MP speaks out on Farepak collapse

MALCOLM Moss, the MP for NE Cambs, has spoken in Parliament of his constituents distress over the collapse of Farepak, the Christmas hamper firm. The company collapsed owing millions and many thousands are out of pocket as a result. Here are extracts fro

MALCOLM Moss, the MP for NE Cambs, has spoken in Parliament of his constituents' distress over the collapse of Farepak, the Christmas hamper firm.

The company collapsed owing millions and many thousands are out of pocket as a result.

Here are extracts from the speech made in Parliament by Mr Moss on Tuesday.

"It is an indication of the impact that the scandal has had on constituencies throughout the country, and hon. Members from all parties, that we have a record attendance for a Westminster Hall debate.

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"Various adjectives have been used to describe the situation, including scandalous, incredible, unjust and unfair. It is heartbreaking for those involved, as well as shocking, and probably immoral and illegal to boot.

".....this is indeed the nightmare before Christmas.

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"In my constituency, 19 individuals in one small town alone are affected, while one lady in another town has lost £15,000. That money has been hard saved by people who do not have alternative means of saving. They have chosen that vehicle because, once the money was there, they could not get their hands on it in times of hardship.

"The agents have been mentioned. They are obviously furious, because there has been no communication whatever from the management of Farepak. The agents have been totally abandoned and are feeling incredibly guilty.

"That is something that we, as parliamentarians, need to address. The agents were taking their friends' and neighbours' savings in good faith. One of the key components of the system is that people hand their money over to someone whom they trust. That trust has been entirely undermined and it behoves us to try to do something to rectify that.

"I am pleased that the Minister is going to solve the problem-if not today, then fairly soon. He has been described as the new Father Christmas and I cannot think of anyone else in whose hands I would better place such a vexatious problem.

"I shall obviously be interested to hear what he has to say, as there are questions that he needs to answer.

"What can we do immediately for the people who are affected? Several constructive ideas have been proposed and I am sure that more will be forthcoming.

"We need to send out assurances from Parliament to show that the problem will never arise again. Changes in the law seem vital and overdue. As has been asked, how can we advise and help people to avoid falling into the hands of loan sharks?

"We need to communicate to people that there are alternatives that they should use, although that will perhaps not solve their immediate problems.

"Another question that I hope the Minister will address is whether Halifax Bank of Scotland will be held accountable for its role in the disaster. The bank apparently allowed Farepak to continue trading to recoup its overdraft. Should not HBOS have declared Farepak to be in administration long before that finally came about? The Secretary of State has announced that officers from the company investigations branch have started an investigation under the Companies Act 1985.

"Will the investigation put the directors of Farepak and its parent company in the dock?

"It is outrageous that peoples' savings should be stolen in that way. I was delighted that the hon. Member for South Swindon named and shamed some of the individuals involved, but surely any investigation should not stop at Farepak alone.

"We should be going for the directors of associated and parent companies.

"The Government should recognise that the group of consumers affected followed the Government's agenda: they were saving. They were taking responsible action to save for their future and to avoid personal debt.

"There is therefore a case for the Government to do all that they can to make funds available to help such families-possibly not directly, but certainly by organising a response from the retail sector.

"In the long term, we need new legislation. Adequate provisions should be made to protect consumers' money prior to the delivery of the goods and services that they buy. That would ensure that consumer moneys paid to Christmas hamper companies are protected should those companies go into liquidation.

"I would have thought that the Financial Services Authority would be best placed to regulate such companies.

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