Thank you to constituents who have contacted me about the Post Office Horizon Scandal as a result of the recently televised 'Mr Bates vs The Post Office' programme. The government has introduced the Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill to the House of Commons to ensure that the trailblazers who exposed the scandal do not miss out on compensation because of an arbitrary deadline.
The Horizon IT Inquiry, chaired by Sir Wyn Williams, is responsible for ensuring there is a public summary of the failings which occurred with the Horizon IT system at the Post Office leading to the wrongful suspension, termination of postmasters’ contracts, prosecution and conviction of postmasters.
Following recommendations from Sir Wyn, Ministers have brought forward legislation to allow compensation to be paid under the Group Litigation Order (GLO) scheme past the 7 August 2024 deadline if needed.
Minister for Postal Affairs Kevin Hollinrake said:
The Post Office Scandal is widely described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in our history, and it is imperative that the victims get the justice and compensation they deserve.
I am determined that lessons are learnt from this scandal to prevent anything like this ever happening again. This Bill will ensure postmasters aren’t tied to an arbitrary deadline when making their claims or unnecessarily pressurised.
The government is determined to make compensation claims as soon as possible, and by the current deadline of August 2024. However, time needs to be taken to assess more complex claims, so postmasters receive full and fair compensation and are not unduly rushed into making a decision on their claims.
The GLO Scheme was launched in March 2023 and was designed to compensate postmasters who exposed the Post Office Horizon Scandal from the 1990s.
Lord Arbuthnot, Member of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, said:
I welcome the principle of the Government’s Bill lifting the deadline on compensation payments under the Group Litigation Scheme.
We shall have to look at the precise details, but the Bill confirms that the Government does intend to provide full and fair compensation to the sub-postmasters and will not be deflected from that by arbitrary timescales.
Nevertheless, speed of payment is of the essence, and the Advisory Board will do all we can to ensure that payments are made as early as possible.
This builds on the government’s action to seek to right the wrongs of the past, including the announcement in September 2023 in supporting the Post Office to make an upfront offer of £600,000 to postmasters whose Horizon-related conviction has been overturned.
In total, £132 million has been paid to over 2,700 claimants across the Horizon Shortfall Scheme, Overturned Convictions Scheme and Group Litigation Order scheme.