COMMONS

Post Office & Horizon inquiry launched by BEIS Committee

04 March 2020

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has today launched an inquiry on issues emerging from the Horizon IT Court cases, looking at the impact on sub-postmasters and its effect on the future viability of the Post Office, and examining the lessons the Government and Post Office Ltd have learned from a scandal which saw hundreds of sub-postmasters accused of fraud.

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, has also written to Boris Johnson to press for further details on the public inquiry on Horizon to which the Prime Minister appeared to commit during PMQs on Wednesday 26th February.

Chair's comments

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said:

“Hundreds of sub-postmasters have suffered considerable distress, and many have had their lives ruined by the faults in the Horizon IT system. Following December’s High Court ruling in favour of the sub-postmasters, and the finding that Horizon was flawed, it’s right to examine what the Post Office Ltd and the Government have learned from this scandal and establish what steps they are taking to ensure something similar never happens again.

“The case also raises concerns about the damage caused to the relationship between Post Office Ltd and the sub-postmasters and about what this means for the future of our post-office network. We will hear from sub-postmasters about the impact of Horizon on their lives and take the opportunity to hold executives from Post Office Ltd and Fujitsu to account for their handling of the problems around the Horizon IT and accounting system.”

The Committee will be holding two evidence hearings as part of this inquiry. At the first session on the morning of Tuesday 10th March, the Committee will hear from sub-postmasters, the CWU, and the National Federation of Sub-postmasters. On Tuesday 24th March (am), the Committee is expected to question the current PO Ltd CEO, Nick Read, the former CEO, Paula Vennells, Fujitsu, a BEIS Minister and a representative from UKGI (UK Government Investments).

The BEIS Committee in the previous Parliament looked at issues around sub-postmasters’ revenue and income in its inquiry on the future of the post-office network.

Terms of reference

The case raises a series of issues which are relevant to the BEIS Committee’s scrutiny of the Post Office Limited, including the following points:

  • What damage has Horizon caused to the relationship between PO Ltd and sub-postmasters and will this impact on the PO network?
  • What role did the National Federation of Sub-postmasters play in the Horizon scandal in terms of representing affected sub-postmasters?
  • What steps are the Government taking to help sub-postmasters to overturn convictions if they were based on Horizon errors?
  • Have the costs of the Horizon case adversely affected PO services and are there potentially more costs resulting from further civil and criminal litigation?
  • How transparent is PO Ltd in its decision making and in its use of public money?
  • What lessons has PO Ltd learnt and what steps is it taking to avoid similar problems?
  • What role did BEIS and UKGI (UK Government Investments) play and is it reviewing its oversight of PO Ltd following Horizon?

Witnesses

10.30am

Tuesday 10 March, Committee room tbc

Panel One

  • Alan Bates, Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance and sub-postmaster
  • Wendy Buffrey sub-postmaster
  • Tracy Felstead sub-postmaster

Panel Two

  • Andy Furey, Deputy General-Secretary
  • Communication Workers Union
  • Calum Greenhow, CEO, National Federation of Sub-postmasters

Watch live on Parliament TV

Further information

Image: Flickr

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