Former M&S chairman calls for government to investigate BHS collapse

House Of Lords

Lord Myners, the man who fought off Sir Philip Green’s bid for Marks & Spencer, has filed 11 questions in the House of Lords calling on the government to investigate the demise of BHS.

Myners, who was the bitter adversary of Green as chairman of M&S between 2004 and 2006 when the former BHS owner attempted a £10bn takeover, has said the government should look into the events leading up to BHS being put into administration this week, and the role of the pension trustees.

BHS collapsed into administration on Monday putting 11,000 jobs at risk and leaving a £571m pension black hole.

Myners asks the government to review decisions taken by regulators and trustees about the funding of the scheme and to estimate the likely impact of the additional costs of supporting the pensions lifeboat, a body funded by business levies which is likely to have to take on BHS’s pension deficit.

Myners also suggests the government review “the effectiveness of the recommendations on public sector procurement” made by Green in a 2010 report ordered by David Cameron.

The queries were filed as MPs confirmed they will call Green to give evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into the impact of BHS’s pension liability on the Pension Protection Fund and whether pensions regulation is working.

Frank Field MP, chair of the work and pensions committee which will carry out the inquiry, said: “We need as a committee to look at the Pension Protection Fund and how the receipt of pension liabilities of BHS will impact on the increases in the levy that will now be placed on all other eligible employers to finance the scheme.

“We will then need to judge whether the law is strong enough to protect future pensioners’ contracts in occupational schemes.”

Chancellor George Osborne told ITV News that “independent bodies” should investigate the situation at BHS but would not be drawn on whether its billionaire ex-boss has questions to answer.

Green sold BHS for £1 a year ago to a little-known group of investors led by former bankrupt Dominic Chappell. Both are under pressure to explain how the 88-year-old high street retailer fell into administration, putting 11,000 jobs at risk, and built up a large pension deficit after they took millions of pounds of out of the company.

Chappell moved £1.5m from the retailer into an obscure corporate vehicle only last week as its financial problems worsened. He paid back all but £50,000, telling BHS management that this represented the cost of transferring the money into Swedish krona and back again.

The future of BHS hangs in the balance as administrators for the retailer consider up to 50 expressions of interest. Sources said there were just six serious bidders interested in taking a large number of the group’s stores.

Those buyers are thought to include Edinburgh Woollen Mill owner Philip Day, Sports Direct, B&M Stores and Primark. It’s also understood that Chappell is considering a bid for the company. He told the Guardian: “We have some angles and we have a reasonable chance of getting a bid in.”

But a BHS spokesman has said: “Any suggestion Dominic Chappell could be successful in an attempt to regain control of BHS is pure fantasy.”

Powered by article was written by Graham Ruddick and Sarah Butler, for The Guardian on Wednesday 27th April 2016 20.51 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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