LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) - British lawmakers have rejected Mike Ashley’s invitation to visit Sports Direct’s headquarters as part of the conditional agreement of the retailer’s billionaire founder to answer questions about the treatment of workers.
Parliament’s Business, Innovation and Skills Committee said it would not accept Ashley placing conditions on his attendance.
Ashley had been summoned to appear before the select committee on June 7, a request he initially refused, saying the proposal was an abuse of parliamentary process.
He had a change of heart and last week agreed to attend, but only if lawmakers first visited Sports Direct’s warehouse in Shirebook, central England, to see employment conditions for themselves.
Chair of the committee Iain Wright on Thursday said that business leaders regularly gave evidence to select committees without imposing conditions.
“This is part and parcel of living and operating a business in a parliamentary democracy,” he said.
Parliament can in theory order a person’s imprisonment for contempt, though its powers on such actions are untested in recent times, according to a government paper published in 2012.
Ashley is deputy chairman of Sports Direct, holding 55 percent of its equity, and also owns Newcastle United soccer club.
The retailer has been criticised for the treatment of warehouse workers at Shirebrook, though it has rejected the charge that it effectively pays some staff below the national minimum wage.
Reporting by Paul Sandle and James Davey; Editing by David Goodman