The bitter fight between Sir Philip Green and the veteran Labour MP Frank Field escalated on Thursday when the tycoon threatened legal action over potential disclosures relating to his £363m BHS pension bailout.
Sky News has learnt that Sir Philip and his lawyers warned Mr Field that The Pensions Regulator had been alerted over what they allege would be a contravention of pension and data protection laws by the parliamentarian.
The latest salvo in a months-long row between the two men follows a radio interview given by Mr Field last week in which he said he was in possession of confidential information obtained by the regulator during its probe into BHS’s collapse.
The MP said he had been the recipient of “a major leak” of papers relating to the pension deal prior to parliament’s summer recess.
Sir Philip’s lawyers are understood to have responded on Thursday by warning that any disclosure of the information contained in those documents would be a breach of The Pensions Act 2004.
Referring to Sir Philip’s summer spent aboard his luxury yacht, Mr Field said last week he thought the tycoon would be feeling “seasick” about the revelation of details of the pension settlement.
Image: Frank Field chairs the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee
In his letter to Mr Field, a copy of which has been seen by Sky News, Sir Philip described the latest allegations by the MP as “disgraceful”, saying: “You claim to have new dynamite evidence against me.
“How can this be the case when the document you referred to on the radio is not new; it is a document produced by the Regulator last year?”
He added: “You will today receive a letter from my lawyers which you should read very very carefully in order that you clearly understand the content and the seriousness of your actions.”
It is not the first time that the owner of Topshop and Dorothy Perkins has threatened Mr Field with court action.
Sir Philip has repeatedly claimed during the last 16 months that he has been the subject of a witch-hunt led by Mr Field, who chairs the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee.
A non-binding parliamentary vote was held last year which resulted in MPs declaring that Sir Philip should forfeit his knighthood, although the high street tycoon subsequently agreed to pay more than £360m into BHS’s two retirement schemes.
“Surely everyone can see, except you it seems, that I have fulfilled what I had said I would do,” Sir Philip wrote in his letter to Mr Field.
“This sum of money was paid on a strictly voluntary basis, a settlement was reached with the regulators and I was given statutory clearance by them.”
Mr Field is understood to have received the letters from Sir Philip and his lawyers on Thursday evening.
The MP said: “I welcome this intervention from Sir Philip Green.
“We now know it’s going to be a multi act drama – he’s not boxed this off into a one act play.
“I feel sorry for the lawyers who’ve had to write me a letter like this. This is a bullying act by Sir Philip.”
It is the latest in a string of legal threats and actions relating to the collapse of BHS.
Last week, the pensions watchdog announced that it was prosecuting Dominic Chappell – who bought BHS for £1 in 2015 – over his alleged failure to cooperate with its investigations.
Meanwhile, the liquidators of the high street chain said last Friday that they were dropping a legal claim against Sir Philip after his Arcadia Group agreed to relinquish a claim over £30m of BHS’s assets
That agreement meant that unsecured creditors in BHS will eventually be handed tens of millions of pounds more from the wreckage of the retailer, following a lengthy row over a £35m fixed and floating charge held by Arcadia.
FRP Advisory, the joint administrator and subsequently the liquidator of BHS, had queried that charge seven months after BHS collapsed with the loss of about 11,000 jobs.
A spokesman for The Pensions Regulator declined to comment.