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Alan Bates says sell ‘dead duck’ Post Office to Amazon for £1

The campaigning former sub-postmaster and star of the groundbreaking ITV drama has branded the Post Office a money pit.

Alan Bates has told MPs the Post Office is a dead duck and should be sold to Amazon for £1 after revealing he still hasn't received any compensation following the Post Office’s Horizon scandal.

The campaigner's call came amid a day of high drama in parliament as MPs quizzed Post Office executives past and present were told the current CEO, Nick Read, is currently the subject of an 80-page HR investigation.

Asked by MPs on the Business and Trade Committee if the redress to hundreds of victims was getting faster or fairer, Bates responded: “Speaking personally of my claim, I can say no, it isn’t. As far as I know, it’s still sat there, we’ve refused it and that’s it. That’s where the process is in my case.”

He added: "My personal view about Post Office is it's a dead duck, and it has been for years, and it's going to be a money pit for the taxpayer for years to come and you should sell it to someone like Amazon for £1."

Today’s committee hearing on the Post Office Horizon scandal was expected to be remarkable, and it certainly delivered.

Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton was quizzed by MPs on his ongoing row with ministers over claims a civil servant told him to delay compensation payments to wrongly convicted postmasters.

Staunton insisted he had been given a "nod and a wink" to delay payments to victims by a senior civil servant while the government "hobbles" into the election.

Key talking points:

He said he had been the victim of a subsequent “smear campaign” since his public fallout with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch over the issue.

What wasn’t expected, was that he would produce an 80-page document which he said was evidence of a misconduct investigation into the Post Office’s current CEO Nick Read.

Until now, Staunton was reported to be the centre of this probe, but he says his behaviour was only mentioned in one paragraph – a revelation one MP on the committee, Jonathan Gullis, said had “blown him away”.

Adding to the drama even further, the Business and Trade Committee heard how the HR director behind this weighty document suggested Read has been considering resigning because he was unhappy about his pay.

Having previously heard that Read took home annual bonuses of £400,000, while hardship funds had been set up for struggling Post Office staff, it’s easy to see why many in the audience reacted incredulously.

A source at the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) confirmed an investigation into Read is underway.

While it may have been an entertaining development for those watching the inquiry at home, Gullis suggested this latest turn was indicative of a “complete and utter shambles” and a distraction from the suffering of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted due to the faulty Horizon IT system.

Much of today’s evidence was centred on apparent failings to speed up the process of compensating victims, with lawyers saying they couldn’t sign off on offers due to missing details while warning postmasters and subpostmasters could be waiting another two years for settlements.

Read the full details of an extraordinary day in Parliament below.

LIVE COVERAGE IS OVER33 updates
  • 'Get rid of the Post Office'

    Questioned on whether he believed it was fair to say the Post Office was willing to say the right thing to the media, but that the experience behind closed doors was “very different”, Mr Bates said: “Yes, take them out of the system.

    “Send someone in to do the job for them.

    “Get rid of Post Office out of any of these schemes – that’s the best thing you could do.”

  • Staunton says misconduct investigation is not actually about him

    In an unexpected turn, Henry Staunton has said that, contrary to media reports and evidence heard today, he is not the centre of a Post Office investigation of workplace misconduct.

    The former chairman, who was sacked in January 2024 following a disagreement with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, said this probe that has been talked about so much was actually about Post Office CEO Nick Read.

    In a move that MPs didn't see coming, Staunton pulled out a large document and said: "Mr Read fell out with his HR director and she produced a 'speak out' document which was 80 pages thick, and within that was one paragraph there about comments that I had allegedly made.

    “This was an investigation not into me, this was an investigation made into the chief executive, Nick Read. There’s that one paragraph. You could say it was about politically incorrect comments attributed to me, which I strenuously deny.”

    Staunton said this 80-page document was taking a "terrible toll" on Read, who didn't feel supported by the board and was contemplating resigning, although Read denied wanting to quit when asked earlier today.

