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Post Office Compensation | Commons debates

I thank the Minister for his statement and for advance sight of it. This is, of course, an issue of great importance and I thank him and his Department’s civil servants for the progress they have made and the work that has gone on to achieve it.

As this is my first time speaking on the matter from the Front Bench, may I put on record my tribute to the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance and to all those who have campaigned for decades for compensation, justice and truth? I also recognise the efforts of Members across the House on behalf of their constituents, as well as the work done by colleagues in the other place. In particular, I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones). As the Minister said, he is unable to be in the House today but he has played an instrumental role in helping to chart a route to justice for thousands of people and we wholeheartedly thank him for that.

The House is in unanimous agreement that the Horizon scandal has been a shocking injustice. Indeed, I think it is no exaggeration to say that it is one of the greatest scandals of modern times. While we continue to hear in the public inquiry the accounts of lives torn apart by the scandal we can never lose sight of how devastating its impact has been on those victims.

Labour will act in good faith on any announcements that aim to facilitate justice for those involved in the Horizon scandal. Having listened to the Minister, I understand the logic behind the approach that he has announced today, but I would be grateful if he answered some initial questions. First, how many people does his Department anticipate will take up this offer? Secondly, what assurances can he give the House that the compensation being offered to those 86 individuals whose convictions have been overturned will be at a sufficient level? I have spoken to one MP today who has a case in which various accumulated costs amount to millions of pounds. What can the Government say in response to the question that, if people go through the full scheme, the compensation would be much higher? I would be grateful if he addressed what he thinks the balance is between his figure and what other people might expect to get.

Thirdly, while I welcome what the Minister has said, the wider issue, as he mentioned, is the much larger group of people whose convictions have still not been overturned. I know that there have been some proactive attempts to engage with them, but the Minister must share our frustration with the lack of progress. What more can he do to expedite this process of reaching out, contacting and talking to those people?

We understand the logic behind today’s announcement, but we would appreciate the Minister’s thoughts on those issues. As I said earlier, we are happy to work in good faith with the Government to get this right and take one of the many steps required if we are to make amends for what has been the most insidious of injustices.