As you may know I’m on the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee which is a group of MPs that has a constitutional right to examine, challenge, and comment on different aspects of government policy but also that of the business community too. Normally we do detailed inquiries that offer government suggestions to improve policies, but we also have the power to look into areas of business activity we feel needs extra scrutiny.
During my time on the BEIS committee I have been involved in a huge range of issues, from holding businesses to account for questionable practice, to advising on governmental nuclear policy post Brexit. The work has been hugely varied and I have taken every opportunity I can to hold both Business and Government to account.
Here are some examples:
Sticking Up For Staff At Sports Direct
When news broke about a culture of bullying, exploitation, and sexual harassment that has developed within Sports Direct we invited its founder, owner, and boss, Mike Ashley, to come and talk to us. Before we met him we privately met with a group of former and current employees. All of their stories were harrowing. We then met the companies that supply Sports Direct with several thousand temporary and flexible workers, all on zero hours contracts. I was disgusted by their lack of knowledge of employment law, of HR practice, and the sheer lack of humanity in the workplace.
Mr Ashley then arrived. I asked him if he thought he was a kind man, and then confronted him with the experiences told to us by his employees. I asked “Do you think your company has outgrown your ability to manage it?” His reply: ”Yes, probably”
It takes so much preparation to get ready for a session like this. I wanted to try my best to hold him to account, to do justice to the employees who have suffered at his hands, but also to do so in a way that would lead to change and not destruction. I want Sports Direct to improve and to be a brand we can be proud of, not as it is now which brings shame on British business and pain to many of its employees.
I’m pleased to say Mike Ashley has promised ‘a new era’ at the company and is making progress. Well be checking though!
Clamping Down On Corporate Greed
No company is too big or powerful to have to avoid paying its fair hare of taxes and this included Coca Cola! I have taken on the drinks giant and spoken out about its attempts to shy away from paying its fair share of tax in its £3.9billion takeover of Costa Coffee.
I said: ‘Coca-Cola has a decision to make. Does it want to be a company that is known for putting profit ahead of everything else, such as Starbucks?
‘Or does it want to maintain the reputation that companies like Costa have of honouring the spirit of being a British company that contributes not just to our High Street but to our country through its honest contribution to our tax system.’
Outsourcing Scandal And Carillion
The folly of using contractors to drive down the cost of providing public services has been exposed by the collapse of Carillion. The UK’s second-largest construction company buckled under the weight of a whopping £1.5bn debt pile and it was my job to sit on the enquiry.
I’m proud that I helped expose the extraordinary negligence of the Carillion directors.
Nuclear Power Regulation
At the other end of the spectrum the committee has also produced reports into the Government’s nuclear policy post Brexit. As part of our membership of the EU we have been part of a body known as EURATOM, an organisation that exists to regulate and coordinate nuclear policy across the EU. This is an organisation that the Government has agreed is ‘Mutually beneficial’ to the UK nuclear industry and as such it is vital that we prevent brexit from causing disruption to our energy sector.
In the committee’s report we advised the government should avoid such disruption by deferring exit of EURATOM until we have an agreement on a future arrangement on nuclear policy, We have repeatedly had meetings with Ministers and experts in their fields so that we can effectively hold the government to account on these incredibly complex issues.
If you want more information on what the BEIS committee is doing you can visit the Parliamentary website Here