    The crowd at today's hearing laughed when Staunton said the 80-page document "alleges that Nick was going to resign because he was unhappy with his pay".

    Having heard hours before that Read earned a £400,000 annual bonus, more than 20 times the salary of many postmasters, it is easy to understand attendees' reaction.

    Jonathan Gullis MP, who said the revelation had "blown his mind", said: "We’re now adding Mr Read into this story. You’ll accept that for sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses across the country, this is starting to look like a complete and utter shambles.”

    Staunton replied: “I couldn’t agree with you more, this should all be about the postmasters and their families and about how their lives have been wrecked… The rest is just flimflam."

  • Civil servant insists she never asked for pay-outs to be delayed

    Sarah Mumby, the civil servant at the heart of row over compensation, insisted she never instructed former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton to delay payments to victims.

    In a letter dated 21 February, read out at today's hearing, Mumby says: “We discussed Post Office operational funding, not compensation funding.”

    “I am able to give you the Secretary of State the strongest reassurance that I did not at any point suggest to Mr Staunton or imply to him in any way whatsoever that there should be delayed compensation payments for postmasters.”

    Asked if he thought this "undermines" his side of the story, Staunton replied: “Her file note is written a year and a month after my file note, so it’s not a contemporaneous file not by any means. I’m not casting assertions on Miss Mumby but that’s worth fully understanding.”

    Staunton was asked if he thought Mumby may have "misremembered" the conversation they had, to which he replied: "There are a lot of issues going around about misremembering, lying etc. and that’s not what I want to go into, I’m just explaining what I know, I’m not here to guess.”

  • Ex-Post Office chair: I'm victim of smear campaign

    Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton has said that he is a victim of a “smear campaign” after the fallout with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

    “We all know that things were moving far too slowly … and the reason why people have latched onto what I said in the Sunday Times was that finally someone was being honest about how deep-seated the problems were and why nothing was being done,” he told MPs on the Business and Trade Committee.

    “I still think that more could be done, at least to make compensation more generous, and the process of getting justice less bureaucratic.

    “But I will at least have achieved something if the sunlight of disinfectant, which the Secretary of State so approves of, means that government now lives up to its promises.

    “What the public wants to know is why was everything so slow? … And why does everything remain so slow? I’ve spoken up on matters of genuine public concern, have been fired, and am now subject to a smear campaign.”

  • Staunton doubles down on claim he was asked to halt compensation

    Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton has been facing accusations of lying over whether a senior civil servant, Sarah Munby, asked him to slow down compensation payments and “hobble” to the election.

    But, having found a note in which he claims to have detailed his conversation with Munby, Staunton suggests his accusers have been changing their tune.

    Staunton told MPs how he met Munby in January last year to discuss challenges faced by the postal service, from "dysfunctional governments" to having a "loss-making business".

    When he explained it would take a "three or five-year turnaround" for the Post Office to solve its problems, he claims Munby told him: "This is no time for long-term planning. Money is tight at the Treasury and you need to really understand that”.

    Staunton says he took this to mean he had to pull "one of three levers" to cut costs from either: the ongoing inquiry, compensation, or the Post Office's planned replacement of the Horizon IT system.

    "She repeated 'money is very tight, this is no time to rip off the band-aid' – I was left in no doubt that this was not a time to rip off the band-aid, I’d have to look at those three levers.”

    He added: "I was accused of being a liar until, thankfully, I found this note just a few days ago and since then I think the focus has changed from ‘nobody said that’ to ‘what does it mean’, and I’ve just explained what it meant.”

    Staunton said it was the "particular phrase" that Munby used that "set the tone" of what he was being asked, likening it a "nod and wink" moment.

  • Post Office chief refuses to answer question about bonuses

    Painting a less than flattering picture of the Post Office, MP Ian Lavery asked the company's chief executive why there was a need for hardship funds for staff.

