Written evidence submitted by the Communication Workers Union (POH0033)

 

Introduction

The CWU welcomes the BEIS Committee’s decision to hold a formal oral evidence session on 14th December 2021 regarding the Post Office and Horizon, focusing on compensation to victims of the Horizon scandal.[1]  We also welcome that the Committee will hold a further evidence session with Ministers and senior Post Office leaders on this issue in the New Year.  The CWU wishes to contribute to the Committee’s inquiry by raising our key concerns and objectives regarding the Post Office Historical Shortfall Scheme (HSS), compensation payments for those who do not qualify for the HSS, and future funding for the Post Office.

 

The CWU urges the Committee to support the key objectives outlined in this submission, as follows:

  1. The HSS compensation claims should be fully funded by the Government;
  2. The 555 claimants in the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) should receive fair compensation, including access to the HSS, fully funded by the Government; and
  3. The Post Office network, services and jobs must not be adversely impacted as a result of compensation costs.

 

Background

The HSS was set up by the Post Office as a condition of the Bates vs Post Office settlement agreement in December 2019.  The scheme was open to current and former postmasters who did not participate in the Group Litigation claim against the Post Office and did not have a criminal conviction, but who may have experienced and repaid Horizon shortfalls.[2]  It is therefore not open to the 555 claimants in the JFSA, which we fundamentally believe is both unfair and inappropriate

 

The Minister for postal affairs, Paul Scully, made a statement on 14th December 2021 to say the Government will be making funding available to help the Post Office make compensation payments to postmasters whose convictions have been overturned.[3]  This does not cover all those victims who did not have a criminal conviction but who paid money to POL to avoid prosecution.

 

The Minister for science and technology, George Freeman, said in a Westminster Hall debate on the HSS on 14th December 2021 that the Government will provide sufficient financial support to the Post Office to ensure that the historical shortfall scheme can proceed properly and that those people are fully compensated.[4]  However, there is still a lack of clarity on this issue and concerns about whether funding for the HSS will be sufficientWe are also concerned that some of the costs will fall to POL which would be detrimental to Post Office services and potentially to postmaster remuneration, jobs overall and pay, terms and conditions.

 

CWU key concerns

 

CWU key objectives

 

 

January 2023


[1] Formal meeting, PO and Horizon, UK Parliament, accessed on 22nd December 2021 at: https://committees.parliament.uk/event/6627/formal-meeting-oral-evidence-session/

[2] PO Horizon HSS, Hansard, Paul Scully, 18th March 2021, accessed at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-03 18/debates/21031834000013/PostOfficeHorizonHistoricalShortfallScheme

[3] Approval of funds for full and final settlement for postmasters with overturned criminal convictions, statement made on 14th December 2021, UK Parliament, accessed at: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2021-12-14/hcws473

[4] Post Office HSS, Westminster Hall Debate, They Work For You, 14th December 2021, accessed at: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2021-12-14b.274.0

[5] Risk analysis of the costs of compensating victims of the Horizon crisis, Whatdotheyknow, 9th July 2021, accessed at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/risk_analysis_of_the_costs_of_co?nocache=incoming-1831013#incoming-1831013

[6] PO Horizon HSS, Hansard, Paul Scully, 18th March 2021, ibid

[7] Whitehall punishes 555 subpostmasters who exposed the PO IT scandal, Campaign4Change, 26th May 2021, accessed at: https://ukcampaign4change.com/2021/05/26/whitehall-punishes-555-sub-postmasters-who-exposed-the-post-office-it-scandal/

[8] Post Office HSS, Westminster Hall Debate, ibid, 14th December 2021

[9] Post Office faces Horizon claims worth £311m with HSS ‘oversubscribed’, AsianTrader, 12 July 2021, accessed at: https://www.asiantrader.biz/post-office-faces-horizon-claims-worth-311m-with-historical-shortfall-scheme-oversubscribed/

[10] Risk analysis of the costs of compensating victims of the Horizon crisis, Whatdotheyknow, 9th July 2021, accessed at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/risk_analysis_of_the_costs_of_co?nocache=incoming-1831013#incoming-1831013

[11] Post Office value slashed to zero after postmasters scandal, The Telegraph, 26th November 2021, available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2021/11/26/post-office-value-slashed-zero-postmasters-scandal/

[12] Post Office IT scandal victims in last-ditch £46m legal fight with government, Mirror, 11th July 2020, accessed at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/victims-post-office-scandal-last-22340872