Business

Sports Direct 'bugged' our visit to Shirebrook warehouse, say MPs

Anna Turley tweeted this picture of the sandwiches and camera Image copyright Anna Turley

Six MPs from the Business and Skills Committee claim an attempt was made to record their private discussions after a surprise visit to Sports Direct's Shirebrook warehouse.

MPs gave notice only this morning that they would visit the Derbyshire site.

The committee has investigated working practices at Shirebrook, and wanted to see if improvements had been made.

After a three hour tour, they gathered in a private room when they said a recording device was found.

The company had been expecting a visit from MPs, but was not told when the spot check would be.

One of the six, Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, said: "At the end of the meeting, we sat down to have a private conversation in a room by ourselves.

"A lady came in with some sandwiches, which was very kind. I saw her take too long to do it, she put it down and I saw her put a recording device on the floor.

"She left the room and I went over to pick up the device and there it was: a camera and a recording device for the conversation that we were having privately.

"I'm very disappointed."

A spokesman for Sports Direct declined to comment.

The committee chairman, Iain Wright said he spoke to Sports Direct's chief executive, Mike Ashley, on the phone after the MPs left the warehouse.

He said: "I don't think it was a particularly pleasant conversation for either of us.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mike Ashley founded the company and is under pressure to reform working practices

"I want to work with Mike Ashley in a constructive manner. I don't think he wants to work with us at all any more."

Slipped control

The company, which has around 450 retail outlets, came under the spotlight after BBC and Guardian investigations uncovered a culture of unorthodox and illegal working practices at the warehouse.

Among issued raised were staff being kept on site at Shirebrook after their shifts for body searches, putting them below the legal minimum wage.

Concern about working conditions led to Sports Direct's founder Mike Ashley being called to appear in front of the Business and Skills Committee.

He admitted at the hearing that control of the company had slipped beyond him. Mr Ashley denied knowing about the day-to-day operation at Shirebrook.

Sports Direct has promised a number of changes since Mr Ashley's appearance at the committee.

Mr Ashley is thought to be on holiday and was not at Shirebrook during the visit.

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