Press "Enter" to skip to content

Boris Johnson’s dedication to inquiry into Post Office scandal unsure

What final week seemed to be a promise of a public inquiry into the Post Office IT scandal, appears in actuality to have been the Prime Minister enjoying to the gang, as his dedication is watered down in Number 10 assertion.

In reply to a query in Parliament final week, prime minister Boris Johnson appeared to decide to a public inquiry into the scandal that noticed subpostmasters expertise struggling, together with jail sentences, after being blamed for accounting shortfalls that had been attributable to errors within the Post Office laptop system they use.

Over the previous 20 years, subpostmasters have been prosecuted, jailed, fined and compelled to repay accounting shortfalls that had nothing to do with them. Computer Weekly first reported the issues with Horizon in 2009, after we revealed the tales of a bunch of subpostmasters. Soon after this, extra subpostmasters got here ahead, however the dispute dates again additional than that (see timeline under). A current High Court trial proved that Post Office claims that Horizon couldn’t be guilty for shortfalls had been improper and the subpostmasters had been proper. A courtroom of attraction choose mentioned the Post Office had handled subpostmasters like Victorian manufacturing facility employees.

During Prime Minister’s Questions within the House of Commons on 26 February, Johnson was requested by Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow, whether or not he would decide to an unbiased inquiry. She mentioned: “Like many other subpostmasters, my constituent, Christopher Head, fell victim of the Horizon IT system scandal. This has resulted in bankruptcy, imprisonment and even suicides. Will the Prime Minister today commit to an independent public inquiry?”

Johnson mentioned: “I am indeed aware of the scandal to which [Osborne] alludes and the disasters that have befallen many Post Office workers, and I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter in the way that she recommends.”

This was understood by MPs and subpostmasters to be a dedication to a public inquiry. A full public inquiry can’t be compelled, and is, in impact, a present from a authorities eager to be seen as doing the appropriate factor.

“I am indeed aware of the [Horizon IT] scandal and the disasters that have befallen many Post Office workers, and I am happy to commit to getting to the bottom of the matter”
Boris Johnson, prime minister

MP Gill Furniss, Labour’s shadow minister for publish, mentioned she was “glad the Prime Minister has agreed to a public inquiry on the Post Office Horizon scandal. This is testament to the hard-fought campaign of hundreds of subpostmasters and members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Post Offices, from all parties”.

Conservative MP Lucy Allan, who has emerged as a powerful advocate of justice for the subpostmasters affected, mentioned: “I interpret what [the Prime Minister] said as a commitment to an inquiry. Some very senior people in government believe there to have been a miscarriage of justice.”

But as a result of ambiguity of Johnson’s phrases, Computer Weekly contacted Number 10 for extra particulars, particularly asking if the Prime Minister is dedicated to a full public inquiry and whether or not it might be choose led.

The Number 10 response makes clear {that a} determination has not been made. The closing line of the assertion confirms that the federal government is presently wanting into what might be finished past making certain the Post Office sticks to its commitments, made as a part of the courtroom settlement, to vary its relationship with subpostmasters.

In reply to Computer Weekly’s query, the federal government assertion mentioned: “We take the Post Office’s relationship with its postmasters very seriously and closely monitored the situation during the legal proceedings. The Post Office, under its new CEO, has since accepted it got things wrong, apologised and has said it aims to re-establish a positive relationship with postmasters. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is working actively with the Post Office on this matter and will hold them to account on their progress. We are also looking into what more needs to be done.”

A public inquiry would put the federal government, the Post Office and Horizon provider Fujitsu underneath the highlight.

The Post Office is authorities owned with a member of presidency on its board. In a current Lords debate, the federal government admitted it had been too passive in the way it manages the Post Office and mentioned this may change.

During a debate within the House of Lords in early February, Conservative peer Stuart Polak requested Ian Duncan, Conservative peer and parliamentary under-secretary of state within the division for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), what the precise function of the division’s consultant on the board of administrators of the Post Office is.

Duncan confirmed there’s a non-executive director who’s liable for representing the division and the federal government, however mentioned the function has been passive, and might be modified following the courtroom judgments.

The authorities has additionally just lately claimed the Post Office misled it when requested whether or not points raised by subpostmasters in regards to the Horizon system had been true.

Responding to questions within the House of Lords debate on 25 February, Martin Callanan, a UK authorities minister within the House of Lords, prompt the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) had been misled by the Post Office over Horizon IT issues.

Callanan mentioned the BEIS relied on Post Office administration to analyze the problems with the Horizon system. “The government was assured that the system was robust and the issues being raised by the postmasters were being handled appropriately. BEIS pressed management on these issues and was given consistent advice from the company’s experts that appeared to verify these claims at that time,” he mentioned.

“In hindsight, of course, facts have come to light through the litigation that has revealed that advice given during that period was flawed,” he added. Callanan was referring to the judgment within the second trial within the current multimillion-pound litigation.

In his judgment, Judge Fraser mentioned the Post Office had exhibited “a simple institutional obstinacy or refusal to consider any possible alternatives to their view of Horizon”.

“This approach by the Post Office has amounted, in reality, to bare assertions and denials that ignore what has actually occurred, at least so far as the witnesses called before me in the Horizon issues trial are concerned. It amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the Earth is flat,” mentioned Fraser.

Arbuthnot, former MP for Hampshire North East, and now Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, mentioned attaining a full public inquiry can be tough because of the truth that the federal government may must pay out giant sums of compensation and was underneath little strain because of a big majority within the House of Commons.

Source hyperlink

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *