Like many local people, I was sad when BHS closed in Truro and was concerned for the staff. I am pleased that MPs have investigated the demise of BHS and reported this week a catalogue of failures culminating in ‘at any cost’ disposal of company and pension deficit to wholly unsuitable “chancer”. In their report on BHS, the Work and Pensions and Business, Innovations and Skills Committees conclude that Sir Philip Green chose to rush through the offloading of a beleaguered high street institution, losing money and encumbered with a massive pension fund deficit, to a buyer who he was clearly aware was “manifestly unsuitable”, with Sir Philip forced to finance the sale himself.
MPs heard hours of oral testimony and considered thousands of pages of written evidence in the inquiry. 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 and advisers who all got rich or richer are all culpable, with the only losers the ordinary employees and pensioners.
The Committees say 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.
I support the Committees’ demands that Sir Philip Green must act now to find a resolution for the BHS pensioners, a “moral duty” which will undoubtedly require him to make a large financial contribution.
Published in the West Briton on 28th July 2016