Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
The Business, Innovation and Skills and the Work and Pensions Committees have concluded that leadership failures and greed led to the collapse of BHS.
The report found that Sir Philip Green chose to rush through the offloading of a beleaguered high street institution, which was losing money and encumbered with a massive pension fund deficit, to a buyer who he was clearly aware was “manifestly unsuitable”. Though the ownership of Dominic Chappell and his associates was “incompetent and self-serving”, the ultimate fate of the company was sealed on the day it was sold. Advisers were paraded by both sides as an “expensive badge of legitimacy for people who would otherwise be bereft of credibility” while the Taveta group directors failed to provide a semblance of independent oversight or challenge in a corporate group run as a personal fiefdom by a single dominant individual.
Richard Fuller MP, a member of the committee that drafted the report said: “Sir Philip Green should surrender his knighthood and make good the monies owed to the pension funds of the 20,000 BHS pensioners. At the start of our inquiry, I wanted to see evidence to confirm that Sir Philip Green’s behaviour constituted “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and we got evidence by the lorry load.”
MPs heard hours of oral testimony and considered thousands of pages of written evidence in the inquiry, which began when BHS crashed into administration just 13 months after the ill-advised and under-funded sale to Dominic Chappell. The Committees say the evidence at times resembled a “circular firing squad”, with a series of key witnesses appearing to believe they could absolve themselves of responsibility by blaming others. Sir Philip Green himself “adopted a scattergun approach”, liberally firing blame to all angles except his own.
The report documents the systematic plunder of BHS at the cost of the 11,000 jobs and 20,000 people’s pensions now at risk. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and the respective directors, advisers and hangers-on who all got rich or richer are all culpable, with the only losers the ordinary employees and pensioners.
The Committees say this is “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and that the story of BHS begs much wider questions about the gaps in company law and pension regulation that must be addressed. The two Committees will now turn to those question in new inquiries.
With the news last week that the Bedford branch of BHS may join the other BHS stores that have closed completely, Richard added: “I hope the findings of this report and the further action that I will be taking when Parliament resumes after the Summer Recess will give some comfort to BHS employees past and present that the fight for their interests will go on. There is still a lot owing to their pension fund and as the report says this is ultimately Sir Philip Green’s responsibility. He should fix it.”
The full report can be read here.