palmer harvey pro truck

Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field MP has added his voice to former employees’ demands for an investigation into failed wholesaler Palmer Harvey & McLane (P&H), which collapsed with more than £65m in debt last November.

The 92-year-old Hove-based firm, which had an operating licence for 600 vehicles, delivered groceries to 90,000 customers across the UK, ranging from small local corner stores and food outlets to the UK’s largest supermarkets.

In a letter to The Pensions Regulator the MP has criticised P&H’s management team as “highly irresponsible” for its decision to pay out £70m in dividends, in the face of mounting losses and a rising pension deficit and demanded an investigation into the firm’s actions.

The Work and Pensions Committee is also set to look into the events surrounding the collapse of the firm.

Meanwhile the number of signatures on a petition demanding an investigation into the collapse of P&H has risen to more than 11,700 in the weeks since the company went under.

The calls are being made via a petition, on, which was posted just days after the demise of the company last year, which resulted in the immediate loss of 2,500 jobs.

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Former P&H operations inventory manager Claire Walton, who submitted the petition states on the petition website: “As a former Palmer and Harvey employee it would be good to understand how and why it was allowed to happen and to have the people (responsible) held to account.”

Former employees have expressed their anger, via the petitions website, at the pension deficit and have also questioned the terms of a £3.4m interest-free loan which the company made to the chief executive Christopher Etherington in 2008 to help fund a management buy-out.

According to documents at Companies House the terms of the debt were changed in 2011 making it repayable only in the event of a sale of Etherington’s shares in the business – which has been made impossible by the collapse of P&H.

Matthew Callaghan, Ian Green and Zelf Hussain of PwC have been appointed as joint administrators of P&H.

In a statement PWC said: “The administration team will focus on working with employees, clients and suppliers to facilitate a smooth and effective wind-down or transfer of operations over the next few weeks.”

Palmer & Harvey's fleet of 200 trucks and trailers is to be auctioned off this month by Protruck Auctions. The sale will take place over the 23 and 24 January.