Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill Debate

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Department: Department for Business and Trade
Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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My understanding is that, obviously, the first port of call will be the Post Office, as it administers these matters. However, I can confirm that we are in the process of appointing an independent forensic investigator to look into the Capture software and how the Post Office addressed concerns about it—that will be an independent review. I am happy to reassure the noble Baroness that, once the investigator has reported, the Government will seek to return to this House to set out our plans.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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On the issue of credibility, the people who have been affected by the scandal will want the Post Office to have no connection whatever with any investigation. Does the Minister think it would be a good idea to ignore the fact that the Post Office needs to be involved and do this completely independently, to give credibility to the findings that are put forward?

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for that. That is exactly the intention of the independent investigator.

I turn to the amendment on Post Office governance. Amendment 19 is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, and I thank him again for his engagement on the Bill. Post Office governance is a priority for the Government. However, it is not the subject of this Bill, which has a clear scope to quash the wrongful convictions of the postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal. Therefore, we do not see the Bill as the place to address governance issues. Furthermore, we do not support a review of the kind suggested by this amendment, due to other work that is progressing. Phases 5 and 6 of the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry are looking at past governance issues and could make recommendations for specific changes that the Government will consider carefully and respond to in due course.

Nigel Railton has been appointed as interim chair of the Post Office, and will be invited to give Ministers his views on the future direction of the Post Office, which could include proposals for change that the Government will consider. We of course keep governance models under review, but we do not support another review of governance issues while the activities I have outlined are under way. I hope the noble Lord will be happy to withdraw his amendment.

In conclusion, I thank the Committee for its attention to the Bill. I commend to the Committee the government amendments in my name.