Post Office: Compensation for Horizon Scandal

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:40 am on 30th June 2022.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London) 11:40 am, 30th June 2022

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind words, and I totally echo her thanks and congratulations to Mr Jones and Lord Arbuthnot. My hon. Friend Lucy Allan and others sitting behind me have also worked tirelessly on this for so long, as has Marion Fellows, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on post offices.

It is not possible to listen to the stories and fail to be moved. There is always something else that comes out and brings a tear to the eye and, frankly, anger that this was ever allowed to happen. The Government have moved to do something about it, but we are all doing something, because this is about a human cost. We are humans first and politicians second.

Chi Onwurah talked about the timing. There is an application form for the 555 to fill in. It is comparatively simple and Freeths will work with each of them and walk them through the process, because the last thing we want to do is put hurdles in their way. We want to make sure that within a few weeks the money goes out of the door to them. They need the money now. In parallel with that, the compensation scheme has started. We want informal consultation with the 555, to make sure that they are happy with the scheme and have faith and confidence that the funding will be delivered. As I have said, we want the historical shortfall scheme to be wrapped up and to at least make offers to each person by the end of the year.

I think we will be able to start moving quickly on overturning criminal convictions as soon as Lord Dyson has responded through his early neutral evaluation, but that also depends on the flow of cases via the solicitors. I have been working closely with Hudgells and other solicitors who represent the groups, to make sure that it is as speedy as possible.

I can confirm that this will not affect the Post Office’s core funding. We want to make sure that the Post Office has a future, but we cannot have that future until we have rectified the mistakes of the past.

The hon. Lady also talked about Fujitsu, learning the lessons and holding people to account. The next stage of the statutory inquiry starts next week, when the Government, the Post Office, Fujitsu and others will go in front of Wyn Williams. That will start the process of making sure that we know exactly who knew what, who did what and when.