    “In this fantastic brand, the Post Office there are hardship funds for employees," Lavery said, suggesting it wasn't a good reflection of Nick Read's leadership.

    He pointed out that executive bonuses of around £400,000 were 20 times more than some of the members of staff appearing before the committee.

    Asked how he felt about it, Read said: "I'm not going to answer that question in that sense.

    "I am clearly well paid and I'm clearly in a position where I am trying to make sure that commercial sustainability of the Post Office is going to be for the next generation."

  • Law to clear victims must be done the right way

    The chief executive of the Post Office has said the correct legislation must be put in place if “mass exoneration is the right thing” to do.

    It comes after MPs were told to expect a new law aiming to exonerate victims of the Horizon scandal in Parliament from next month.

    Post Office CEO Nick Read told the committee: “I’ve been very clear when I’ve been here. We want people to get through this process and if mass exoneration is the right thing, then let’s make sure we get the right legislation in place to deliver mass exoneration.”

    He made the comments in relation to a recently published letter from Read where he said last month that the Post Office would be legally “bound” to oppose attempts to overturn the convictions.

    Here is the letter, and this is the legal note it refers to - featuring an opinion of Nick Vamos, a solicitor advising the Post Office.

    Read denied that the Post Office was trying to suppress people's claims and said he only passed the letter to the government to make sure they had all relevant information before they legislated.

  • Board members threatened to leave if Staunton wasn't sacked, MPs hear

    The former Post Office chair Henry Staunton who claimed there was a "toxic" work culture at the company made board members so unhappy with his behaviour that they threatened to leave, the panel has heard.

    Ben Tidswell, chair of the Post Office's board remediation committee, said he shared concerns about Staunton in a phone call to Carl Creswell, from the Department of Business and Trade.

    Claims about Staunton's behaviour include "silencing a whistleblower" and potentially bypassing a board appointment process. An active investigation into his behaviour is ongoing.

    Recalling the phone call with Cresswell, Tidswell said there were “board members willing to go if Staunton remained in place”.

    MP Jonathan Gullis said it is “hard to understand how the Post Office culture has changed if its chairman is engaging in such behaviour”.

    But Tidswell pushed back on this, saying: “If somebody, no matter how senior they are, is misbehaving… then that will be dealt with and the Post Office is big enough to be able to deal with that.”

    Staunton was removed from his post in January 2024.

  • Post Office head denies 'toxic and mistrustful' culture

    Nick Read has denied claims by his former Post Office chair Henry Staunton that the postal service had a "toxic" culture that was "mistrustful" of its sub-postmasters.

    In an interview with the Sunday Times, Staunton said the organisation is still a "mess" when he was allegedly asked by a senior figure to stall compensation payments.

    Read has denied this claim, and pushed back against the claims of a toxic work culture. "I think we’ve made a lot of progress certainly since 2019 to try and change the culture of the organisation," he said.

    “Don’t get me wrong, this is a scandal that’s gone on for 25 years. There’s an enormous amount to change and it won’t be changed overnight, but we’ve made progress.”

    He said serving subpostmasters have commented on the company's improvements, adding: "I think there’s no question about the Post Office and its role in the infrastructure of our country.”

  • Compensation form too complicated for victims

    The director responsible for the Post Office's compensation schemes has admitted the form sub-postmasters have to fill in to make a claim is too complicated.

    Asked if he thought it is simple enough, Simon Recaldin said "no" and acknowledged it is full of "legalese" and is written in a "clumsy" and "bureaucratic" way.

    "I think that process can be changed, I think it should be changed," said Recaldin, who added simplifying the form is part of the Post Office's gameplan.

    "We are listening to people like you, we are listening to the advisory board, we're listening to the minister, we're listening the postmasters. Based on those issued we are recommending that there should be an appeals process around this."

  • Bates: Post Office is a dead duck

    Earlier, Alan Bates said the Post Office was a "dead duck" and should be sold off to someone like Amazon for £1 so it isn't such a money pit for the taxpayer.

