Joint Committee into BHS
As a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, I was selected to sit on the Joint Committee Enquiry into BHS. It was established to understand what caused the demise of British Home Stores and the huge shortfall in its pension fund, and learn lessons from this failure.
As a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Advisor I had particular interest in investigating the mismanagement of the pension fund. My previous experience in this area allowed me to challenge and closely scrutinise the arrangements made by both Sir Phillip Green and Dominic Chappell.
The Committee heard hours of oral testimony and considered thousands of pages of written evidence in the inquiry, which began when BHS crashed into administration just 13 months after the ill-advised and under-funded sale to Dominic Chappell.
Evidence at times resembled a circular firing squad, with a series of key witnesses appearing to believe they could absolve themselves of responsibility by blaming others. Sir Philip Green himself adopted a scatter-gun approach, liberally firing blame to all angles except his own.
The conclusion of the Committee is now well known. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and the respective directors, advisers and hangers-on who all became richer as a result of this collapse are all culpable, with the losers being the ordinary employees and pensioners of the company.
This is the unacceptable face of capitalism, and the story of BHS creates much wider questions about the gaps in company law and pension regulation that must be addressed. The Committee will now turn to those questions in new inquiries.
It was a privilege to be part of such an important Committee. I hope that our findings will lead to some real changes in the way the industry conducts company sales and pension fund management.