MPs checking up on notorious Sports Direct warehouse left stunned as spy cam is placed under a stool
by Steve Sweeney
SPORTS DIRECT was branded “absolutely disgraceful” yesterday after it was accused of attempting to record a private meeting of MPs at the controversial Shirebrook warehouse on Monday.
A spy camera was discovered hidden under a stool carrying a tray of sandwiches by members of the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy committee, who made an unannounced visit to the site, which has previously been described as Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley’s “gulag.”
MP Anna Turley posted a photo online of the undercover recording device which was found after sandwiches were delivered to a room where MPs were holding a private meeting to discuss their findings following their three-hour visit.
After making the discovery she said: “It’s not James Bond, more Austin Powers.”
Iain Wright MP slammed “the diversionary tactics” of management and “the secret recordings of private select committee deliberations” as “really disgusting.”
Mr Ashley hit back at the committee, accusing MPs and unions of using his staff as a “political football.”
The latest row comes after Mr Ashley was accused by the committee of running “a business whose working practices are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable high street retailer” following a Commons inquiry into Sports Direct in July.
The committee report found that the company enforced a “six strikes rule,” which can result in workers being dismissed for talking too much, spending too long in the toilet or taking time off work when their children are unwell. They said that workers were treated as a “commodity.”
During the inquiry, MPs heard that a female worker was promised a permanent job in return for sexual favours and saw alarming reports that showed staff sustained injuries including an amputated finger and a fractured neck. A woman was reported to have given birth in the toilet.
Labour MP Anna Turley claimed that following the visit the committee members sat down for a private conversation when “a lady came in with some sandwiches, which was very kind. I saw her take too long to do it, she put it down and I saw her put a recording device on the floor.
“She left the room and I went over to pick up the device and there it was: a camera and a recording device for the conversation that we were having privately.”
Iain Wright said: “I’m really disappointed in the nature and spirit in which Sports Direct has conducted this visit.
“I’m not suggesting that they were going to welcome us with open arms — we are a select committee that has been critical of working practices turning up unannounced.”
Mr Wright said he spoke to Mr Ashley by phone after the incident and described the conversation as unpleasant.
He said he had wanted to work with Mr Ashley in a constructive manner but doesn’t think Mr Ashley “wants to work with us at all any more.”
A statement from the company denied the “veracity” of the camera and claimed they had not authorised its use.