Former Post Office chairman sought to double chief executive’s pay – minister

Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton urged ministers to double the pay of chief executive Nick Read to prevent him quitting the organisation, Kevin Hollinrake has revealed to MPs.

Business minister Mr Hollinrake made the claim in the House of Commons on Wednesday, following an appearance by both Mr Staunton and Mr Read at the Business and Trade Committee.

The former chairman told the committee that Mr Read had said he was going to resign because he was “unhappy with his pay”.

Ministers heard that the suggestion he should be given a pay rise would likely be “quite galling” to subpostmasters caught up in the Horizon scandal.

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton, giving evidence to the Business and Trade Select Committee on Tuesday (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

The Post Office’s latest accounts suggest Mr Read’s pay for 2022/23 totalled £573,000, of which £436,000 was a fixed sum, and £137,000 was a bonus.

In the previous year, he was paid £816,000, the sum of a £415,000 fixed salary and £401,000 in bonus payments.

The 2021/22 total is after Mr Read returned a £54,000 portion of his bonus that year linked to the Horizon inquiry.

In the Commons, Conservative MP Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) said: “In yesterday’s select committee, Mr Staunton spoke about lobbying for a pay rise for Mr Read, which I know must have been quite galling to many of those subpostmasters.

“The minister was reported as refusing this pay rise. Can I ask him what sort of pay rise Mr Staunton thought would be a fair, equitable agreement at that time?”

Business minister Mr Hollinrake replied: “I think on two occasions Mr Staunton sought to lobby or did lobby for a pay increase for Mr Read.

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Nick Read, chief executive of the Post Office, giving evidence to the Business and Trade Committee (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

“He sought to double the overall package of Mr Read on those occasions.”

“Wow,” MPs could be heard to say in response.

In Tuesday’s select committee appearance, Mr Staunton said that chief executive Mr Read told him on several occasions that he wanted to resign and was unhappy with his salary.

“I think he was doing fine. Huge, huge pressures on him. I must have had four conversations when he said he was going to chuck it in,” Mr Staunton told MPs.

“And my job was just to be someone that would understand the pressures that he was on, because I think it would be very difficult to find a replacement at this stage with the business in the state that it’s in.

“If I didn’t think he was doing satisfactorily, I’d have asked to change things.”

He added: “I got a strong message from Mr (Grant) Shapps when he was secretary of state: Don’t even think of coming for any salary increase. I got a strong message from minister (Kevin) Hollinrake.

“I said to him Nick is unhappy with the salary. He said, ‘don’t waste a postage stamp coming to talk to me about it’.”