MPs from all sides demand action on Horizon scandalPostal March 23 2020
Parliamentary investigations into the “outrageous” treatment of hard-working postmasters by Post Office bosses continue, with a full House of Commons Debate, a key decision from the Criminal Cases Review Board expected tomorrow and a scheduled ‘Summit’ meeting arranged with the Under-Secretary of State next week.
CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said this afternoon: “While the Number One priority for us all remains, quite rightly, the need for national unity in the fight against Covid-19, it’s also vitally important that the Horizon scandal is not forgotten.
“Hundreds of postmasters were sacked, lost their businesses and homes, faced prosecutions and even jail as a result of false allegations of dishonesty arising from inherent faults within this system, which indicated financial irregularities where none existed.
“But, despite this being explained to the Post Office time and time again, the people running the company refused to halt the actions taken against postmasters – making them the scapegoats for system failure,” Andy explained.
Over the past few years, a campaign group called Justice for Sub-Postmasters Alliance (JFSA) has organised and led collective legal actions against the Post Office and on behalf of over 500 persecuted postmasters.
Last year, JFSA won a formal apology and a financial settlement for the postmasters – but despite that legal victory, the fight goes on to win full justice and to make sure nothing like this can happen again.
In the Parliamentary Debate, MPs from across the political divide voiced scathing criticism of the company and its behaviour, Andy reports, describing how “around 20 MPs spoke in the Sessions – from Labour, Conservative and the SNP.
“And the clear consensus among them was that a judge-led independent inquiry must now take place to hold those responsible to account.”
Among the highlights of the proceedings was the contribution from MP Duncan Baker, a Conservative Member representing North Norfolk and also a former postmaster himself.
“The board of Post Office Ltd is, unquestionably, accountable for this fiasco,” insisted the MP.
“Action must be taken so that board members are properly dealt with for this injustice,” he demanded, and added: “Those who have been jailed and who have criminal records must have them overturned.”
There were also strong criticisms voiced of the role of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters (NFSP), North Durham’s Labour MP Kevan Jones, for example, calling the NFSP “a sham” organisation which “needs to be wound up now.”
Britain’s postmasters need and deserve “an independent organisation to represent them,” he insisted, calling for full recognition for the CWU as the postmasters’ union.
Andy Furey says that “it’s good to hear such cross-party unity in condemnation of this outrage and equal determination to push for full justice – and it’s also important that we, the CWU, also ensure that we are the recognised trade union for postmasters going forward.”
Tomorrow, the Criminal Cases Review Commission will announce its verdict as to whether the 55 cases of wrongfully convicted Postmasters will be referred to the Court of Appeal and a high-profile meeting is scheduled between our general secretary Dave Ward, our DGSP Terry Pullinger, Andy Furey and the Under-Secretary for the Post Office Paul Scully MP (Sutton & Cheam).
A BBC Panorama special featuring the Horizon scandal had been scheduled for broadcast this evening, but has been replaced by a programme on the Covid-19 crisis, while a Horizon compensation scheme, which had been due for launch by the Post Office this week, has also been postponed because of the national situation.
Commenting on the postponements, Andy Furey said: “Some of the postmasters have waited many years for justice and, while the delay is understandable in the circumstances, our hope is that this can be set in motion as soon as is appropriate.”
- Further details, please see LTB 145/20
- Computer Weekly Article, reporting on the Debate:: https://www.computerweekly.com/news/252480365/MP-warns-minister-not-toparrot-civil-servants-lines-on-Post-Office-IT-scandal
- Hansard transcript of the full Parliamentary Debate: House of Commons – Hansard