    You can watch the full exchange below:

  • No written instructions to speed up compensation, Post Office CEO says

    Liam Byrne during his speech to the Fabian Society conference in central London. Picture date: Saturday January 20, 2024.
    Liam Byrne.

    The committee was surprised to hear that the Post Office has had no written instructions from ministers to speed up redress for victims.

    Post Office CEO Nick Read admitted that while there is unlikely to be any "paper trail", he insisted there are "conversations that clearly we would have with the department on a regular basis".

    Committee chairman Liam Byrne was taken aback nonetheless, responding: "I think the committee is pretty surprised that you've not have written instructions to speed up the resolution or redress in one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history."

    Read said it was an "absolute given" that the Post Office is trying to speed the process up, but Byrne pointed out that only 20% of the £1 billion budget for compensation has been paid.

    "I'm trying to understand how acutely conscious you are of the need to get the money out of the door," he said.

    Read said he meets with the secretary of state on a monthly basis to "discuss this as part of our agenda".

  • Henry Staunton 'not telling truth' in compensation row, Post Office CEO says

    Nick Read, chief executive of the Post Office, giving evidence to the Business and Trade Committee at the Houses of Parliament, London, on what more can be done to deliver compensation for victims of what has been labelled one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history. Picture date: Tuesday January 16, 2024.
    Nick Read, chief executive of the Post Office.

    The Post Office's CEO has said he doesn't believe the company's former chairman told the truth when he claimed ministers had urged him to stall payments to sub-postmasters.

    Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton is in a row with business secretary Kemi Badenoch, who has pushed back against his claim he was told to delay pay-outs ahead of the next general election due to concerns over costs.

    Asked if he thought Staunton's claim was truthful, Post Office CEO Nick Read told MPs: "I don’t believe that to be the case and I can categorically say that nobody in my team or myself has received any instruction from the government about slowing down compensation."

    Pressed on whether he thought Staunton was lying, he said: “Well, I don’t believe it’s true, I don’t believe that is the case."

    He suggested Staunton may have "misinterpreted or perhaps misunderstood" conversations with ministers and officials.

    “If I look at the data that I provided to him before he had that briefing, at no stage did it mention compensation, it was absolutely a conversation about the long-term future and the funding of the Post Office and I don’t believe that it had anything to do with compensation.”

  • Lawyer 'can't sign off' on over 170 offers as 'details are missing'

    Much of today's hearing has been focused on the slow pace of progress in compensating Post Office Horizon scandal victims.

    This was demonstrated succinctly by Dr Neil Hudgell, a lawyer dealing with offers made to wrongly convicted sub-postmasters.

    He told the panel his team has 176 offers in play, none of which his lawyers are satisfied with currently.

    “We have probably the biggest cohort of any HSS claimants and I can’t find at the minute in that cohort an offer that I can sign off without further investigation and interrogation," he said.

    “I’d love to sign off as many as I can and tell people ‘This is a decent outcome, try and get on with the rest of your life’. In every case there’s something missing.”

    Hudgell said that over 2,000 cases had been settled without legal advice, and suggested many of these cases "appear to be at least deserving of a proper review".

    Asked if he thought this meant "the cases that we think are closed, are not in fact closed", he replied: “Very probably not.”

  • 'One to two years' for all cases to be settled, lawyer warns

    A lawyer involved in the compensation scheme says he expects all claims to take "one and two years" to be dealt with.

    James Hartley said the delay is "unacceptably long for us and our clients" and said a "radical change of approach" is needed to speed up the process of compensating victims.

    He previously told the panel that he expected the issue of delay to "get worse" as many of the more complicated cases are yet to be dealt with.

  • New law to clear victims' names 'entirely right', sub-postmaster says

    A former sub-postmaster who spent three years building his claim and is still in the process of having his conviction quashed says it is "entirely right" that MPs legislate to exonerate victims.

