17th February 2022
POST OFFICE: HORIZON – BEIS SELECT COMMITTEE INTERIM REPORT & EDM 822
Branches will recall the BEIS Select Committee launched an inquiry into Post Office and the Horizon system in March 2020 which was described as examining “…the impact on sub-postmasters, its effect on the future viability of the Post Office, and examine the lessons the Government and Post Office Ltd have learned from a scandal.”
We submitted both written and oral evidence to the inquiry; however, the second session of the inquiry scheduled for 26th March 2020, which was which was due to hear evidence from Paula Vennells, former CEO, Nick Read, current CEO, Fujitsu, the Minister and BEIS and UKGI officials was postponed due to Covid-19. The Committee continued to receive written evidence.
Following the Government announcement of the independent Horizon review led by Sir Wyn Williams in June 2020 which was subsequently declared a statutory inquiry, the BEIS Select Committee made the decision to pause their oral evidence sessions until after the review to “avoid creating conflicts between parliamentary and legal processes”.
In the meantime, the Select Committee felt a very pressing issue was compensation for Postmasters and in particular the 555 who brought the Group Litigation against Post Office and won in December 2019. It has been well publicised that the Group litigants eventually settled for £57.75m; however, after taking into account legal costs of £46m, they only received on average around £20k each, which of course completely dwarfs their average losses which are estimated to be more than £100k each.
With this unfairness in mind, the Committee took oral evidence on the matter of compensation via sessions on 14th December 2021 and 11th January 2022. Whilst on this occasion we didn’t participate in the oral hearings, we nonetheless made a comprehensive written submission.
Accordingly, we are pleased that the BEIS Select Committee has today published an ”interim” written report on the issue of compensation. This contains 29 powerful conclusions/recommendations, the most critical of which is the following, which is a “demand” rather than a recommendation:
“We demand that the Government as a matter of urgency commit to ensuring that the 555 are fully compensated for all of their losses on the same basis as other victims of this scandal receiving compensation.”
The full report can be downloaded via the following link:
In the circumstances, we naturally welcome the BEIS Select Committee’s interim report and urge the Government to fully and fairly compensate the 555 former Postmasters who suffered so terribly at the hands of Post Office. We will obviously be keeping a close eye on further developments including any responses from both Government and Post Office.
EDM 882 – Post Office Horizon compensation scheme
On the same theme, the following EDM was tabled by Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow, on 6th January 2022 and has already gained 116 signatories from across all the major parties.
That this House believes that the 555 litigants, who won civil proceedings against Post Office Ltd in 2018-19, should not be excluded from the Post Office Horizon compensation scheme; that the exclusion of these litigants from the compensation scheme is having and will continue to have a direct and devastating impact on these individuals and their families, especially as they exposed the scandal against all odds and have been left with the legal bill for doing so; resolves that all those affected by this scandal, including the 555 litigants, must receive compensation that is commensurate with the suffering they have faced; and strongly urges the Government to put in place an external compensation scheme that is outside the scope of the Post Office and provide this group with the redress they not only deserve but are entitled to.
Branches can view the current signatories via the following link and are urged to contact their local MPs to encourage them to sign this important EDM if they have not already done so:
Sir Wyn Williams Inquiry – Evidence Sessions Began 14th February
Last but not least, Sir Wyn Williams’ Horizon Inquiry has commenced its oral evidence sessions this week in relation to the “Human Impact” of the Horizon scandal and we have heard some harrowing stories from former Postmasters who were so badly treated by Post Office. The CWU will be giving evidence to the inquiry at a date to be confirmed.
As a consequence of these developments and activities, the Horizon scandal has received significant media attention over the past few days including the following articles:
It can only be hoped that with all the political scrutiny, along with the judicial inquiry, that the many hundreds of victims of Horizon will see justice done after so many years of campaigning and seeking to expose those responsible who must be held to account.
Further developments will be reported.
Andy Furey Assistant Secretary