Sir Philip Green has hit back after Minister for Trade and Development Gareth Thomas urged his Burton and Bhs chains to become part of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).

Thomas also urged B&Q and John Lewis to join the initiative to protect their overseas workers. Thomas said: “I am calling on all three companies to sign up to the ETI today.”

Sir Philip rebuffed the attack, saying Arcadia’s code of conduct was “more advanced” than the ETI’s. “The minister ought to become better informed. People who are members of the ETI and ourselves manufacture in the same places.”

This is the first time that the Government has singled out retailers over ethical trade issues. “UK retailers have a responsibility to make sure that their suppliers pay a living wage. We need UK retailers to give their customers more information about where the things they buy come from and how they are made.”