    Tim Brentnall was asked about new legislation expected to be brought to Parliament in March which would automatically overturn many sub-postmasters' convictions.

    While this law won't apply to those going through the GLO (group litigation order) redress scheme, Brentnall was still in full support of it.

    “It took us two years to get the convictions quashed or to start to get quashed, and we’re only at around 100 people so far," he told MPs.

    “If there’s hundreds and hundreds more it’d take years to go through the courts, so to legislate is entirely the right thing to do.”

    He said many people with smaller claims “could simply sign and accept it and walk away within days”.

  • ‘Completely incorrect’ to say ministers want to slow down payouts

    Ex-Post Office chair Henry Staunton
    Ex-Post Office chair Henry Staunton will appear in front of MPs later.

    One of the key elements of the hearing so far has been whether or not ministers have been pushing to "go slow" on paying out compensation to subpostmasters.

    Earlier this morning, Carl Creswell, director of business resilience at the Department of Business and Trade, insisted ministers and senior civil servants wanted to pay out money faster.

    It came after former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton – who is giving evidence in Parliament later on Tuesday – claimed he had been told to delay payouts to subpostmasters affected by problems with the Horizon computer system.

    It opened a row with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who accused him of spreading “made-up anecdotes”.

    Creswell insisted any conversations he had had were about speeding up the process of compensation.

    Read more about the row from the PA here

  • Psychological damage hard to resolve, says Bates

    Committee chairman Liam Byrne suggested that the way offers are being calculated is a "bit of a black box", with no standard tariffs to calculate the damage caused to sub-postmasters.

    Asked if he thought this was a problem, Bates said claims can be split into two categories, “pecuniary and non-pecuniary”.

    The former sub-postmaster said: “It’s the other side that causes the problems normally. It’s the stress, the problems that are caused psychologically to people and all that side. It’s a lot harder for them to take those issues forward.”

  • 'Get on with it and pay people what they're owed', Bates says

    A frustrated Bates urged the Post Office and others involved in redress to speed up payments to sub-postmasters who have suffered over the years.

    “We keep coming back to this time after time after time… Just get on and pay people," he told the committee.

    "We’ve heard perfect examples of how long it is going to take. People refuse to give deadlines now because they can’t meet them.

    “Everyone keeps referring to the scheme, understandably, as a compensation scheme, but it’s not, it’s financial redress. This is money these people are actually owed, and they’ve been owed it for years.”

    Sub-postmaster Tony Downey told the panel how after noticing account shortfalls "from day one" after starting his business in 2001, he paid more and more of his own money into the account until he had none left.

    “We left the village, ran away without saying goodbye to our friends, put our daughter in school in another country, and have never been back to the UK for 15 years apart from these last few weeks," he said.

  • 'Post Office is a dead duck which should be sold to Amazon for £1', Bates says

    Alan Bates has described the Post Office as a "money pit for the taxpayer" that will never change its culture.

    The former sub-postmaster told the committee: “I think over the years I’ve been dealing with the Post Office – the culture has always been Post Office.

    “It hasn’t changed, it’s been the same for donkeys of years, it will not change and you cannot change it.

    “My personal view about Post Office is it’s a dead duck and it has been for years and it’s going to be a money pit for the taxpayer for years to come.

    “And you should sell it to someone like Amazon for a pound, get really good contracts for all the serving sub-postmasters, and within a few years you’ll have one of the best networks around.”

    Panel member Mark Pawsey MP said it was a “very radical proposal” that he wasn't sure the committee's constituents would be happy with, but said it was interesting to hear coming from Bates.

  • 'Derisory' pay-outs are a 'huge kick in the pants', MP says

    Many wrongly convicted sub-postmasters have received "absolutely derisory" offers that have been a kick in the teeth after years of misery, an MP on the panel has said.

    “Lots of people can’t work again, lots of people lost every single thing they had, people lost relations, people lost their husbands, suicide, and to receive a derisory offer at this stage is absolutely unreal," Labour's Ian Lavery said.

