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Controversial Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has lashed out at MPs, saying he refuses to appear in front of a committee, despite an official summons.
The business tycoon, who also owns Newcastle United football club, accused MP Iain Wright, the chair of the Business, Innovations and Skills committee, of abusing parliamentary process. He told Sky News he is not planning to go to Westminster to face a cross-party panel of MPs on 7 June.
Publicity-shy Ashley has been summoned to appear in front of the BIS committee after an investigation by the Guardian allegedly found that workers at Sports Direct's Shirebrook-based warehouse were paid less than the minimum wage and went through daily searches.
"I do not pretend to get everything right all of the time, but I am not willing to stand idle while this company is subjected to public vilification which is against the best interests of everybody who works at Sports Direct," Ashley told Sky News in a rare interview.
"My current intention is that I will not attend Westminster as I believe the proposal by Iain Wright MP, whom I have offered to meet in Shirebrook, is an abuse of the parliamentary process," he added.
Ashley also said he wants to challenge the attendance order issued by the committee and said he will be sending out a formal reply in due course. He added that he wanted the MPs to see what was going on at Sports Direct. "Come here and see it for yourself. You will have to apologise once you've been here," he said.
Ashley said that MPs were unwilling to see the reality of business at Sports Direct. He claimed that he cares about the company's employees, while the MPs were only interested in "carrying on the media circus".
"In my opinion they are just showboating," he said. "They are actually a joke, if you want my honest opinion."
Ashley, who holds the majority stake in Sports Direct and is the company's deputy chairman, was accused of favouritism in January, when he paid his daughter's boyfriend £250m ($360m) for running sports retailer's property service. It followed the slamming Guardian report in December, which alleged that workers were searched and money was withdrawn from their wages when they were just minutes late.
Since the report, published on 9 December 2015, the company's share price has dropped more than 35%. Ashley has also been slammed by his own board for not attending board meetings.