The co-chairman of the MP-led BHS probe has urged Sir Philip Green to deliver his promise on pensions for ex-employees of the chain.
Frank Field, chair of the work and pensions committee, made his plea after the committee released fresh evidence over the department store group’s £571m pension deficit.
“We expect him to deliver this time and ensure that his former staff get the pensions they were promised”
Frank Field MP
During oral evidence to the committee last week, Sir Philip said he would “find a solution” to the retailer’s pension problem.
Field said: “This is welcome but he has been giving similar personal reassurances for two years, including to (former owner) Dominic Chappell.
“We expect him to deliver this time and ensure that his former staff get the pensions they were promised.”
Reports have suggested Sir Philip is looking to buy out up to 16,000 members of BHS’s pension scheme as part of his bid to address the deficit.
The Topshop tycoon is reportedly working with advisers with a view to buying out members with small pensions, which would cost him between £100m and £200m.
Meanwhile, the new documents released by the committee this week reveal BHS’s pension trustees were worried about the sale of the chain to Chappell for £1 and feared it was “materially detrimental” to the pension scheme.
Sir Philip sold BHS to Chappell’s consortium Retail Acquisitions last year, but it collapsed into administration in April this year and is now being wound down after a buyer could not be found.
Other evidence in documents from lawyers Olswang, which advised Retail Acquisitions, show it was aware of a “potential £500m hole in the pension funds”.
Olswang said the seller, Arcadia, believed Retail Acquistions should take on the full risk of the pension deficit and pay for its restructuring.
It has also emerged that Arcadia warned BHS’s pension trustees in 2009 that the chain was being “stripped to the bone” and did not have the funds to plug the pension shortfall.
More MP-led evidence sessions are being held in Parliament next Tuesday (June 28) and Wednesday (June 29), including an appearance by tycoon and former BHS stakeholder Richard Caring.