    “There have been high-profile cases where high-profile individuals have been made the offer and believe that the offer is an approximate 20% of what they thought they deserved.

    “How can they be reconciled?” These people are hurt you know, it’s destroyed their families you know? It’s destroyed everything they ever had.”

    He said some of the pay offers have been an “absolute insult”, adding: “It’s a huge kick in the pants, how will you deal with that?”

    Carl Creswell, Director of Business Resilience at the Department for Business and Trade pointed out that 80% of offers have been agreed, adding: “I think we shouldn’t necessarily be judged by the ratio between how much was asked for and how much was offered."

  • Only 15 people working on compensation scheme

    A small team of 15 people are working on the Group Litigation Order compensation scheme for sub-postmasters, the committee has heard.

    Mark Chesher, partner at law firm Addleshaw Goddard, said eight lawyers and seven members of staff were working on the scheme, for which 478 people could potentially apply.

    He told Committee chairman Liam Byrne that of the claimants, only 55% have had their disclosure orders - information on convictions - completed.

    "Why on earth is it only 55%... It still isn't quick enough," Byrne responded, asking how the scheme could meet its target of 100% of disclosure reports being issued by April to June.

    "You've got eight qualified lawyers working on this, and we're going to get all the claims settled by the middle of August?" he asked incredulously.

    Cresswell said he feels "confident" that the Post Office is on track, and said he was satisfied with the speed of progress "overall".

  • 'I can't see any end to it': Alan Bates still waiting for claim

    Alan Bates 27/02
    Alan Bates says he 'can't see any end to it' after years of fighting. (UK Parliament)

    Former sub-postmaster Alan Bates, a figurehead of the campaign for compensation, says little progress has been made after years of fighting.

    Asked if redress is getting faster and fairer Bates bluntly told MPs: "Speaking personally of my claim, I can say 'no' it isn't. Nothing. As far as I know it's still sat there. We've refused it and... that's it."

    Despite years of campaigning, Bates said: "I can't see any end to it."

    Another former sub-postmaster Tony Downey told MPs: "The exact same. My claim started 16 months ago, I got an offer after eight months, nowhere near what it should have been.

    "My issue now is trying to get the Post Office to understand that taking £36,000 from me did have an impact on my business and did cause my bankruptcy."

  • 'Completely incorrect' that ministers asked to stall payments, MPs told

    Carl Creswell, Director of Business Resilience at the Department for Business and Trade has denied that ministers and officials asked for compensation payments to be delayed.

    The question is particularly relevant, as former Post Office boss Henry Staunton, who is due to speak later today, is locked in a row with business secretary Kemi Badenoch over this very claim.

    However, Cresswell said it is "completely incorrect" that ministers tried to slow down payments.

    “You would have thought someone would have mentioned it to me if that were the intent. Not at all,” he told the committee. I worked very closely with Sarah Munby, she and I worked with Treasury to secure the funding needed for the schemes.

    “Every conversation I had with her, with ministers, with other senior civil servants in other parts of government, have all been about how we can pay out this money more quickly, so, no, that is completely incorrect that assertion.”

    Read more about the row between Badenoch and Staunton from the Telegraph here, which was published on Saturday

  • 'We could spend more than £1 billion on compensation', director says

    Carl Creswell, Director of Business Resilience at the Department for Business and Trade has told MPs he thinks compensation for wrongly convicted sub-postmasters could easily run over £1 billion.

    The government said in January that it had set the figure aside, as it said it would pursue Horizon manufacturer Fujitsu to help pay for the compensation.

    "I personally think we'll end up spending more money on compensation overall," Cresswell told MPs.

    He said the GLO compensation scheme has paid out £34 million, and is on track to spend over £100 million over two financial years.

  • Compensation scheme has 'only challenged 10% of claims'

    The director in charge of a compensation scheme for sub-postmasters has said only 10% of claims have been challenged.

