Minister rejects claim Post Office compensation stalled ahead of election

Ministers are facing questions after the former Post Office chairman claimed he was told by a senior civil servant to “stall” spending on compensation to subpostmasters ahead of the next general election.

The Government has firmly denied the claim by Henry Staunton, who left his role last month after Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said there was a need for “new leadership”.

Labour said they were “incredibly serious allegations” and warned against any “further insult” to victims.

Cabinet meeting
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said there was a need for ‘new leadership’ at the Post Office (James Manning/PA)

He told the Sunday Times newspaper: “Early on, I was told by a fairly senior person to stall on spend on compensation and on the replacement of Horizon and to limp, in quotation marks – I did a file note on it – limp into the election.

“It was not an anti-postmaster thing, it was just straight financials. I didn’t ask, because I said ‘I’m having no part of it – I’m not here to limp into the election, it’s not the right thing to do by postmasters’.

“The word ‘limp’ gives you a snapshot of where they were.”

Cabinet meeting
Michael Tomlinson firmly denied Mr Staunton’s claim (Victoria Jones/PA)

But many, including leading campaigner Alan Bates, have complained about unnecessary delays to victims in receiving compensation.

Home Office minister Michael Tomlinson on Sunday firmly denied Mr Staunton’s claim.

“I don’t accept or recognise that.

“We are encouraging postmasters to come forward. We have brought legislation through the House of Commons which will enable those payments to be made, and that is something that we are encouraging rather than anything.

“I just don’t recognise anything to the contrary of that,” he told Times Radio.

“The Government has sped up compensation to victims and consistently encouraged postmasters to come forward with their claims.

“To suggest any actions or conversations happened to the contrary is incorrect. In fact, upon appointment, Mr Staunton was set concrete objectives, in writing, to focus on reaching settlements with claimants – clear evidence of the Government’s intent.

“The Secretary of State asked Henry Staunton to step down as chairman of the Post Office because a change in leadership was needed.”

CBI conference
Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said that ‘under no circumstances’ should compensation for subpostmasters and subpostmistresses be delayed (Aaron Chown/PA)

Hundreds of subpostmasters and subpostmistresses are still awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “The Horizon scandal is widely accepted to be one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.

“Under no circumstances should compensation to victims be delayed and to do so for party political purposes would be a further insult to sub-postmasters.

“The Labour Party has called for all sub-postmasters to be exonerated and compensation paid swiftly so that victims can begin to draw this awful chapter to a close.

He said that “ministers must come to Parliament and explain exactly what has happened at the earliest opportunity”.

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