POST OFFICE: HORIZON SCANDAL – INQUIRY
Further to LTB 486/20 dated 2nd October. Branches are advised that a debate in relation to the Horizon scandal took place this week in the House of Commons (following an Urgent Question tabled by Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham). The debate was well attended (both in the House and by virtual means) and strong challenges to the Minister were made by MPs from across all parties. Also, a further debate took place in the House of Lords (following a Private Notice Question tabled by Lord Arbuthnot). The transcript from both debates can be accessed via the following links:
Of particular note during the House of Commons debate was the following question from Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire and the Minister Paul Scully MP’s response:
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
May I congratulate the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) on securing this urgent question? The Minister is well aware of my long-term interest in this topic, which has been a running sore for far too long. How confident is he that the review that he announced last week will gain the support and participation of all the stakeholders involved in this issue, and will it be able to hold to account and hold responsible those who allowed this gross miscarriage of justice to occur? If it cannot do the first of those, what confidence can he have that it will ensure that this intolerable situation will never ever be repeated?
My hon. Friend makes an incredibly good point. It is important, first, that Sir Wyn Williams engages with the sub-postmasters, led by Alan Bates, as part of the group litigation, to explain how he intends to investigate and take evidence, and I hope that they would therefore engage. I have talked about the fact that the Post Office and Fujitsu are ready to comply fully with the investigation, but if there are important people with important evidence that is not coming out, for whatever reason, there are mechanisms available to the chairman, Sir Wyn Williams, to look at that further and to re-evaluate.
The response from the Minister is intriguing and it will be interesting to find out what “mechanisms” are available to the Chair of the Inquiry when it comes to pressing those responsible to fully comply with the investigation. Darren Jones, Labour MP and Chair of the BEIS Select Committee wrote to the Minister on 7th October to follow up on this particular aspect and ask exactly what these “mechanisms” are. The link to Darren Jones’ letter is as follows:
We await the response from the Minister with interest.
Calls for ex CEO Paula Vennells to be Stripped of her CBE
During the debate in the House of Commons, Dr Julian Lewis, Independent MP for New Forest East called for “…those present or former Post Office officials who perpetrated this disaster and perpetuated the agony of the victims must be punished, not promoted, and shamed, rather than rewarded with honours, as I believe happened in at least one prominent instance?”
This comment was picked up in the Daily Mail the day after the debate with an article entitled “Now strip Post Office chief of her CBE: Former boss Paula Vennells should lose the honour over postmasters wrongly convicted in IT scandal, MPs say”. The link to the full Daily Mail article is as follows:
We also published a hard hitting article on the Union’s website:
Letter from the Chair of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry
Finally, the General Secretary has received a letter (attached) from Sir Wyn Williams the newly appointed Chair of the Inquiry into the Horizon scandal. We will be participating in this Inquiry and will work with the General Secretary’s Department and our Research Department to prepare and finalise our submission in the coming days/weeks.
Further developments will be reported.