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Remove Post Office from Horizon scandal compensation schemes, MPs demand

7 March 2024

The cross-party Business and Trade Committee has today published its recommendations for delivering faster and fuller payments to Horizon scandal victims following an “abject failure” of delivering redress to date.

The report recommends ending the Post Office’s involvement in any redress programmes, labelling it as “not fit for purpose to administer any of the schemes required to make amends”. It cites both victims’ lack of confidence in the firm that “ruined the lives of innocent sub-postmasters” and its chaotic leadership.

The Committee calls on the Government to create a “properly resourced” independent intermediary that would offer legal and forensic accounting services to victims to ensure victims are equipped with all the facts and figures they need to secure fair redress and compensation.

Chair's comment

Committee Chair Liam Byrne said:

“Justice delayed is justice denied. And bluntly justice has been denied to our innocent sub postmasters for far too long. It's high time for the circus of recent weeks to end and for cheques to start landing on the doormats of innocent victims. 

We now know the Post Office knew of problems twenty years ago. Yet at best, only £1 in £5 of the budget for compensation has been issued. That is a national disgrace.

The spectacle of the battle between the Post Office chief executive and its former chairman light up a simple truth; that the top of the Post Office is in utter disarray and not fit for purpose to run the payouts to former sub-postmasters. It’s involvement in running Post Office redress schemes has to end and ministers must create a new, independent body set up that will genuinely help victims through their every stage of their compensation claims.”

Five years on from the landmark court case victory by former sub-postmasters led by Alan Bates over the Post Office, only 20% of funds set aside for redress have been spent. Many cases have been stalled by the Post Office’s sluggish disclosure mechanisms. To stop “unacceptable delays”, the report says strict deadlines by which each stage of the redress process will be delivered for each case should be legally-binding. Fines for delays should be paid to claimants, it adds.

Mr Byrne added, “To guarantee this scandal drags on no longer, we have to enshrine into law an idea proposed by Mr Bates, of legally binding timetables for payouts. Any new Bill that the Government presents to parliament, must now pass the ‘Mr Bates Test’ of legally binding timeframes for settling justice.

Finally, we have to make sure that fast compensation is fair compensation. Otherwise, we risk innocent sub-postmasters to face a new prison of poverty. We cannot and must not let that happen.”

Other measures recommended by the report include removing a cap on legal expenses for sub-postmasters and a standardised set of tariffs to help victims to better estimate what they are entitled to.

Further information

Image: UK Parliament / Tyler Allicock