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Thursday 16th
posted by Lamiat Sabin in Britain

- Philip Green apologises to 11,000 workers while being grilled by MPs over BHS collapse - Retail union Usdaw says many serious questions still need answering by tycoon

SIR Philip Green’s apology to BHS employees isn’t good enough for the 11,000 workers “staring down the barrel of a gun and facing unemployment,” a shop workers’ union told the Star yesterday.

The billionaire owner of Arcadia retail group said sorry for the demise of the high-street chain during a joint select committee hearing involving the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Trade union Usdaw, which represents retail and distribution workers, said the apology the workers only received because Mr Green is being grilled by MPs over the company’s collapse is “simply not good enough.”

The retail tycoon — who owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Burton — also expressed regret over the £571 million black hole left in the BHS pension scheme.

Mr Green added that, although he had little to do with pension trustees, he takes the blame for the current state of the scheme. “It’s my fault,” the man who made the company pay his wife hundreds of millions in dividends admitted.

He said: “Nothing is more sad than how this has ended. I just want to apologise to all the BHS people who are involved in this and have been involved.”

Approximately 20,000 current and former workers would be subject to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), an organisation that compensates for pension losses in events of insolvency.

Mr Green promised that he would “sort” the pension deficit as he claims the “PPF does not resolve it.”

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “We welcome the commitment from Mr Green to ‘sort out’ the pension and await to see the detail of what he is proposing.

“But there was precious little said today to reassure the 11,000 staff who are staring down the barrel of a gun and facing unemployment.

“Saying sorry about the demise of BHS is simply not good enough for the hardworking staff about to be made redundant, many of whom have given their whole working lives to BHS.

“There are still serious questions that need to be answered and we hope the select committees take up Mr Green’s offer to scrutinise his finance team.”

Usdaw is urging the administrators to “redouble efforts” to find a suitable buyer of BHS to save jobs, Mr Hannett added.

Mr Green has been rebuked for taking £400 million in dividends out of BHS during his 15-year ownership before selling it to former bankrupt racing driver Dominic Chappell — who has no retail experience — for £1 last year.

He claimed that he had pumped £600 million into BHS through his Arcadia retail empire after his family received dividend payments. His wife Tina is based in tax haven Monaco and controls the family’s shares.

And Mr Green defended his Jersey-registered Taveta Investments by claiming that he could have been “a lot more aggressive” with dodging tax than he has been.

“Every penny our company has made in the United Kingdom has paid tax,” he claimed.