Post Office Governance and Horizon Compensation Schemes - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:05 pm on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour 8:05, 21 February 2024

My Lords, I recognise that the outcome of this competition of accounts between Henry Staunton and the Secretary of State could have significant consequences for them both, certainly for the Secretary of State if she is proved, at the end of the day, not to have been truthful to Parliament. She has another problem to do with what Canadian High Commissioner Ralph Goodale has said to the Business and Trade Select Committee, so she is in some difficulty.

I am in the space that I think the noble Lord, Lord Arbuthnot, is in. I do not think that this unedifying spectacle—this sideshow of mud-slinging—is the Minister’s priority. The priorities need to be full and proper compensation to the people who have lost out; the restoration of their good name in all the ways that will be necessary, which will involve exoneration; and, in the longer term when the inquiry is over, proper accountability for the people responsible for this. In the immediate term there is a simple way of resolving this competition of accounts: to put into the public domain all the information that it is proper to and to let the people out there see it and make up their own minds. They will in any event.

My real concern is that there is almost certainly an ongoing miscarriage of justice occurring in our justice system, as has been exposed, properly, by this Horizon scandal. It is the ludicrous presumption that if information comes from a computer, it is deemed to be reliable evidence. If that is to be challenged, it is up to the person who is claiming that it is not right—not the person who owns the computer—to show that the computer is not producing the right evidence. When on earth will we get this presumption changed around the right way? There must be daily cases in our courts that are not up to the level of the Horizon scandal, in spades and at every single level, creating other miscarriages of justice whose mess we may have to clean up in future at enormous expense to the public.