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Sports Direct's Mike Ashley asks MPs for live debate

Mike Ashley Image copyright PA
Image caption Sports Direct founder and chief executive Mike Ashley said his staff are being treated as a "political football"

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has invited MPs to a live Question Time-style debate at the firm's HQ.

In a letter, the billionaire businessman suggested the "best way forward" in a long-running row over working practices would be a "televised debate" before the firm's 500 staff.

Mr Ashley also claimed MPs "knew full well" he would not be at the firm's Shirebrook base during their recent surprise visit.

MPs said they will consider the letter.

In the note, addressed to select committee chair Iain Wright, Mr Ashley said the debate would help to reassure staff.

"This is something that our people have suggested to me would be hugely beneficial to them as they feel their voice is currently not being heard," he wrote.

Image copyright Anna Turley
Image caption Six MPs on a visit to the company's headquarters claimed an attempt was made to smuggle a recording device behind a plate of sandwiches

The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee made an unannounced visit to the company's warehouse this month.

The MPs have claimed there was an attempt to bug a private meeting during the visit, although the Sports Direct board said it did not authorise the use of any device.

In a letter dated 8 November, Mr Wright told Mr Ashley the group was "angry and disappointed" at the alleged attempt to smuggle the recording device behind a plate of sandwiches.

The firm was heavily criticised after BBC and Guardian investigations uncovered conditions MPs described as being akin to a Victorian warehouse.

Image caption The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, chaired by Iain Wright MP, will consider the letter at its next meeting

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