Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill Debate

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Department: Department for Business and Trade

Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
2nd reading
Wednesday 20th March 2024

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill 2023-24 Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am pleased to present the Bill for its Second Reading. It will quash the convictions of those affected by the Post Office Horizon scandal in England and Wales—one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history. The legislation will clear the names of sub-postmasters whose lives were ruined because of the Horizon scandal: those wrongly convicted of or cautioned for offences of false accounting, theft and fraud, all because of a faulty IT system that the Post Office had implemented.

Instead of listening to whistleblowers such as Alan Bates when they raised concerns, the Post Office viciously pursued them for the shortfalls. Some were suspended or dismissed; hundreds were prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned; others were harried as thieves by their local communities. Several were driven to suicide. The Government cannot turn back the clock or undo the damage that has been done, but we will seek to right the wrongs of the past as best we can by restoring people’s good names and ensuring that those who have been subject to this tragic miscarriage of justice receive fair and full redress. The Bill represents a crucial step in delivering that.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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The whole House appreciates the efforts that the Government are making to rectify this problem at last, but I appeal to them to listen to the cross-party representations made from both sides in this House and all sides in Northern Ireland, including by the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and the Justice Minister for Northern Ireland, who have appealed for the fewer than 30 people in Northern Ireland who have been affected by the scandal to be included in the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We are working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive. We have carefully considered the territorial extent of each piece of legislation, and we are rigorous in our commitment to devolution. The hon. Gentleman should be assured of the amount of work that is taking place to ensure that we get the Bill done properly in a way that will not have unintended consequences. I thank him for that point.

This new legislation will quash all convictions that meet the clear and objective conditions laid out in it. We recognise that postmasters have suffered too much for far too long, which is why convictions will be quashed automatically when the Bill receives Royal Assent, removing the need for people to apply to have their conviction overturned.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Sir Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam) (Con)
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I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. I understand entirely why the Bill is necessary. She will agree that it is important that we do not, through the Bill, set any precedent for the interference of this House in individual convictions, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as these. That means that the Bill must be tightly drafted. At the moment, condition E—the last of the conditions that she has mentioned—is that

“at the time of the alleged offence, the Horizon system was being used for the purposes of the post office business.”

Why is that not phrased differently to say that Horizon-based evidence was presented in the case against the person convicted? There is a material difference between those two things. I just seek to understand why she has chosen that formulation rather than the alternative.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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My right hon. and learned Friend makes a good point about the final condition in the Bill. That is something that we considered, but it would likely have required a case-by-case, file-by-file assessment of each prosecution. That would have added significant time and complexity, which is what our solution avoids. One thing that I have been keen to emphasise is that speed and pace are critical. This has taken far longer than I would have wanted, and I would not have gone for a solution that would have impeded this and created complications.

Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)
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I put on the record my thanks to and commendations for the Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade, the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), for the way in which he has approached the groundwork for the Bill.

Among those excluded from the scope of the Bill are those who went to the Court of Appeal and lost their case, or were not given leave to appeal to the Court. What we now know would have been quite useful in many of those cases. Should we enlarge the scope of the Bill to include those who lost their case at the Court of Appeal or were not given leave to appeal in the first place, as many of them may well be truly innocent?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that point. That is also something that we considered carefully. It is part of the trade-off that we had to make in doing something unprecedented: Parliament overturning convictions. We respect the judgment of the Court of Appeal—it has gone to an appellate judge. We are willing to consider some of those cases individually just to ensure that nothing has been missed, but the Bill has been drafted in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary. We want to ensure that we are bringing everyone with us. Concerns such as his have been raised, but this is more or less the consensus that we think will get the Bill done, and allow redress, as quickly as possible.

David Davis Portrait Sir David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con)
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I will elaborate on this point further when I speak—hopefully, if I catch Mr Deputy Speaker’s eye—but there is already data about the cases that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) referred to, those that are outside the Horizon case itself but were attempting to get themselves exonerated on the basis of other data. As far as I can see, they failed precisely because they were not part of the Horizon case, so I ask the Secretary of State to return to this issue before Report and look at whether we can solve that problem.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. That is something we can look at again at further stages of the Bill. We understand the issue that hon. Members are trying to resolve, and agree with them that we need to make sure that everybody who deserves justice gets justice, but we also have to be careful to make sure that we are not exonerating people who we know for a fact have committed crimes.

Mary Robinson Portrait Mary Robinson (Cheadle) (Con)
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I commend her work and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), not only in recognising the plight of these people and putting in place compensation for their suffering, but in ensuring that these criminal convictions are expunged from their record. It is really important for these people that they regain their standing within their communities.

