DISGRACED yacht-dwelling billionaire Sir Philip Green agreed yesterday to cough up £363 million in a bid to put the BHS pension scheme scandal behind him.
The former BHS owner claimed that his “voluntary contribution” represented “a significantly better outcome” for workers and followed “lengthy, complex discussions with the Pensions Regulator.”
The figure is markedly less than the £571m deficit left when BHS went bust last April, but Mr Green said his contribution brought “this matter to a conclusion” and apologised to those affected.
MPs demanded that Mr Green be stripped of his knighthood following the collapse of the retail chain last year, in which 11,000 jobs were lost and tens of thousands of pension scheme members were left facing an uncertain future due to the massive deficit.
There were calls for the tycoon’s yacht to be seized and used as part-payment for BHS workers’ pensions, while the company’s former owners faced criminal investigations.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw general secretary John Hannett cautiously welcomed the news of the agreement, saying: “It is difficult to understand why this saga has been allowed to continue and why we have had to campaign for so long to get justice for our members.
“Through no fault of their own, 11,000 loyal BHS staff lost their jobs after people at the top of the business seemingly played a wild game of Monopoly with their livelihoods.”
But Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey argued: “This deal falls far short of justice being done.
“The £363m contribution — a capitulation to months of pressure, despite his claim that it is voluntary — is peanuts to billionaire Sir Philip, yet will leave an outstanding hole of £200m in the pension scheme.”
Her party colleague Frank Field, who co-chaired a parliamentary inquiry into the BHS collapse, agreed that Mr Green’s concession was “not justice” but called it “a milestone, adding: “In other words, it doesn’t end here.”
And GMB union national organiser Keir Greenaway pointed out: “While clearly a victory of sorts, Sir Philip Green’s payment to the BHS pension scheme doesn’t come close to the profit he made out of the business.
“BHS workers will now spend their twilight years with less money thanks to the greed of this yacht-dwelling billionaire.
“This is another example of the government going soft on ruthless, wealthy sharks because they are somehow perceived to be good for business.”