Friday, 11 March 2016

A Sternly Worded Letter

From the Guardian

The Sports Direct founder, Mike Ashley, has been warned he could be found in contempt of parliament after failing to give MPs a date to answer questions about his company’s treatment of workers.

The move represents the latest setback to the tycoon and owner of Premier League strugglers Newcastle United. Ashley has seen almost £1bn wiped from his personal fortune after a downturn in trading at the store chain and a Guardian investigation which revealed that thousands of the retailer’s temporary warehouse workers were receiving effective hourly rates of pay below the minimum wage.

In a strongly worded letter to the billionaire, Iain Wright MP, the chairman of the business, innovation and skills (BIS) committee, said: “A number of alternative dates have been offered to you by the committee clerk, but as yet you have not accepted any of them, nor agreed in principle to attend. As you will be aware, select committees do not normally need to have recourse to our formal powers to summon witnesses in order to secure attendance; refusal to attend without good reason may be considered a contempt of the house.

“Should you fail in your reply to agree to attend on one of the dates offered to you, or a mutually convenient alternative before 1 June, the committee reserves the right to take the matter further, including seeking the support of the House of Commons in respect of any complaint of contempt.”

Wright has given Ashley, who owns 55% of Sports Direct, until 21 March to reply.

And Ashley will probably do nothing. Because he knows exactly what's intended, which is for Iain Wright to make a grandstanding public spectacle, much like Margaret Hodge does, and he sees no benefit from doing so. So, he's politely telling Iain Wright to go fuck himself.


18 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

Do they actually have any 'formal powers'? Can they have Ashley arrested and dragged down there? I suspect not, but we will see.

The Stigler said...

Mark,

Technically, I think so. But as it's not been used since the 17th century, it's unlikely. He'd have to go to parliament and get a vote etc.

Hodge has treated the whole process with contempt. A lot of people who would have previously gone to a select committee just won't now.

DBC Reed said...

We can't have businessmen explaining how they treat their workers.Soon as you know it, they'll be banning child labour, slavery and all the traditional arrangements that made this country what it so gloriously is!

paulc156 said...

Oh DBCR, you naughty old cynic... ;)

The Stigler said...

DBC,

Ashley doesn't have to explain anything. He hasn't committed a crime. MPs having the power to summon people to parliament reeks of fascism.

DBC Reed said...

@TS
Yes it is against the Law not to pay minimum wage.Fines can be £20,000.

paulc156 said...

We must never forget that big business are the new monarchs, parliament their tool. Ayn Rand rules ok.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, Sports Direct might or might to be in breach of NMW rules or H&S rules or something else.

If there really is a strong suspicion, HMRC or the local H&S inspectorate should go an investigate, or a trade union could bring a test case to an employment tribunal etc etc. Then we will find out.

Either there is no strong suspicion, or there is but they turn out to be unfounded or unprovable, or there are and they are borne out by the investigation or ET case.

It is not normal for MPs to demand that people suspected of offences turn up and play to the gallery in Westminster.

Simples.

The Stigler said...

Paul156,

Monarchs you say? Go on then, tell me what special privileges Mike Ashley and Sports Direct enjoy from the state.

Bayard said...

TS, apart from the fact that, by definition, you can only have one monarch to each state, the status of "monarch" i.e. sole ruler, does not in itself imply any special privileges.

The Stigler said...

Bayard,

In the context of Paul156's comment, it does.

paulc156 said...

The notion that business titans have not infrequently subverted democracy for their own ends. Oh let me count the ways.
How Adam Smith would have smiled.

The Stigler said...

paul156,

OK, last comment on this as you're trying my patience with your appeal to the mob nonsense. Do you have a specific example of where Mike Ashley or Sports Direct have acted as monarchs, subverted democracy or been involved in rent seeking?

Graeme said...

Mike Ashley a business titan? Wow, what would that make the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts?

Bayard said...

"In the context of Paul156's comment, it does."

Can't see that it does. To paraphrase his comment (and correct the grammar) "We must never forget that big business is the new sole ruler of the state, parliament its tool." (as it would be if there was a sole ruler". Where is the implication of special privileges in that, apart for the enjoyment of absolute power"? I'm not saying that the statement isn't absurd, merely that it doesn't imply what you seem to think it does.

paulc156 said...

TS. Calm down. My post which obviously touched a nerve was really a bit tongue in cheek and was just in response to DBCR's previous post, which mine directly followed:
"We must never forget that big business are the new monarchs, parliament their tool. Ayn Rand rules ok". Seems quite innocuous to me. Even if it did inspire a bit of grammar pedantry by a.n.other...

paulc156 said...

G. "Wow, what would that make the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts"
Why, that would make them American business titans!

Bayard said...

P156, pedantry rules OK.