As my right hon. Friend has rightly said, so many of these whistleblowers were failed by the current law: the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. It is really vital that we not only put that right, but have a good look at the law again. I know that a framework review is going on, and have spoken to my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend about what more can be done. I have tabled a whistleblowing Bill that will sort this problem out. It lands within the Department for Business and Trade—it is something that is within my right hon. Friend’s gift. Will she support my private Member’s Bill on Friday?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for all the work she does in chairing the all-party parliamentary group for whistleblowing. She is right that this issue needs consideration, and we are going to look again at the whistleblowing framework—it is something that comes up time and time again in many respects. I will not comment yet on her private Member’s Bill, because I have not seen it, but I thank her for all her work on this issue.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
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I welcome this Bill. I know that it is groundbreaking and possibly sets some nerves off with the judiciary, but I think the judiciary need to look at themselves and how they have dealt with some of these cases.

On the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) raised, a small number of cases are not within the scope of the Bill. I perfectly understand why, but we have to get those cases looked at again, because evidence has come out in the Sir Wyn Williams inquiry that was not available at the time. Will the Secretary of State commit to at least sit down with the judiciary to look at these cases and emphasise the fact that there is new information, and that responsibility for some of this injustice has got to lie with the justice system?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The courts dealt very swiftly with the cases before them—perhaps a bit too swiftly. That is why the sub-postmasters suffered so many miscarriages of justice, and it is right that we make their exoneration as simple and quick as possible, so while my priority is passing this Bill for the bulk of the people who have suffered, that does not mean we will not be able to look at other scenarios later and see if we can find solutions where we genuinely believe that there has been a miscarriage of justice. That is not for me to do at the Dispatch Box—it will not be up to Ministers. There will be caseworkers who will carry out that work, but we have to be careful to make sure that we are exonerating the right cohort.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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I hear what the Secretary of State says, but I would just say to her that this is a small number of people and they have to be looked at. Can I ask that she shows the same zeal that her hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) has shown in his approach to this process? We need a commitment, not to get these cases sorted today—I accept that the Secretary of State cannot do that—but that the Department will look at them. I think that will send quite a strong message out to people.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The Department can always do that. This is something that we believe is so critical in order to make sure everybody gets the justice they deserve, and we need to make sure that we carry out the process in such a way that everyone has confidence in it. We can continue to look at cases and see if there are other solutions, but as the right hon. Gentleman has rightly said, that will be outside the scope of this Bill.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
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I am very grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way, and I also pay tribute to the exceptional work of my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) and the way in which he has engaged in what is a sensitive issue, not least constitutionally. Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is not ideal under any circumstance for this House to trespass upon the legitimate preserves of the independent courts? It should only do so under the most exceptional circumstances. There is a case that this is one of those instances, but while we can legitimately criticise failings in the criminal justice system—such as in disclosure, which is part of the system—it is important that we do not get into the territory of impugning the individual decisions of judges made in good faith on the evidence properly before them.

One thing we could do to emphasise the exceptional nature of the Bill would be to introduce a sunset clause, so that at an appropriate time when the Bill has served its purpose—perhaps some way in the future, once those who need to be found and contacted have been able to come forward and have their convictions quashed— it would no longer be the constitutional anomaly that it might otherwise be if it stayed on the statute book indefinitely.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am very happy to consider a sunset clause. My hon. and learned Friend makes a very good point, and I really appreciate the fact that he can see the tightrope that we are walking: getting justice for postmasters while not interfering with judicial independence.

Robert Buckland Portrait Sir Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con)
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I think it is important that we emphasise the wholly exceptional nature of this legislation, but we are dealing with wholly exceptional circumstances—we hope. The point about disclosure is one that I cannot make strongly enough, and we have to look again at our presumptions about machines and what they produce when it comes to criminal litigation.

Can I press my right hon. Friend to reiterate the wholly exceptional nature of this legislation? I think we need to be careful when it comes to a sunset clause, because we do not want to end up frustrating the purpose of the Bill, which is to deal with the hundreds of people who have lost faith in the system and might be difficult to track down and identify. I am not particularly in favour of a sunset clause, but we do need to emphasise the exceptional nature of this legislation.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his intervention. I am very happy to emphasise that, and will do so again later in my speech. I do enjoy it when we have two lawyers who disagree on a particular point; I will be taking this as their application to join the Bill Committee.

