Mike Ashley finally made his appearance in front of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee.
Tuesday morning saw the Newcastle United owner appear to answer allegations about the way staff are treated inside his Sports Direct empire.
It quickly became obvious why he has done everything he can to avoid having to appear before the MPs.
Way out of his comfort zone of tightly controlled PR releases and very occasional interviews to camera with questions and content decided by himself, Mike Ashley was put on the spot and struggled throughout.
Declaring himself ignorant of most of what goes on at the company under his majority shareholding, surely Mike Ashley has had more than enough time to have been able to say categorically what had been going on and what had been done to sort out these issues. Even if we actually believe that he knew nothing originally about the practices in question.
It is now seven months since the Guardian put undercover reporters inside Sports Direct and then very publicly raised so many areas of concern.
Mike Ashley speaking to MPs of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committe today:
Fining staff 15 minutes pay if a minute late:
“What we had there was if you were a minute late, you got docked 15 minutes pay.
“You ask me what I think, I think it is unacceptable. If I thought it was acceptable I wouldn’t change it.”
Hartlepool MP and Chair of the committee Iain Wright:
‘So have you changed that practice now?’
“Yes, as I understand it we have. You understand, I don’t physically do it. I will sit in a meeting and say give me the red flags…’Well that doesn’t sound fair, that doesn’t sound reasonable’ and by the way I’m not Father Christmas, sitting there and going to make the world wonderful.
“You just have to get a balanced view and say as an individual would you tolerate that, is that fair?
“If I honestly believe it isn’t, I change it.”
‘Can I just ask on the docking of 15 minutes pay, who set that up in the first place?’
“I honestly don’t know, is the truth. I don’t know when that started.
“It definitely wasn’t a policy that I put in because I don’t actually believe that is fair.
“If one of my kids went to work somewhere and they were two minutes late and they got fined 15 minutes pay – I wouldn’t be very impressed by that. I think it is unreasonable.”
Responding to fact that 110 ambulances have been called out to Sports Direct’s Shirebrook warehouse:
“Ok, let’s assume that all of those were absolutely needed, every single call out needed. Why have we got so many call outs?
“How are people getting injured in Sports Direct? It’s a simple warehouse – you can’t have that number of serious instances, it is impossible.
“Then it leads me to believe, if it isn’t that why are we doing so many calls?
“I am told that were…how can I put it…over quick to pick up the phone to call the ambulance service.
“So what actually happened….is my understanding, was that somebody would get on their radio, would phone to security, to say for example if you are not feeling well – get all sweaty like I am now and say to your line manager ‘I’m just feeling under the weather’ – they could well have called an ambulance.”
Abuse of the tannoy system:
“An independent review or whatever, as long as they like they can come, for five years…I’m not afraid of it because if we are abusing it then we deserve the cane, as simple as that.
“Sports Direct, if it abuses things, deserves the cane, like any other company deserves the cane – and there will be occasions when we deserve the cane, no matter what I sit here and say.”