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Post Office and Horizon Software — [Steve McCabe in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 1:52 pm on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport) 1:52 pm, 5th March 2020

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: alarm bells must have been ringing. I am not saying that my legal advice at the time was bad advice; I think it was perfectly good, considering the weight of the evidence and the instructions I was receiving. However, somewhere in the Post Office, someone must have been saying, “Hang on a minute. We get maybe two or three allegations of wrongdoing per month or year”—I do not know what the figures might be—“but all of a sudden, we have 550 thieving, dishonest sub-postmasters who have never had so much as a parking ticket in their lives,” as Janet Skinner said to me. It is utterly deplorable.

For me, the alarm bell rang in 2015 when “Panorama” did its documentary, which was chilling. My blood ran cold, because I had to remind myself what advice I had given and check with myself whether everything had been absolutely right in that regard. Since I have been involved with this matter, I have been contacted by a sub-postmaster who got the opportunity to not be prosecuted by paying the Post Office back; he had to sell his house to do so. He has made the important point that the only people he could turn to were those in the National Federation of SubPostmasters.

That sub-postmaster agreed to do an interview in a spare bedroom of his own home. He says in his email that he was shocked to witness the investigating officer, when speaking with the NFSP representative, telling him to “fucking shut up”. At the time, he thought for that reason that the NFSP representative was on his side, but he now thinks that it was all a scam—that the representative was pretending to be interested, to be befriending him, and to be representing him in that interview.