Sir Philip Green acted in an “evil” manner towards BHS workers, Commons Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field has insisted.
As a bitter war of words between the two men escalated, Mr Field said he hoped to meet the head of the Serious Fraud Office and the Pensions Regulator this week to discuss the BHS affair.
If in fact he is dragging his heels, I’m sure the select committee will actually, working with the Pensions Regulator, ask Sir Philip Green to reappear before them and explain what he means by ‘fixing it’, when actually nothing has been done.Frank Field
Hitting back at claims from Sir Philip that the committee acted as a “kangaroo court” against him, Mr Field told the BBC: “The idea that it is a kangaroo court, it is just displacement therapy for him - facing up to the evil that he has done in destroying BHS, workers’ jobs, and pension fund liabilities, and a need now for him to do something about it, which is write that big cheque.
“This is the man that’s responsible for the destruction of 11,000 jobs, putting 22,000 pensions at risk. He said he was going to ‘fix it, fix it, fix it’, when he was with us - he hasn’t done so.”
Mr Field said he wanted to discuss the sale of BHS to retailer Dominic Chappell for £1, with the head of the SFO.
“At this stage, the real progress will come from two fronts - the Pensions Regulator or the Serious Fraud Office. And I also hope next week to meet the head of the Serious Fraud Office to look about the creation of Dominic Chappell as a serious figure, this triple bankruptee, money moving about.
“Who was moving that money about? Why were they trying to create that image? Was any law broken?”
The Labour MP added: “If in fact he is dragging his heels, I’m sure the select committee will actually, working with the Pensions Regulator, ask Sir Philip Green to reappear before them and explain what he means by ‘fixing it’, when actually nothing has been done.”
Mr Field insisted Tory MPs were “angry” at the way Sir Philip had represented capitalism.
“What Sir Philip doesn’t seem to understand, he thinks it’s me doing things. I’m a minority chairman, the majority of the committee reflects the House of Commons, this is a Tory committee,” he said.
Mr Field’s comments follow a strongly worded letter to the MP in which Sir Philip restated he had not broken any laws and said the committee chairman had tried to create a “false narrative”.
He added there had been “real progress” with the Pensions Regulator towards a solution to the BHS pension fund but stressed he was under “no legal liability”.
Sir Philip is facing mounting pressure to be stripped of his knighthood and to rectify the black hole in the fund after an excoriating joint report by two Commons select committees.
The two committees - Work and Pensions and Business, Innovation and Skills - accused the entrepreneur of seeking to blame anyone but himself for the firm’s failure.
Sir Philip’s letter, which runs to more than 650 words, said: “Even before the parliamentary inquiry started hearing from witnesses, you turned it into little more than a kangaroo court, with your constant press campaign barracking and insulting me and my family and your announcement from day one that the predetermined result of the inquiry was that I either sign a large cheque or lose my knighthood.
“Much as you would love to, you cannot point to any rules or laws that I have broken. Because I have broken none. You hide behind parliamentary privilege by publicly traducing me and my family in select committee hearings with allegations of theft.
“Your repeated attempts to lead the public into thinking that it is simply a matter of me writing a cheque are utterly disingenuous.”
The latest twist comes after lawyers acting for Sir Philip wrote to Mr Field over his comments in a BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview.
Mr Field said Sir Philip is “much worse” than media mogul Robert Maxwell, who raided the pension pot of the Mirror Group newspaper business.
A letter from legal firm Schillings said Mr Field had made a “highly defamatory and completely false” allegation about Sir Philip and money from the pension funds of the BHS and Arcadia retail groups.
In his own letter, Sir Philip said “defamatory remarks” by Mr Field put a solution “at risk” and the process and timetable for solving the issue was set by the Pensions Regulator, although he admitted it was “cumbersome and slow”.