Answering an Urgent Question from Kevan Jones MP on bonuses awarded to Post Office executives, the Secretary of State for Business and Trade Kevin Hollinrake MP:
- Said that the is situation is extremely concerning and deeply regrettable, and that the Post Office is right to apologise.
- Said that this is a serious issue especially at a time when it is essential that the public have confidence that the culture and processes at Post Office are been improved.
- Said that since being aware of the incident, he has swiftly called for an immediate explanation from the Post Office as to how this mistake occurred and asked what steps the Post Office board is taking in response.
- Stated that he met with officials in his Department and UK Government Investments to discuss what action is needed.
- Mentioned that the Post Office has apologised and issued a statement on its website.
- Said that the Post Office’s CEO and CFO have returned the remediation associated with the sub-rhetoric related to the Post Office’s support for the inquiry.
- Mentioned that the CEO has also apologised to Ministers at the Department for Business and Trade.
- Stated that more needs to be done, and as a first step it is important that the facts are established.
- Added that the Post Office has rightly announced that the incoming Chair of its renumeration committee, Amanda Burton, will lead an immediate investigation into this incident.
- Said that Ms Burton brings to the role experience and expertise from her time in the legal profession.
- Said that the scope of the investigation is to ensure that renumeration committees' approach and processes on rewarding its executives in this case whilst consistent with corporate governance’s best practice.
- Stated that he expected the investigation to be reported back to him within two weeks, outlining its findings and recommendations.
- Announced that the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) is commissioning a wider, independent review around the governance of Post Office decisions on renumeration, which will take place alongside Post Office’s own investigation.
- Said that that further details about this review will follow.
- Reiterated that the Government remains steadfast in its commitment to ensure swift and fair compensation to postmasters who suffered as a result of the Horizon scandal.
Responding, Kevan Jones MP:
- Said that victims of the Horizon are angered by their prosecutions.
- Said that Post Office officials who have been given bonuses were not done so because of a mistake, but because of a “deliberate lie”.
- Asked when the Minister was made aware of the situation regarding Post Office executives’ bonuses.
- Asked if a list of those who received bonuses and who has given them back could be published.
- Asked if when DBT’s investigation is complete, the Minister could come back to the House and give a full explanation regarding the incident.
- Mentioned that victims of the Horizon scandal awaiting compensation do not trust the Post Office.
- Said that the Chief Executive of the Post Office either needs to resign or be sacked.
Responding, Mr Hollinrake:
- Said that he was aware of the incident with executives’ bonuses on Saturday 6 May and condeded that the Department should have been made aware of it earlier.
- Mentioned that he met with Tom Cooper and other officials yesterday and that Mr Cooper accepted that mistakes were made.
- Said that Mr Cooper is already due to leave his role as shareholder representative.
- Stated that criteria for annual bonuses is published in the Post Office’s annual report.
- Committed to coming back to the House to report on the findings of the Government’s independent review into Post Office bonuses.
- Admitted that he thought that the Post Office needs to change its culture in terms of its approach to these matters and wider matters.
Responding for the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets Seema Malhotra MP:
- Said that a “new low” had been reached in the Post Office Horizon scandal.
- Said that this scandal is one of the greatest injustices in modern British history and the recent incident regarding bonuses has added insult to injury.
- Stated that the Post Office has serious questions in terms of corporate governance to answer.
- Said that she was glad to hear of the investigation inquiry being undertaken by the Government, but that the Government itself has questions to answer.
- Asked the Minister to clarify what role the non-Executive Director of Post Office Tom Cooper played.
- Stated that the Post Office and the Government must now convince the British public that it understands the scale of what happened, and that compensation is being treated as an urgent priority.
- Highlighted that victims have had their “lives ruined” and need more than repeated apologies.
- Said that the Government must get a grip of what happened and how it was allowed to take place.
- Asked the Minister to confirm how and when the Government became aware of the bonus payments, and if the Government asked for the bonuses to be repaid.
- Also asked if the interest on compensation given to victims will be exempt from tax.
Responding, Mr Hollinrake:
- Said that he and other officials became aware of bonus payments on Saturday 6 May, and that UK Government Investments (UKGI) representatives became aware in April 2023.
- Mentioned that the Government have asked questions about why it was not made aware at this stage.
- Highlighted that the Government is determined to resolve the tax problem that people in the Historical Shortfall Scheme have suffered and this is being worked on at pace.
You can watch the debate on the BBC iPlayer website.