- QCs acting for Philip Green attack MPs report as “bizarre”
- Claims chairman Frank Field MP had “made up his mind before hearing all the evidence”
- Comes ahead of MP vote on whether Green should be stripped of his knighthood
Top barristers acting for Sir Philip Green have attacked the MPs’ report into BHS’s collapse as “bizarre” and “deeply flawed”.
An 82-page “independent” review by Lord Pannick QC and Michael Todd QC claims the conclusions in the report, published in July, contain “very serious factual and legal errors”.
MPs on the BIS and Work and Pensions committees had branded Green the “unacceptable face of capitalism” for his part in the demise of the 88-year-old department store chain. BHS collapsed into administration in April, leading to around 11,000 people losing their jobs and leaving a £571m pension deficit.
However, the QCs’ review, published today, rejects the claim that the pension deficit was caused by Green and £307m of dividends paid to the Topshop tycoon’s family.
“The select committees have ignored clear evidence that the main causes of the pension deficit were the increasing longevity of pensioners and the global financial crisis in 2008,” the QCs said.
It noted the dividends were “lawful” and “paid at a time when the BHS pension schemes were in surplus”.
Green’s legal team also said there was “nothing unlawful” or improper in Green’s move to “assist” Dominic Chappell in buying BHS. “The criticism in this regard is bizarre,” the review said.
The QCs also attacked the process of the select committee inquiry, arguing it “breached the basic principles of fairness”. The review said: “A court would conclude that the hearing before the committees was unfair and the court would set aside the report.”
It alleged Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field had “made up his mind before hearing all the evidence”. It added that “parliamentary privilege should not be used by politicians as a licence to run kangaroo courts”.
The review also repeated Green’s admission that selling BHS to Chappell, a former racing driving and multiple bankrupt, was “an honest mistake”.
Green has been vilified by the media since the report. However, the review argues the inquiry has “not only been distressing and damaging to the individuals involved whose reputations have been wrongly traduced” but has also made it “more difficult to achieve a positive outcome to the pension settlement discussions”.
In response, Field issued a statement pointing out the report’s conclusions were ”agreed unanimously” by MPs and ”based on the huge amounts of evidence the committees received throughout the inquiry”.
He added: “My own views were shaped by that evidence as well as the circumstances of those former BHS workers whose jobs have been lost and pensions put at risk. MPs are entitled to have views and to take those views with them into Parliament. That one of the country’s top legal minds has been drawn in to defend Sir Philip’s actions shows how Herculean that task is.”
MPs will debate the collapse of BHS in Parliament on Thursday and vote on whether Green should be stripped of his knighthood. However, the vote is not binding and a final decision rests with Parliament’s Honours Forfeiture Committee.