Mike Ashley has come up with a hollow excuse as to why he can’t (won’t!) meet MPs on Tuesday.

The Newcastle United owner had been formally summoned to answer concerns regarding the way his Sports Direct retail operates and in particular, how thousands of staff are treated.

Bosses of leading UK businesses are often called to appear in front of MPs to assist their inquiries on behalf of the voting public.

However, despite having had three months notice and previously saying the date of 7 June 2016 was fine for him to appear in front of MPs, on condition they first visited the Sports Direct headquarters, Mike Ashley has now claimed that he can’t now come (less than a week before the planned appearance) because his preferred legal representative is allegedly unavailable and can’t accompany him.

The head of the Business, Innovation and Skills committee is MP Iain Wright, who represents Hartlepool, he has asked:

“Does Mr Ashley, owning and operating a business in a parliamentary democracy, see himself as being beyond such public scrutiny? What has he got to be frightened of?

Iain Wright added:

“We are very disappointed by this 11th-hour notification, having given him a notice period of three months to make the necessary arrangements. As democratically elected MPs, we are responding to serious allegations of exploitative employment practices and mistreatment of workers at Sports Direct.

“Mr Ashley announced in December he would personally oversee a review of working practices at the Shirebrook warehouse. It is entirely reasonable for the select committee to ask Mr Ashley to respond to those allegations and comment on how his review, announced over six months ago, is progressing.

“The committee will decide on the next steps when it meets next week.

“Business leaders regularly come before the Committee and answer our questions. Sir Philip Green, for example, has agreed to attend as part of our joint inquiry into BHS.”

The Guardian reported:

‘One source close to the parliamentary process said that the committee would now consider filing a special report to the Commons speaker John Bercow, who could advise on the options available.

The source said the options might include: a summons for Ashley’s attendance to be issued from the whole of the house; the convening of a privileges committee that could find the billionaire in contempt of parliament; or the filing of a Commons motion where MPs could vote on whether Ashley is a “fit and proper” person to be running a business in a parliamentary democracy.’