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Post Office should be removed from Horizon scandal compensation process, MPs demand | Business News

The Post Office should be removed from involvement in the Horizon scandal compensation processes, a committee of MPs has demanded while piling further pressure on its chief executive.

The Business and Trade Committee published recommendations for delivering faster and fuller payments to the hundreds of victims, describing efforts to deliver redress to date as an “abject failure”.

Chairman Liam Byrne said it was a “national disgrace” that “only £1 in £5 of the budget for compensation has been issued” to sub-postmasters to date and legally-binding timetables were needed to restore urgency and confidence.

The committee’s report stated the Post Office was “not fit for purpose to administer any of the schemes required to make amends”.

It blamed both victims’ lack of confidence in the firm and its “chaotic” leadership.

The MPs’ determinations were partly linked to a separate war of words playing out over conduct at the Post Office.

The focus on the sub-postmaster victims shifted last week when former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton, sacked by the business secretary in January, told the committee that an investigation believed to have focused on his own conduct was actually concentrated on chief executive Nick Read.

A letter by Mr Staunton to the committee, and released by the MPs, alleged that Mr Read was facing claims of bullying and sexism by a senior member of staff.

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Staunton says investigation was made into Nick Read

He also cast doubts again on Mr Read’s assertion, in front of the committee, that he had not threatened to resign.

Mr Staunton claimed Mr Read was particularly unhappy over his salary and dismissed conduct questions against himself as “flimsy”.

The committee is expected to consider whether to publish a document, pledged by the Post Office, that is understood to include the details of the allegations against Mr Read.

In its findings against the Post Office on Thursday, the committee expressed a lack of confidence in his leadership.

“Mr Read has supplied misleading evidence to the committee on at least two counts, relating to the Post Office’s use of,
first, non-disclosure agreements and, secondly, public relations firms.

“The Post Office is not fit for purpose to administer any of the schemes of redress required to make amends for one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history”, it noted.

It called on the government to create a “properly resourced” independent intermediary that would offer legal and forensic accounting services to victims to ensure victims are equipped with all the facts and figures they need to secure fair redress and compensation.

Other measures recommended by the report included removing a cap on legal expenses for sub-postmasters and a standardised set of tariffs to help victims to better estimate what they are entitled to.

The findings largely follow the issues raised with the committee by Alan Bates, the former sub-postmaster whose experience formed the basis of the TV drama that brought their plight firmly back to public attention.

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 700 were prosecuted after faulty accounting software provided by Fujitsu made it seem like money was missing from their branches.

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