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Two MP committees to quiz Green on BHS

Do Not UseDo Not Use 1/05/2016

Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green has been invited to appear before two parliamentary committees to answer questions about the High Street chain's collapse into administration.

Sir Philip owned BHS - which went into administration on Monday - for 15 years before selling it for £1 in 2015.

The work and pensions and business committees have asked to question him.

Work and pensions committee chair Frank Field said MPs would ask "how and where money went out of the company".

Committee inquiry

Last week BHS was put into administration amid falling sales, huge debts and a pensions deficit of £571m - putting around 11,000 jobs at risk.

Since then, Sir Philip has been criticised by some MPs for paying out large dividends while its deficit was growing.

Current owner Dominic Chappell, Tina Green - Sir Philip's wife - and BHS trustees will also be invited to appear as witnesses before the cross-party committees.

Last week, the Work and Pensions Select Committee launched an inquiry into the collapse of BHS.

Meanwhile, the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Select Committee announced an inquiry into the sale and acquisition of the firm.

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Mr Chappell - the majority shareholder of Retail Acquisitions - bought BHS for £1 from Sir Philip last year, taking on a £571 million pension deficit.

On Wednesday, Mr Chappell said he was preparing a bid to buy BHS out of administration.

He told the BBC the administrators had been informed and talks with US-based investors were at a "mature" stage.

Loans

There were also reports on Sunday that Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, remains interested in buying BHS. The billionaire businessman was said to have been involved in talks about a rescue deal before the retailer was put into administration.

In a statement to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Ashley said: "Any continuing interest that we have in BHS would be on the basis that we would anticipate that there would not be any job losses, including jobs at head office, and that all stores would remain open."

BHS's administrators, Duff & Phelps, are expected to investigate claims that Mr Chappell arranged high-interest loans from a property company secured against BHS assets.

Two Sunday newspapers reported that deals done last year saddled BHS with crippling re-payment costs.

A spokeswoman for Duff & Phelps declined to comment on the reports, but told the BBC that the administrators would "conduct a full investigation into all financial transactions that the company undertook". Mr Chappell could not be reached for comment.

The spokeswoman declined to discuss potential buyers of BHS, but confirmed that the administrators had received about 50 expressions of interest in the business.

Pension questions

It comes as MPs have said they will also investigate how the collapse of BHS will affect the Pension Protection Fund - which provides compensation for pensioners when companies go bust.

Separately, the Pensions Regulator will investigate whether BHS's former owners sought to avoid their obligations.

BHS, which employs about 11,000 people, will continue trading while the administrators seek a buyer for the business.

The administration means members of the pension scheme who are yet to retire will be paid a less generous pension.

One Labour MP John Mann, and member of the Treasury select committee, said Sir Philip must repay £400m of dividends that were paid out of BHS, or give up his knighthood.

Sir Philip has offered to make an £80m voluntary contribution.

Conservative MP Richard Fuller also called on Sir Philip to clarify his involvement in the chain's demise.

"Green and Arcadia need to put out a statement immediately clarifying their position. He has a responsibility, a duty," he said last week.

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