The Bill includes a duty on the Government to take all reasonable steps to identify convictions that have been quashed. It also creates a duty to notify the original convicting court, so that records can be updated and people’s good names can be restored. Other records, such as police records, will be amended in response. The Bill makes provision for records of cautions for relevant offences relating to this scandal to be deleted. While the financial redress scheme will be open to applicants throughout the UK, the Bill’s measures to overturn convictions will apply to England and Wales only.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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We on the Business and Trade Select Committee heard absolutely harrowing accounts from postmasters of what they had gone through as a consequence of the Post Office’s actions, but many of those cases took place many years ago. Can the Secretary of State be confident that the audit process in an organisation such as the Post Office will in future identify what has happened at an earlier stage, and does she agree that legislation such as this should never come before this House again—that this should not happen?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I believe that the inquiry being led by Sir Wyn Williams is currently looking at that issue. It is important that audit processes work at the highest level, and that people are able to rely on and have confidence in them, so I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point.

On the question of territorial coverage, as I said earlier to the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), my Department will continue working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive and the Scottish Government to support their approaches to addressing this scandal, ensuring that every postmaster who has been affected receives the justice they deserve, irrespective of where in the United Kingdom they are. Indeed, my colleague and hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), the Minister for postal affairs, has already met Justice Ministers in the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to offer our support.

Stephen Farry Portrait Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)
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I accept that the Department is very keen to respect the devolved settlements in both Northern Ireland and Scotland, but can I stress to the Secretary of State that there is political consensus in Northern Ireland, and Ministers in the newly restored Executive would welcome Parliament acting in this particular area?

Due to the nature of devolution in Northern Ireland, we have to have a public consultation, so in the best-case scenario we are looking at well towards the end of this year before we can replicate legislation here in Westminster. As this was a national scandal, it does require a national solution to avoid a situation of inequity in which some postmasters in parts of the UK are exonerated while others are still waiting.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I take the point the hon. Member makes very seriously. We do understand, but we want to make sure that we do not create any possible unintended consequences by legislating on devolved issues, so we are working hand in glove with the Northern Ireland Executive to make sure this goes through as quickly as possible. We know that the numbers there are much smaller, and that the postmasters there have been identified. He is right to raise the point, but I want to reassure him that we have every confidence that we will be able to get this done at the same pace.

Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne
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Could I put that question in a slightly different way? The Minister for postal affairs has set out an ambitious timetable for the passage of this law, the overturning of convictions and the dispensation of compensation, with it all possibly being done and dusted—with hope, and a following wind—by the end of July. Could the Secretary of State commit to a similar timetable when it comes to the cases that have been raised in Northern Ireland?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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That is certainly something we can encourage the Executive to work to, but I cannot personally make that commitment because it would not solely be up to me. However, I just want to reassure the House that this is something we care about. We are not prioritising England and Wales because it is England and Wales; we are doing what we can as quickly as we possibly can to make sure that we do not create problems later by rushing and not doing things properly. I think that that is a good and ambitious target, but it would not be up to me to make such a commitment.

I am aware that the approach we are taking in this Bill is a novel one. With it, Parliament is taking a function usually reserved for the independent judiciary, as my right hon. and learned Friends the Members for Kenilworth and Southam (Sir Jeremy Wright) and for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) have said. However, I am equally aware that the postmasters’ long and punishing fight for justice must now be swiftly drawn to a close. The circumstances surrounding the scandal are wholly exceptional, and they demand an exceptional response from Government, so I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the House that the introduction of the Bill is in no way a reflection on the courts and the judiciary, which have dealt swiftly with the cases before them.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
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I would like to commend both the Secretary of State and her team for bringing forward this Bill. The sub-postmasters have faced a miscarriage of justice that has taken many people’s breath away. I am aware that this is specific and focused legislation, but two South Ribble constituents came to see me who had been Royal Mail customers, and they described scenarios of prosecutorial practice very similar to what sub-postmasters were subject to. Would the Secretary of State consider expanding the scope of the legislation in future to other people who may have been subject to poor treatment?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I can look specifically at the cases she raises, but I think they may actually be covered by this Bill. I would be wary of expanding the scope too broadly. The consensus we have with the CPS, the judiciary and so on has been achieved by the legislation being very tightly scoped, but we do want to make sure that people who have been at the end of an injustice can have those wrongs righted. I am very happy to look at the specific cases of her constituents.

