A damning report into the collapse of BHS and the role of former boss Sir Philip Green is “clearly concerning, Downing Street said while stressing Theresa May’s desire to “reform capitalism” and prevent “reckless” corporate behaviour.
The Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said Mrs May will “learn lessons for the future” from the parliamentary inquiry which branded Sir Philip the “unacceptable face of capitalism”.
He is facing mounting pressure to be stripped of his knighthood and to rectify the black hole in the BHS pension fund after an excoriating joint report by two Commons select committees.
Mrs May’s spokeswoman said the independent Honours Forfeiture Committee should be left to make a decision on his knighthood but reiterated the PM’s desire to tackle corporate irresponsibility.
She said: “The report is clearly concerning. Action was already under way in response to the collapse of BHS.
“So the Insolvency Service have got their investigation, they have been asked to accelerate that; the Pensions Regulator is also looking at the issue. Of course it’s important that those authorities carry out their work and get on with that as swiftly as possible.”
The two committees – Work and Pensions and Business, Innovation and Skills – accused the entrepreneur of seeking to blame anyone but himself for the firm’s failure.
They said he has a “moral duty” to make a “large financial contribution” to the 20,000 pensioners facing substantial cuts to their benefits.
While the committees were damning about Dominic Chappell, who bought BHS for £1, and the “directors, advisers and hangers-on” associated with the deal, they said ultimate responsibility lay with Sir Philip.
The inquiry prompted senior Labour figures to call for Sir Philip to be stripped of his knighthood.
Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field said Sir Philip is “much worse” than media mogul Robert Maxwell, who raided the pension pot of the Mirror Group newspaper business.
He also described Sir Philip as a “Napoleon figure” floating around on his yacht, having “orchestrated” an “old-fashioned classical asset-stripping” which has put the jobs of 11,000 BHS workers at risk and left 22,000 pensioners with a risky future.
The report comes just days after the Cabinet Office disclosed that it was reviewing Sir Philip’s knighthood.