Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:20 pm on 7th December 2022.
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s comments, although I rather hoped the House would come together today and debate this matter in a non-political, cross-party way, and she sought to make a number of, I think, somewhat inappropriate political points. I should gently point out that it was her party that was in power for the first 11 years of this scandal. I am pleased that we have worked across parties to fix it, and I think we should leave it there.
Earlier today I spoke to Alan Bates, the founder and leader of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, who is sitting in the Public Gallery. Obviously the members of the JFSA will speak for themselves, as they always have, about the extent to which they are satisfied with today’s statement, but we have been working closely together. The Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, my hon. Friend Kevin Hollinrake, has been meeting them as well, and will be keeping a close eye on the operation of the scheme.
I reiterate the hon. Lady’s comments in thanking not just Mr Jones —as I did earlier—but my hon. Friend Paul Scully, Lord Arbuthnot, and others who have campaigned endlessly on this issue, including the BBC journalist Nick Wallis, who has played an important role in this long battle.
The hon. Lady asked about timescales. As I said in my statement, we aim to complete this part of the scheme by the end of 2023, or, I hope, sooner. The large number of documents that we are putting online this morning will enable people to get on with processing their applications before making formal applications early next year. Sir Wyn Williams, who is conducting the formal inquiry, will, I hope, be able to shed significant light on what went wrong and provide a set of recommendations to prevent it from happening again. I have no doubt that Members, certainly on this side of the House, will be anxiously awaiting those recommendations.