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  1. ITV Report

Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley calls for tax on online retailers to save the high street

  • Video report by ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills

High street tycoon Mike Ashley has called for a new tax on online retailers as part of a radical change he says is needed to save the high street.

Appearing before MPs, the Sports Direct founder said any retailer that makes more than 20% of its sales online should be subject to an additional tax.

Answering questions from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, the businessman - who recently bought ailing high street retailer House of Fraser - said he would try to keep as many of the stores open as possible.

It's not House of Fraser's fault, it's not Marks & Spencer's fault, it's not Debenhams's fault the high street is dying.

The internet is killing the high street.

– Mike Ashley

However he said the only person who would be able to keep all 59 remaining stores open is "God", and it would be a "godlike performance" to manage to keep 80% of the stores from closure.

"I'm not comparing myself to God" he then assured the MPs, one of whom replied: "I don't think anybody else on the committee is either".

He was appearing before the politicians to discuss ways to save the high street, which has seen a stark decline in footfall and sales in the face of the challenge from internet shopping.

However the MPs started the meeting by grilling him over the use of zero hour contracts, which has been a controversial element of his Sports Direct business.

He defended their use, saying the "vast majority" of Sports Direct workers voted for them when surveyed - and if the same happened with House of Fraser staff, he would listen to the "vast majority".