Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley admits warehouse problems

Mike Ashley

In a letter to staff, made public on Monday, Mr Ashley said the centre needed improvements to its security procedures, which had now been made.

The retailer has been criticised for the centre’s working conditions, reports The BBC.

Mr Ashley said chief executive Dave Forsey would also not receive his £4m bonus due to the “difficult year”.

The Newcastle United owner is due to appear before the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee later.

Mr Ashley had previously refused to face MPs, but on Sunday he decided that he would give evidence to defend the firm’s “good name”.

The billionaire had urged MPs to visit the warehouse in Shirebrook before agreeing to give evidence.

In the letter, Mr Ashley said he was appearing at the select committee because “we have nothing to hide”.

Last year the Guardian reported that workers at the sportswear chain’s warehouse had been subjected to rigorous searches and surveillance.

Peter Linstead, a barrister at Tanfield Chambers and a specialist in employment litigation said such measures were common in retail and many shops had similar schemes in place.

“The real issue is it took a lot of time and staff were not paid for that period of time, according to the allegations,” he told the BBC.

In his letter to staff, Mr Ashley said all workers at the firm, including agency staff, were paid at hourly rates above the minimum wage.

Shares in Sports Direct have fallen 45 per cent in the past 12 months amid falling sales and a barrage of negative publicity.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb commented: “The reason Mike Ashley is normally kept away from the press is that he speaks his mind too freely, so it will be interesting to see if the MPs goad him into letting his guard slip.”

Select committee chairman Iain Wright said he looked forward to Mr Ashley responding to the “serious allegations”.

Failure to appear in front of MPs meant Mr Ashley had risked being found in contempt of Parliament.

“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,” Mr Wright said.

At todays hearing, MPs will also be hearing from the union Unite, which has been highlighting working conditions in the warehouse as well as representatives, from both Transline and The Best Connection, the employment agencies that supply temporary employees to the site.