Sports Direct
Mike Ashley, founder and majority shareholder of sportswear retailer Sports Direct Darren Staples/ Reuters

A group of MPs behind a scathing report into working practices at Mike Ashley's Sports Direct have made a surprise visit to the company's warehouse in Shirebrook.

Six MPs from the Business Select Committee gave the company an hour's notice before arriving at the sportswear giant's Derbyshire headquarters at around midday on Monday (7 November).

The chair of the committee, Iain Wright MP, is understood to have now begun a tour of the facilities with his colleagues.

He had promised to keep holding the company's "feet to the fire" after leading an inquiry into conditions for staff earlier this year.

"We said that we would make an unannounced trip and monitor the progress," Wright MP told The Daily Telegraph. "I want to make sure that it's not all smelling of fresh paint and we get a real impression of the company."

It is understood Ashley was not present at the Shirebrook site for the inspection.

The committee's July report into Sports Direct had concluded the company's billionaire founder had built his success on a business model that treats workers "without dignity or respect".

It said working conditions for his staff were similar to those of a Victorian workhouse, and heard numerous accounts of worker mistreatment, including staff being penalised for taking breaks and promises of permanent contracts in exchange for sexual favours.

Ashley was questioned by MPs during the committee's investigation only after he initially challenged whether parliament had the power to summons him.

He branded the MPs "a joke", saying they should visit Shirebrook for themselves.

He eventually backed down and appeared in front of the committee, where he admitted for the first time that Sports Direct had paid its workers below the minimum wage.

Despite Ashley's open invitation, Monday's surprise trip by MPs to Shirebrook reportedly prompted a furious response at Sports Direct, with company sources telling The Daily Telegraph that MPs were wielding undue levels of power.

"They don't have powers of inspection and they're not being reasonable...they're placing warehouse staff under unfair pressure", one source reportedly said.

Ashley assumed full responsibility of Sports Direct in September, after his long-serving chief executive, David Forsey, resigned suddenly and without explanation.

The business pledged to carry out an independent review of the troubled retailer's working practices and corporate governance, following concerns raised by shareholders.

The company has been approached for comment by IBTimes UK.