    Carl Creswell, Director of Business Resilience at the Department for Business and Trade, told the panel a standard claim could take him "about an hour" to go through and decide on.

    It depends whether I need to sit down with them and discuss it," he told MPs. “There’s a balance here I think between speed, which we all have to achieve, and scrutiny.”

    Creswell said he has raised questions about five or six claims, adding that his team have "probably raised more questions along the way".

    Asked if it was fair to say that only 10% of claims have been queried, he said: “I think that’s accurate.”

    “The aim is to get prompt offers out to the claimants and then we have safeguards for the claimants to challenge," he said, adding that "the pace would be much slower than it is" had they scrutinised the claims more.

  • Key people and timings of today's session

    MPs will learn about the progress on redress to Post Office Horizon scandal victims at today's Business and Trade Committee hearing.

    Starting off at 10am with evidence from people involved with the GLO (group litigation order) compensation scheme, MPs will move on to the sub-postmasters themselves from 11am.

    Alan Bates, founder of the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance, who has spearheaded the campaign for justice for Post Office workers, is among those giving evidence today.

    Claimants' lawyers will be on from around 11:30am, followed by Post Office CEO Nick Read at midday, and then Ben Tidswell, chair of the remediation committee for the Post Office.

    From 1pm, former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton is likely to face some tough questions from MPs about his handling of the scandal.

    Staunton, who stepped down from the Post Office in January, has since been involved in a deepening row with business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch after he claimed he had been told to delay payouts to the sub-postmasters affected.

  • Chancellor gave Fujitsu executive advice on gaining contracts

    File photo dated 04/12/23 of Chancellor of the exchequer Jeremy Hunt speaking at the Resolution Foundation conference at the QEII Centre in central London. Shona Robison has written to Jeremy Hunt ahead of his spring Budget statement on March 6, urging him to heed the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) warning on further tax cuts. Issue date: Sunday February 25, 2024.
    Jeremy Hunt was emailed by Fujitsu’s Keith Dear requesting more information on their conversation about accessing technology funding. (Alamy)

    Jeremy Hunt gave advice at a Conservative fundraiser to a senior Fujitsu executive who lobbied him in relation to government spending on AI and supercomputers, according to released emails.

    Keith Dear – a former Downing street adviser who leads the firm’s work on quantum, supercomputers and next-generation AI – wrote to Hunt a day after a Conservative party fundraiser at the end of September.

    Fujitsu’s lucrative government contracts subsequently came under scrutiny amid a renewed focus on its role in the Horizon scandal.

    Read the full story from the Guardian here

  • Law to clear sub-postmasters' names due in Parliament 'next month'

    Post Office branch on Wapping Lane in Wapping on 189th January 2024 in London, United Kingdom. Following the recent broadcast of a television docudrama about the Post Office IT scandal, the story of the UK's most widespread miscarriages of justice involving over 700 subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of fraud, theft and false accounting following shortfalls at their branches. Subsequent investigation known as the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, has shown that the discrepencies were actually due to errors in the Post Office's Horizon accounting software. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
    Over 700 sub-postmasters running branches across the country were wrongly convicted as a result of faulty Horizon software. (Getty Images)

    One of the key elements of the scandal has been how to exonerate the wrongly accused sub-postmasters.

    A law designed to do just that is expected to be brought forward “as soon as possible next month”, bringing victims one step closer to justice,

    On Monday, Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake told the Commons the new legislation would quash their convictions "without the need for people to apply" to have them overturned.

    Those affected would have to sign a statement to the effect that they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted before they could receive financial redress.

    If they were subsequently found to have signed the statement falsely, Mr Hollinrake said the “may be guilty of fraud”.

    Asked by shadow business minister Rushanara Ali why convictions prosecuted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are excluded from the law, he said: "There is a different standard of evidence I think it is fair to say... Largely, those cases relied on independent evidence – independent of Horizon."

