Belfast Telegraph

Ex-M&S boss Lord Rose says Sir Philip Green should not be stripped of knighthood

Lord Stuart Rose has said that his former sparring partner Sir Philip Green should not be stripped of his knighthood after the embattled billionaire settled the BHS pension debacle last week.

Former Marks & Spencer boss Lord Rose, who almost came to blows with Sir Philip over the tycoon's ill-tempered bid for the retailer in 2004, told the Press Association that public shaming of the disgraced retail boss needs to stop.

Lord Rose - who is now the chairman of Ocado - described the BHS saga as a "very unfortunate incident" but ended with the Arcadia chairman having "done the right thing."

"I just don't believe in public humiliation," he told the Press Association on the sidelines of the Retail Week conference in London.

"Aren't we a bigger society than that? That we want to sort of beat people up publicly - it's like going back to the Middle Ages. Why not put him in the stocks and throw tomatoes at him?"

Lord Rose's defence of Sir Philip came as something of a surprise given his rocky history with the tycoon, who reportedly grabbed the former M&S boss by the lapels and yelled at him for refusing to join his team amid the BHS chief's £9 billion failed bid for M&S in 2004.

While MPs have called for Sir Philip to be stripped of his knighthood, Lord Rose told an audience of conference goers that the honour - which recognised the former BHS boss' contribution to the high street - still stood.

Sir Philip recently agreed to pay more than £360 million to help settle the schemes of thousands of former workers.

It is significantly less than the £571 million deficit BHS was left with in its pension pot, but saved the scheme from entering the Government's Pension Protection Fund (PPF).

When asked whether Sir Philip has left a black spot on the industry, Lord Rose told the Press Association: "Listen, there have been other industries outside retail that have had problems with their pensions funds or with other things that have happened.

"Do I suspect that he regrets what happened? Yes, big time. Do I think that he has meant well by trying to address the problem? Yes I do. Do I think we should move on? Yes I do."

On Brexit, Lord Rose, who chaired the Remain campaign Stronger In, denied having cost his side victory after he said the price of labour would rise if Britain left the EU, due to a shrinking worker pool.

Pro-Brexit supporters took his comments as a sign that wages would rise and that workers would be better off if voters chose to leave.

He said: "I was a minor player in the whole process, let's be clear about this. This was a political event run by the politicians."

He added: "In terms of wages, actually what I said has come to pass and the Government has already said it themselves. If you've got full employment in this country ... and we then are going to say to people 'You can't stay here', then there's going to be a shortage of labour and the cost of labour will go up ... That's not necessarily a good thing.

"And David Davis himself said it: who's going to drive our trains, who is going to pick our vegetables, who is going to look after our people in care homes?"

However, the Remain supporter said it was time for the public to get behind the Government regardless of whether they voted to leave or not.

"We're all in this hole now, so we've got to make the best of it."