LLANELLI MP Nia Griffith has spoken out over the ‘scandal’, which has seen former Road Chef employees fighting for money they were promised.
Employees were entitled to money as part of a scheme established by the original owner of Road chef Patrick Gee but reneged on by the subsequent owner Timothy Ingram Hill, who sold the company leaving those employees who had paid in to the company with nothing.
Speaking to Llanelli Online today, Monday (Sep 7) the Llanelli MP said:
“It is absolutely appalling because people have been waiting years and years and this is money they have earned and they have put in to these schemes. They were hoping very much that they would come to fruition and they would have some money now for their latter years. Quite frankly the delays are absolutely scandalous.
“What’s happened here is that a director ran away with the money to start with, which was obviously a catastrophe in itself. However, that was then recovered. His (Timothy Ingram Hill) tax liability was very much more than the tax liability of people on modest incomes. The whole point now is that we are still waiting for HMRC to work out exactly what the tax take is.
“We have asked and asked and asked. We have had treasury ministers come to speak to the group of MP’s who are campaigning on this. We ask questions in Parliament and as you say there has always been a brush off from the treasury ministers that it is for HMRC to sort it out.
“We are looking now to potentially get some sort of enquiry by the treasury committee to take it up and dig deeper and get people in front of them to get answers. Very time we raise it with HMRC we are told they can’t discuss personal details. Nobody is asking them to discuss personal details with us. What we want is for them to sort out exactly what the tax situation is and so that money can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Sadly some of those beneficiaries have passed away.
“We now have widows like Eleanor Nicholls from Llanelli fighting for that money. It is appalling and it should be very simple. I know everybody is worried that this will open the floodgates but this is a one off case, a rogue director. The point is, this is an injustice that needs to put right and put right soon.”
The Times (2008) cited Hill’s worth at £70m and the Road Chef as having been sold in 1998 for £175m. The Times lists Hill as a charity worker and sponsor of a young racing driver as well as developing his hotel chain. Hill was accused of cheating Road Chef employees out of millions of pounds in 1999, when he was in charge of the company. Ownership of the business was promised to the staff by former boss Patrick Gee. It was a unique altruistic scheme known as an employee share ownership plan (ESOP).
Nia Griffith said the scheme would be welcome as a widespread scheme for employees in the right hands.
Gee wanted to spread ownership among his 600-strong workforce but staff alleged that Hill subsequently, fraudulently transferred their shares into his name before selling Road Chef for £139million.
Every worker should have received around £90,000. Instead they got a minimum of just £2,300, with higher amounts paid depending on length of service. Staff who worked at Road Chef for three years would gain shares over the subsequent five years on the basis of 100 for each year of service.
About 50 per cent of staff were expected to benefit initially. Widows of former employees like Eleanor Nicholls from Llanelli, whose late husband worked at Pont Abraham services will be hoping that political pressure from MPs across the UK who are representing families of former Road Chef workers will eventually release the money they deserve.