    More than 900 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses were prosecuted between 1999 and 2015.

  • Post Office investigated sub-postmaster sitting on its own board

    On Friday, it emerged that the Post Office investigated a sub-postmaster who sits as a director on its own board, prompting a furious response from its chairman.

    A Post Office team led by its chief legal officer launched an inquiry into Elliot Jacobs, who was specially appointed a non-executive director to represent sub-postmasters in the wake of the Horizon scandal.

    The investigation so upset Henry Staunton, the Post Office’s chairman, that he angrily confronted Ben Foat, the company’s group general counsel. Sources say it contributed to Mr Staunton’s sacking by Kemi Badenoch, raising further questions about why she got rid of him.

    Read the full story from the Telegraph here

  • Former Post Office boss stripped of CBE over Horizon scandal

    Former Post Office Chief Executive Paula Vennells pictured during her tenure with the company from 2012 to 2019. (PA Images)
    Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells was in charge during the height of the Horizon scandal. (PA Images)

    Much of the public anger in recent weeks has been directed at former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells, who was officially stripped of her CBE last Friday for “bringing the honours system into disrepute”.

    Vennells offered to return the honour in January after a petition calling for her to do so passed 1.2 million signatures.

    Vennells, who repeatedly denied there was a problem with the Horizon IT system, was appointed a CBE in December 2018 "for services to the Post Office and to charity".

    She was named on Friday in a list published on the Cabinet Office website as an individual whose honour had been revoked by the King.

  • Post Office 'would uphold half of sub-postmasters' convictions', CEO says

    Former post office workers celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after having their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal. Thirty-nine former subpostmasters who were convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office's defective Horizon accounting system have had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal. Issue date: Friday April 23, 2021. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
    Former Post Office workers celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice after having their convictions overturned in April 2021. (Getty Images)

    A letter that emerged last week showed that the Post Office was prepared to fight tooth and nail to uphold over half of convictions against sub-postmasters as recently as last month.

    Writing to Justice secretary Alex Chalk at the start of the year, Post Office CEO Nick Read said the service “would be bound to oppose an appeal” in at least 369 of the 700 cases it had prosecuted.

    The letter was sent shortly after the airing of ITV drama, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which thrust the scandal back into the public eye.

    It said cases “involve convictions obtained by reliance on evidence unrelated to the Horizon computer system” and represented a “much more significant” proportion of the prosecutions than those the company was likely to concede in court.

    The Post Office said the letter, first reported by the Guardian, was sent "without any value judgment" and denied it being an attempt to dissuade ministers from supporting a mass exoneration of sub-postmasters.

  • Tough questions ahead for Staunton amid row with Cabinet minister

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM  FEBRUARY 06: Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch leaves 10 Downing Street after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting in London, United Kingdom on February 06, 2024. (Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu via Getty Images)
    Business and trade secretary is locked in a war of words with former Post Office chief Henry Staunton. (Getty Images)

    Henry Staunton is likely to face questions on claims made by business and trade secretary Kemi Badenoch about his handling of the Post Office Horizon scandal.

    She accused Staunton of lying after he claimed he had been told by a senior civil servant to “stall” spending on compensation to sub-postmasters ahead of the next general election.

    Badenoch referred to the dispute on Thursday, tweeting: “It’s important that people have trust in all we’re doing to get them justice. It’s frustrating dealing with false allegations that break that trust, but we won’t be distracted."

    Badenoch denied Staunton's claim in an interview with the Sunday Times earlier this month, claiming he had “spread a series of falsehoods” and provided "made-up anecdotes to journalists”. In a letter to the committee, seen by the Telegraph, Badenoch claims Staunton had "changed his story", having appeared to drop a claim she told him: “Well, someone’s got to take the rap for this.”

Ex-Post Office chair Henry Staunton
Ex-Post Office chair Henry Staunton is set to be grilled by MPs at Tuesday's hearing.