Mike Ashley has found a new excuse not to answer MPs' questions

Shirebrook-based Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has again refused a government summons, and so may still face charges of 'contempt of parliament'.

Friday, 3rd June 2016, 12:10 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd June 2016, 1:53 pm
The Sports Direct boss has dodged a parliament summoning to face questions on workers' conditions

The billionaire founder of the company which has its national distribution centre in Shirebrook has been asked to attend an inquiry into the working practices at the vast Derbyshire campus, nicknamed locally as 'the Gulag'.

But after a repeated row with a business committee over attending to answer questions on staff conditions, he has now said he won't be attending because his lawyer, Richard Gordon QC, isn't available.

But the boss has reportedly written to employment agencies Transline and Best Connection stressing that they must be open and honest in the enquiry, and that 'Sports Direct has nothing to hide'.

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He has invited MPs to attend the site to 'see for themselves' the working conditions of thousands of staff and even offered to transport them in his personal helicopter.

But the committee, led by MP Iain Wright has persisted in calling for the corporation's boss to attend his legal summon to the Houses of Parliament on June 7.

Mr Ashley wrote in a letter to the employment agencies which he allegedly sources the majority of the casual labour force in Shirebrook, believed to be on largely zero hours contracts and found to be effectively paid less than minimum wage in an investigation by the Guardian newspaper.

He writes: "I encourage you to attend and be open and honest. Sports Direct has nothing to hide, which is why I am bitterly disappointed that the committee has declined my invitation to attend Shirebrook to see things with their own eyes.

"This leads me to conclude that the committee is only interested in creating a media circus and for this reason I am seeking legal advice about my own position in relation to the meeting on June 7."

Mr Ashley has said he agrees to attend the inquiry on the condition that MPs also visit his Shirebrook campus, and it is unclear if he will appear in front of the committee on June 7.

Iain Wright, chairman of the Commons Business, Skills and Innovation Committee has warned Ashley he would be in contempt of Parliament if he did not agree a date to appear.