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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 21:36 GMT
Farepak bosses branded 'villains'
Farepak customers could get as little as 4p for every 1 saved
The directors of collapsed Christmas savings club Farepak have been branded "villains" in the Scottish Parliament.

The comments came in a members debate at Holyrood brought by Dumfries Labour MSP Elaine Murray.

More than 150,000 customers lost an average of 400 each when the company went into administration in October.

Dr Murray called for donations to the response fund and said she had no doubt "the villains of this unhappy Christmas carol" were the Farepak directors.

The MSP has also said she would close her Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) accounts and ask others to do the same unless it donated more to the Farepak response fund.

'Failing empire'

HBOS, which pulled the plug on Farepak's parent company, has already given 2m to the response fund and has urged the Labour MSP to drop her calls for a boycott.

Dr Murray told MSPs she believed the company's directors, such as former chairman Sir Clive Thomson, were "ultra-wealthy individuals" who had used "the hard-earned cash of Farepak customers to try to bale out their failing business".

The tragedy of all of this is that these are people who are in a low-income situation but have taken what they thought to be responsible decision
John Swinney
SNP finance spokesman

The MSP said Farepak's parent company European Home Retail (EHR) had refused to protect the cash paid in by customers by ringfencing it.

And she said while Farepak customers thought their money was safe, it was being used by EHR "to prop up other parts of their failing business empire".

Dr Murray said most of those who had lost out were women on low incomes, including many part-time workers and pensioners.

The Farepak Response Fund, which was set up to help those who have lost money, had so far raised almost 4.9m.

But she told MSPs to bear in mind that almost 40m had been lost.

Collecting cash

Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said the company was a "timebomb waiting to happen".

Scottish National Party finance spokesman John Swinney MSP called on everybody to do more to help those who had lost out.

He added: "The tragedy of all of this is that these are people who are in a low-income situation but have taken what they thought to be responsible decision to try to safeguard a saving that they were making on a weekly basis, or monthly basis, for a later period at Christmas time."

Meanwhile, Labour MP for Livingston Jim Devine said he had documentation showing that Farepak was encouraging savers to carry on paying money to the firm just days before it went into administration.

Mr Devine, who describes the situation as ''scandalous'', has acquired a letter from Farepak telling a saver to make a payment by the first week in October, a week before the company collapsed.

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