Andy Carter Portrait Andy Carter (Warrington South) (Con)
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I am very clear that this Bill is about correcting convictions that were made in error. However, there are of course a number of employees—direct employees—of the Post Office who were never convicted, but had their good name ruined and their careers destroyed, and have found it very difficult to gain employment because they were unable to get references from their previous employer. Indeed, probably the worst thing that happened to them is that they were identified in their community as people who were perhaps stealing from pensioners or treating members of their community unfairly. This Bill will do nothing for them. Could the Secretary of State outline what the Post Office is doing to contact those individuals who were disciplined by the Post Office and dismissed, so that they too can have justice?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He is right that many people had their reputations traduced because of what happened with the Horizon scandal. Where shortfalls were falsely made by the Post Office and they had to pay, we have compensation schemes to address those sorts of wrongs. Because this Bill is specifically about overturning convictions, it cannot apply to them, but where they have suffered other damage, we have compensation schemes that we hope will apply in those circumstances.

We have not taken the decision to legislate in this way lightly. Given the factually exceptional circumstances of the Horizon scandal, the number of postmasters involved and the passage of time since the original convictions, it is right that the state now acts as quickly as possible. Any further delay would be adding further insult to injury for postmasters who have already endured what I believe is an arduous wait. Indeed, some have lost trust in the system, and want no further engagement. In many cases, the evidence they would need to clear their names no longer exists.

However, I must make two points clear to the House. First, the Government’s position is that it will be Parliament, not the Government, that is overturning the convictions, so there will be no intrusion by the Executive into the proper role of the judiciary. Secondly, this legislation does not set any kind of precedent for the future. It recognises that an extraordinary response has been necessitated by an extraordinary miscarriage of justice.

On this Bill receiving Royal Assent, no further action is required by the victims of this scandal to have their convictions quashed. The Government will take all reasonable steps to notify the relevant individuals and direct them to the route for applying for compensation. Further details of this process will be set out in due course.

Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne
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The Secretary of State is being characteristically generous in giving way again. The evidence the Select Committee heard was that many people seeking compensation for the injustice they have suffered found it very complicated and very confusing to understand the range of case law required to put in particular kinds of claim—for example, for loss of reputation. When she triggers the notification provisions, would she reflect on something she could add, which is a tariff to help people put in claims for the right kind of compensation? What none of us would want to do, having overturned the convictions, is to let people get short-changed on the compensation. Providing a standardised tariff could cut through so much of the complexity and help people get what they are due.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I know that is a recommendation from his report, and it is something we are actively looking at and considering. As the Bill progresses through the House, there will be many suggestions that we will be able to look at to see whether it can be improved in any way. However, we must make sure that we do so in a way that does not jeopardise any of the objectives of the Bill—any of them at all.

As I was saying, further details will be set out in due course, and there will be a process for anyone to come forward where their convictions meet the criteria but we have been unable to identify them. The new primary legislation will be followed by a route to rapid financial redress on a basis similar to the overturned convictions scheme, which is currently administered by the Post Office, so we do not need provisions in the Bill to deliver that scheme. My Department, not the Post Office, will be responsible for the delivery of redress related to the quashing of these convictions. The Minister for postal affairs will return to the House at a later date to provide details on how we intend to deliver that redress.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones
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I welcome the changes that have been made in the compensation. Some of the proposals—for example, for fixed sums—are going to make a lot of cases easier to sort out. I do not feel comfortable having the Post Office anywhere near this, frankly, and neither do the sub-postmasters. Will the Secretary of State think about a system of compensation that in practice cuts out the Post Office? There is no trust there among the sub-postmasters. Do I personally have any faith in the Post Office? No, I do not.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman. That is one reason why my Department will be looking after the redress delivered by the scheme.

David Davis Portrait Sir David Davis
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Let me reinforce the point made by the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones). There are people writing to me this week about the current handling of their cases by the Post Office and Post Office lawyers; frankly, it is barbaric. The Post Office needs to be taken out of it.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I reassure my right hon. Friend that this is something I am looking at in great detail. The Post Office has clearly been a dysfunctional organisation for a very long time, and that is one reason why I have been actively taking steps to look at the management and processes in place, which, as he rightly says, many of the sub-postmasters have lost faith in.

It goes without saying that work to offer prompt financial redress alongside the Bill continues. As of 1 March, 102 convictions have been overturned through the courts. Of those 102 cases, 45 people have claimed full and final redress, and of those 35 have reached settlement. The Post Office has paid out financial redress totalling £38 million to postmasters with overturned convictions. Under the Horizon shortfall scheme, as of 1 March, 2,864 eligible claims have been submitted, the vast majority of which have been settled by the Post Office, and £102 million has been paid out in financial redress, including full and final settlements and interim payments.

