt of parliament or facing a Commons vote on whether he is a “fit and proper” person to be running a business, comes after Green said on Friday that he was not prepared to participate in the inquiry.
The list of punishments, which are separate from the numerous calls for Green to be stripped of his knighthood in the wake of the collapse of BHS, are derived from the template prepared by the business, innovation and skills (BIS) select committee, which has just faced down a similar challenge to its authority from the Sports Direct founder, Mike Ashley.
When asked if the same list of options was now open to both the BIS and the work and pensions committees in their joint investigation of BHS, one member said: “Oh yeah”.
Green claimed on Friday that the parliamentary investigation into the collapse of the department store chain was biased and suggested he would not give evidence to MPs on Wednesday unless Frank Field, the chair of the work and pensions select committee, stepped down.
Green wrote to Field: “I am not prepared to participate in a process which has not even the pretence of fairness and objectivity and which has as its primary objective the destruction of my reputation. I therefore require you to resign immediately from this inquiry.”
Field had previously told the Financial Times that he “would laugh” if Green offered less than £600m to settle BHS’s pension debts. Over the weekend he told the BBC it was for the House of Commons to decide “who chairs these committees, not Sir Philip Green”.
BHS slumped into administration just a year after Green sold it for £1 to a consortium led by Dominic Chappell, who had previously been declared bankrupt and whose claims of previous business successes quickly evaporated. The collapse puts about 11,000 jobs at risk and leaves the company’s pension scheme with a £571m deficit.
The sudden failure of the business, as well as questions over Chappell’s credentials, have led to calls for Green to be stripped of his knighthood.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, added to those calls in an article written for the Observer, in which he wrote: “The fact [Green] feels he can threaten to subvert parliament is an insult to the British public. If he refuses to come before parliament, Green should be stripped of his knighthood.”
On Sunday, Tim Farron became the first head of a major political party to press for the honour to be rescinded.
The Liberal Democrat leader said: “Philip Green should be stripped of his knighthood. There should be no debate about it. Every day he keeps his gong it shames the honours system and dishonours the thousands of staff now having to look for work.”
Sir John Collins, a former chairman of Dixons who headed the Whitehall honours committee that proposed Green’s ennoblement, has also said the tycoon should be stripped of the honour if his handling of BHS is found to have lacked integrity.