Remember when This Blog said Iain Duncan Smith had committed contempt of Parliament – the same offence of which Mike Ashley is being accused – way back in 2013?
At the time, he had been presenting to Parliament – as fact – known falsehoods like the claim that 8,000 people had moved into jobs to avoid his Benefit Cap.
He had also stated that around a million people had been stuck on benefits for at least three of the previous four years, “despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work”. These figures were, of course, inaccurate – they included single mothers, the seriously ill, and people awaiting testing.
Look up contempt of Parliament in Wikipedia and it will tell you that actions constituting contempt include refusing to testify before, or produce documents to, a house or committee. This is the offence of which Mr Ashley is accused.
In addition, it states that deliberately misleading a house of the legislature, or a legislative committee, is also contempt. That is what Iain Duncan Smith had done – and continues to do.
And it states: “MPs accused of Contempt of Parliament may be suspended or expelled.”
Why is Mr Ashley being threatened, while Iain Duncan Smith has been allowed to get away with it for nearly three years?
The Sports Direct founder, Mike Ashley, is being threatened with being found in contempt of parliament after failing to appear in front of MPs to give evidence about the retailer’s treatment of workers.
The move follows a Guardian investigation in December that revealed thousands of temporary workers at Sports Direct warehouses were receiving hourly rates effectively below the minimum wage.
In a strongly worded letter to the billionaire, Iain Wright, the chairman of the business, innovation and skills (BIS) committee, said: “A number of alternative dates have been offered to you by the committee clerk, but as yet you have not accepted any of them, nor agreed in principle to attend. As you will be aware, select committees do not normally need to have recourse to our formal powers to summon witnesses in order to secure attendance; refusal to attend without good reason may be considered a contempt of the house.
“Should you fail in your reply to agree to attend on one of the dates offered to you, or a mutually convenient alternative before 1 June, the committee reserves the right to take the matter further, including seeking the support of the House of Commons in respect of any complaint of contempt.”
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