As Insolvency inquiry begins...
Green agrees to face MPs over Bhs collapse
Sir Philip Green has agreed to appear before MPs to answer questions over the collapse of Bhs and how he came to pay his wife £400 million in dividends while the chain struggled and the pension scheme ran up a huge deficit.
He has agreed to appear before the work and pensions committee, and he has also been called to answer questions from the business, innovation and skills select committee.
Frank Field, chairman of the work and pensions committee, said questions will also be directed at the Pensions Regulator, the Pension Protection Fund, BHS Pension Trustees and Dominc Chappell who led the consortium which bought the 164 stores from Sir Philip for £1 last year.
Mr Field said that the committee no longer intends to call Sir Philip’s wife to give evidence and will instead rely on him to provide all the answers.
Sir Philip also faces an inquiry by the Insolvency Service, ordered by the Business Secretary Sajid Javid because of concerns about the way the business had been run.
Mr Javid said: “I have written to the chief executive of the Insolvency Service. I have instructed her immediately to commence an investigation; she has agreed to do so,” he said.
The Insolvency Service’s decision to hold an inquiry differs from its normal practice of waiting for a final report from the administrator before launching an investigation. However, Mr Javid wants to a quick resolution to a crisis that leaves 11,000 jobs at risk.
The Business Department said that if any present or former director is found guilty of misconduct a court application could be lodged to disqualify them for up to 15 years.
Bhs last month called in the administrators after securing an agreement to reduce rents on some of its stores but failing to raise £60m that it needed to continue trading.
Sir Philip has offered to help pay off the £571m pensions deficit, but critics say he should pay more. One MP, John Mann, has even called for the tycoon to be stripped of his knighthood unless he pays off the entire sum. Sir Philip was knighted in 2006 for “services to retail” and in 2010 David Cameron asked him to lead a review into government spending.
The BHS pension scheme has now been taken on by the state-backed Pension Protection Scheme.
Former City minister Lord Myners last week said it is the responsibility of an owner to adequately fund the pension scheme or ensure a new owner will do make sure it is properly funded.
Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley and the former Asda chairman Allan Leighton have been linked to possible bids for some of the stores, while it is understood Sir Philip has considered buying the brand.