Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lib Dem Councillor - Evading food bill

A councillor and former MP is being taken to court by a restaurant owner who claims he failed to pay meal bills.

Parmjit Singh Gill, Liberal Democrat city councillor for Stoneygate, denies all the allegations made against him.

Restaurant owner Farid Miah said Councillor Gill owes him £1,115 from eight bills.

Mr Miah said Coun Gill, who was running for Parliament in Leicester South in 2005 - where he was sitting MP after winning a by-election the previous year - set up an account at Vindaloo, in Evington, prior to the General Election and said he would pay when it had finished.

Mr Miah said Coun Gill visited his restaurant several times and brought Liberal Democrat guests including party president Simon Hughes and Treasury spokesman Vincent Cable.

Coun Gill has submitted a defence to the claim, denying all allegations that he owes any money.

In documents to Leicester County Court, he said: "It is denied that I am indebted to the claimant in the sum of £1,115 or at all.

"I note that the eight bills referred to were not attached to the particulars of the claim, leaving me unable to respond in greater detail.

"An account has never been opened by me at this restaurant. I deny this allegation.

"The claimant has made various allegations in the past, all of which have been strenuously denied.

"Prior to May 2005, I had visited the claimant's restaurant on several occasions, and all bills were settled in full.

"By way of background I have been a councillor for the Stoneygate ward of Leicester for almost five years.

"I was a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament from 2004 to 2005. I was the first elected MP from a black and minority ethnic community in the party's history and so have a considerable national profile.

"These fabricated allegations are designed to undermine my good character and integrity as a former MP and existing councillor.

"It is my view that this court is being used in an adverse way to cause me maximum political damage.

"As a matter of personal principle, I will defend to the hilt these and any other false allegations that the claimant makes."

When the Mercury approached Coun Gill about the allegations, he said: "These are false allegations designed to undermine my integrity and good reputation which will be robustly defended."

He declined to comment further.

Mr Miah said of the legal action: "I don't have any choice - I've taken the matter to court." He said he was prepared to call Mr Hughes and Mr Cable as witnesses if necessary.

A hearing was held on April 24 year at Leicester County Court, to decide how the case should be allocated.

Another hearing is set to be held this summer to determine the case.

Coun Gill became MP for Leicester South in a by-election in 2004 following the death of Labour's Jim Marshall.

However, the following year, he lost his seat in the General Election, when it was reclaimed for Labour by Sir Peter Soulsby.

Mr Miah ran as a Conservative candidate against Coun Gill in the local authority elections in 2007, but was unsuccessful.


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