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The Post Office should be entrusted to postmasters, says former boss

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The Post Office should be “handed over” to postmasters, its former president has said, accusing the government of using it as a “fig leaf” for gridlock and tax evasion.

In a letter seen exclusively by Sky News, Henry Staunton told the Business and Commerce Committee that the Government had “constantly hid behind the skirts of the Post Office, to avoid trouble”.

He also accused the Department of Business and Commerce of failing to recognize its “failings” or failing to do “the decent thing” by deputy postmasters.

Hundreds of subpostmasters were wrongly convicted of theft and false accounting based on evidence from faulty Horizon IT software between 1999 and 2015.

Mr Staunton, who was fired in Januarywrote to Liam Byrne, chairman of the business and trade committee, after an explosive meeting on Tuesday.

The former president of the Post Office told MPs that his The current chief executive, Nick Read, was under investigation.

Henry Staunton, former post office president
Picture:
Henry Staunton, former post office president. Photo: PA

Mr Staunton was responding to questions about an internal investigation into his own behavior and allegations he made that he was told to delay paying compensation to victims while he was president.

In his letter, he said: “The government cannot continue to shirk its responsibilities, publicly pretending to be heartfelt and compassionate, while allowing poker-faced lawyers to rack up their hours in doing their best to procrastinate and make money. »

Learn more:
What is the Post Office scandal, why were the postmasters prosecuted and what is Horizon?

The postmistress felt she had to grovel for compensation

Describing “deep dysfunctions” within the Post Office, he also called for a “tough and concrete deadline” for compensation for victims, “ideally no more than six months”.

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Former subpostmaster Alan Bates: Post office should be sold to Amazon for £1

He also said the company should be “completely removed” from the compensation process and called for an independent body to take over.

In his damning assessment, Mr. Staunton said postmasters are “dying as the government tries to shirk its obligations.” It’s the oldest trick in the book.”

As well as stating that compensation should be increased from £600,000 to £1 million for each postmaster convicted, he said the Post Office should be taken out of government control by “handing it over, locking it, storing it and barrel to the postmasters themselves.”

The letter, Mr. Staunton said, is intended to provide “some additional thoughts on what needs to be done now.”

It is the latest in a war of words between Mr. Staunton and government officials.

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Justice is our priority, says Prime Minister

Last week, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch told the Commons that there was “no evidence” for Henry Staunton’s account that he was told to delay paying compensation.

The slow pace with which former substation chiefs receive compensation, however, has sparked strong criticism from victims, lawyers and politicians.

Learn more:
Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells officially stripped of CBE
Fujitsu ‘received £3.4bn’ despite role in Post Office scandal

Earlier this week the government announced new measures to speed up the process, including an interim payment of £450,000 for those whose convictions have been overturned.

A source at the Department of Business and Commerce said: “While the Government continues to do everything it can to bring justice to the postmasters, Henry Staunton continues to make this all about him: he is trying to divert the attention from his terrible mandate as president of the Post Office Department. Office and the interview he gave to the newspaper collapsed under scrutiny.

“We will not allow ourselves to be distracted by this constant hassle, and we hope that Mr. Staunton will now decide that a period of silence is the best course of action.”

In response to the part of Mr Staunton’s letter regarding the compensation process, the Post Office referred Sky News to answers given by its chief executive Nick Read to a parliamentary select committee, when he said: “We are very clear on the fact that whatever the government decides and determines what the right course of action is, we will follow it.

“If people and the government feel that the right level of trust does not reside in the Post Office and that there is a better mechanism, we will fully support it, whatever form it takes. That is of no value to me: I am fully aware that we I want to get the best mechanism. Whether with or without us, I don’t mind.

Regarding Mr Staunton’s suggestion that the Post Office should be handed over to postmasters, the Post Office referred Sky News to comments made by Mr Read, when he said: “As we look to the next global review expenditure, I intend to work with Government on ways in which we could realize our longer-term aspiration to facilitate profit sharing between Post Office Limited and postmasters where circumstances permit.

“As we become commercially viable and no longer reliant on government subsidies, looking for new ways to ensure postmasters share fairly in this success is the right thing to do.”

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