Roadchef Employees Benefit Trust

Part of Petition - Waste Incinerators in Sowerby Bridge – in the House of Commons at 7:33 pm on 19th December 2017.

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Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Social Justice) 7:33 pm, 19th December 2017

Absolutely. I believe that the main thrust behind Mr Gee’s setting up of the trust in the first place was to ensure that low-paid staff were able to benefit from the company doing well. That has sadly not happened yet, and many low-paid workers have suffered as a result. Many of my constituents—I will list some shortly—have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the payments not being made, so my hon. Friend is absolutely right.

Linda McLeod and Margaret Main pointed to the time it has taken for their money to be returned, but they also highlighted the number of former colleagues who have sadly passed away and will not get the benefit their hard work merited. Caroline Todd contacted me on behalf of her mother, Mrs Quigley from Harthill. She desperately hopes this gets resolved soon so that her mum, who is getting older, is able to enjoy her own money. Margaret Forsyth just wants HMRC to settle matters so that she can have some security, a sentiment echoed by Jane Paxton and Elizabeth Campbell.

Joyce Simm’s husband has been receiving treatment for small-cell carcinoma for three years, and she has been out of work while she cares for him. They have had to survive on pensions and savings, which are fast disappearing. They have now been hit with the sad news that he has a carcinoid tumour and will be undergoing surgery on 21 December. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing the family well, but clearly any pay-out now would be particularly beneficial.

Another constituent of mine visited my surgery. He is seriously ill and in a difficult financial situation, and the money he is entitled to get back would simply be life-changing and would help him immensely. He is desperate to see HMRC settle as soon as possible. I know many other hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House will have constituents who are affected and, sadly, will be able to share similar stories. Indeed, I understand Mr Speaker has constituents who are affected by this issue.

It is worth mentioning someone else who has been affected by this case. The former company secretary at Roadchef, Tim Warwick, blew the whistle on what the then chief executive was doing before there was any kind of whistleblower protection. Exposing this affair effectively ended Mr Warwick’s career, and we should all thank and pay tribute to him for his efforts.

What can the Minister do to help my constituents and their 4,000 colleagues across these isles who are waiting for their money? I understand that HMRC is a non-ministerial department of Government and that the Minister is therefore somewhat restricted in what he can do, but I hope he can join me and colleagues on both sides of the House in calling on HMRC to settle this case with the trustees and to return the £10 million, plus interest, to the rightful owners—the trustees and beneficiaries.