UK Politics

MPs to vote on stripping Sir Philip Green's knighthood

Sir Philip Green Image copyright Getty Images

MPs are set to vote on whether Sir Philip Green should be stripped of his knighthood, BBC Newsnight has learned.

The collapse of retailer BHS will be discussed in a week's time, following a highly critical report by the Business and Pension Committees.

An amendment has now been added to that debate, calling for Sir Philip's honour to be cancelled.

It is believed to be the first time that MPs have ever debated a motion on whether to annul an honour.

The motion has been put forward by Conservative MP Richard Fuller and independent MP Michelle Thomson, and comes less than two months after the final BHS store closed its doors. The vote will be on 20 October.

The task of annulling knighthoods is not in the gift of the House of Commons, but instead rests with an ad hoc committee, known as the Honours Forfeiture Committee, which is chaired by the head of the civil service. The parliamentary motion "calls on the Honours Forfeiture Committee to cancel and annul [Sir Philip Green's knighthood]".

Sir Philip, whose retail empire includes Top Shop, Top Man, Burton and Dorothy Perkins was granted an honour just over a decade ago, in June 2006. It was given "for services to retail", but his reputation as a retailer has been severely damaged over the past year.

Under pressure

Sir Philip has come under relentless scrutiny since selling BHS for £1 to a little-known entrepreneur, Dominic Chappell, in March 2015.

Mr Chappell had barely any experience of working in retail, and had been declared bankrupt at least twice. What followed was a year of decline and collapse, with the chain going into administration a year after its sale, before closing its doors for good a few months later.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption 11,000 people lost their jobs as a result of the collapse of BHS

The failure of BHS put 11,000 people out of work, and also left behind a pension scheme that had a shortfall of around £570m. Sir Philip says he is in talks about how to close that gap, but he has faced criticism for his stewardship of the company, and his failure to sort out its troubled pension scheme.

"His actions at BHS were of such a nature as to make it faintly ridiculous for him to continue to warrant an award for services to retailing," Mr Fuller told BBC Newsnight. "I'm putting forward this amendment for the simple reason that he warrants losing his knighthood.

"This is about expressing a legitimate sentiment about the way someone has behaved - it's not populist screaming, it's not a deal being done behind closed doors."

The prospect of Sir Philip losing his knighthood was first raised in June by Frank Field, chair of the Pensions Committee. At the time, Sir Philip said it was an attempt "to destroy my reputation".

Sir Philip has a fortune estimated at more than £3bn. During his ownership of BHS, he was paid more than £400m in dividends. Those close to him say his knighthood remains a source of great pride to him and to his family.

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