MPs vote to strip Sir Philip of knighthood

Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green Photo: Katie
Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green Photo: Katie

The House of Commons, the lower chamber of the British parliament, has voted to strip Sir Philip Green of his title.

The UK retail mogul, whose wife is a Monaco resident, faced a barrage of criticism on Thursday afternoon in the wake of the collapse of the BHS department store chain.

Although Sir Philip had said on Tuesday that he was “sad and very, very, very sorry” about the distress caused to the 11,000 employees of the iconic British chain who lost their jobs, and possibly their pensions, as the result of the closure of BHS outlets, this was nowhere near enough to stop an avalanche of criticism.

MPs fell over themselves with insults, with one saying he was a “billionaire spiv” who should never have received a knighthood in the first place.

The Labour MP Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, accused the Topshop owner of being unwilling to part with a “modest” amount of his “mega fortune” to do his duty for the BHS pensioners. Mr Field, who jointly led the parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of BHS, said that four months after Mr Green had promised to sort out the pension fund there was still no current proposal on the table.

“There was nothing the committee could find that shows Sir Philip Green is the king of the high street. He was a very, very, successful asset stripper,” Mr Field said.

It only got worse. Iain Wright, who co-chaired the select committee investigation with Mr Field as chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, told MPs the failure of BHS was “one of the biggest corporate scandals of modern times”.

“Green took rings from BHS fingers, starved it of food and water, beat it black and blue and then wants credit for keeping it alive,” said Mr Wright.

Although the parliamentary vote does not automatically strip the baron of his title, it adds pressure on the relevant authorities to take this unusual step. If Sir Philip becomes Mr Green once again, then Lady Green will be Mrs Tina Green.

The power to rescind a knighthood rests with the honours forfeiture committee, a group of civil servants chaired by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary.

Sir Philip has admitted that selling the once-valuable BHS chain to Dominic Chappell last year for just one pound was ‘a mistake.’