Finally, under the group litigation order scheme, working from the same date, 132 claims have been submitted, 110 have been settled by my Department, and £34 million has been paid out in financial redress, including full and final settlements and interim payments. Officials in my Department are working hard to get those cases settled quickly, and we have made offers within 40 working days in response to 87% of complete claims.

In summary, the Bill amounts to an exceptional response to a scandal that was wholly exceptional in nature, and has shaken the nation’s faith in the core principles of fairness that underpin our legal system. We recognise the constitutional sensitivity and unprecedented nature of the Bill, but I believe it is essential for us to rise to the scale of the challenge. The hundreds of postmasters caught up in this scandal deserve nothing less. Of course, no amount of legislation can fully restore what the Post Office so cruelly took from them, but I hope the Bill at least begins to offer the closure and justice that postmasters have so bravely campaigned for over many years, and that it affords them the ability to rebuild their lives. For that reason, I commend the Bill to the House.

Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate
Department: Department for Business and Trade

Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Hon. Members will need no reminder of the significance of this Bill. This legislation will, I hope, bring some much-needed relief and closure to those caught up in one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history. For the postmasters wrongfully accused of, and convicted and punished for, crimes they never committed, this Bill means hard-won exoneration, with their convictions wiped clean from the slate.

A wrong is finally being put right but, as hon. Members know, these postmasters will also receive the fair compensation they deserve through the Horizon conviction redress scheme; this will be delivered by my Department rather than the Post Office. While the scale of the Government’s response in this case is extraordinary, I am keen to remind hon. Members that it does not set a precedent for our involvement in other judicial matters. I know this sentiment has been echoed across this House during debates on the Bill. We have chosen this path because the sheer extent of the Post Office’s prosecutorial misconduct is an affront to justice in and of itself. It demanded an exceptional response from Government.

That is why I was glad to see this Bill being welcomed on both sides of the House on Second Reading. There is, I believe, a unanimous consensus that the provisions of this legislation are needed to bring justice to postmasters who have suffered too much for far too long.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con)
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I am sorry to intervene on Third Reading. The Secretary of State is talking about justice for postmasters and mistresses, which is completely right, but I want to ask one question about the policy aspect of this. I and other Members have had postmasters who have written to us who have not been prosecuted but found that the Horizon system was working badly and had to top up out of their own money when Horizon was reporting losses due to faults in the system. What is their redress route if they are now saying, “I was hundreds of pounds out of pocket because I was having to make up the difference”?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We have devised the Horizon shortfall scheme to deal with those specific situations and if my hon. Friend writes to the Department we can look at some of the cases brought to him as a constituency MP.

I know the debate to date has centred around calls to extend the Bill to Northern Ireland, and the Government have been supportive of them. So, in consultation with the Northern Ireland Executive, I was pleased to see the Government amendments in my name accepted by the Committee of the whole House. As a result of the House’s support, postmasters in Northern Ireland who suffered the same injustices as those in the rest of the UK will now also see their good names restored, with proper financial redress.

As has been noted during recent debates, the speed of that redress could not be more important. Because of the Horizon scandal, people lost more than just their jobs; they were pursued for non-existent losses, they racked up legal bills, and they suffered enormous financial and personal strain because of the Post Office’s actions. It is therefore entirely right that victims do not wait a second longer than necessary to have that money paid back to them—with interest—to reflect what they have lost. I am determined that this legislation complements the ongoing work to hasten redress across the existing schemes. Here we are already making good progress, with payments allowing postmasters to finally move on with their lives.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Opposition, especially the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) for his constructive and supportive approach to working with the Government on this Bill, and so many Members across the House who have engaged with us over and again to deliver the right result for postmasters. I would also like to thank the officials of both my Department, Business and Trade, and the Ministry of Justice who have been working hard behind the scenes for some time to ensure that postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal are supported and compensated fairly. But most of all I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) for his exemplary work as Post Office Minister and in taking through this Bill and dealing with the issue in a very sensitive manner and helping to create confidence in the scheme.

This Bill is a major step forward in that mission. After years of campaigning and fighting to clear their names, postmasters are now receiving the justice they deserve. No Bill can fully undo the damage that has been done or remove the scars the Horizon scandal has left on its victims, but through this legislation we are doing our best to right the wrongs of the past so that every postmaster caught up in this scandal can begin to rebuild their lives. I commend the Bill to the House.