High street aid plan is a token gesture, Ashley will tell MPs
MIKE ASHLEY is set to clash with MPs over the Government’s support for the UK’s battered high street today after demanding a meeting in Westminster.
The Sports Direct founder, who has promised to turn House of Fraser into the “Harrods of the high street” after buying the embattled chain out of administration, is expected to tell MPs that Philip Hammond’s recent business rates plan does little to help larger retailers. The Mail on Sunday reported.
The Chancellor’s package to help the high street includes £900m of business rates relief for shops with rateable values of less than £51,000, leaving big chains with expensive stores unable to claim tax relief. Mothercare and Debenhams are among the household names that have struggled this year, while House of Fraser, Toys R Us, Poundworld and Maplin have all plunged into administration.
Mr Ashley said last month that the “token gesture was nothing more than a tick-box exercise” and called the move “the work of a child”.
The sportswear billionaire has argued that politicians should be “doing more to save our struggling high streets” and said he would use his time in front of the housing, communities and local government select committee to “make a real difference”.
The committee had originally invited someone from House of Fraser to speak for 15 minutes as part of a panel of four, but Mr Ashley demanded that he attended in person for a full hour.
That stands in stark contrast to his attitude a few years ago, when he had famously never appeared in front of a Government committee despite repeated requests from MPs. “Select committees do not normally need to have recourse to our formal powers to summon witnesses in order to secure attendance; refusal to attend without good reason may be considered a contempt of the House,” MP Iain Wright said in a letter to Mr Ashley in 2016.
Retailers have struggled this year due to the decline in footfall on the high street as more people shop online.
Mr Ashley’s representatives could not be reached for comment.