This isn’t an act of benevolence. As the Post Office’s main shareholder, they had no choice given the Court of Appeal’s verdict earlier this year.
What is ominous is the continuing dithering over how to recompense hundreds of other subpostmasters who lost six figure sums, and their livelihoods in many instances, in civil action when erroneously blamed for fraudulent accounting errors that were caused, in fact, by a malfunctioning computer system – and how Post Office bosses, officials and ministers covered this up.
This is simply not good enough – a point made by Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake when he highlighted the plight of former Bridlington postmaster Lee Castleton who was shunned by customers, lost his savings and declared bankrupt after having to defend himself in the High Court.
The backbencher said Mr Castleton had received just £28,000 recompense after losing £400,000. “That is simply unfair and that route for compensation cannot persist,” he warned Ministers.
I agree. I also concur with Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis whose question to Paul Scully, the Small Business Minister, on this issue was so serious – and statesmanlike – that it deserves wider public consumption.
“The Horizon scandal obviously ruined many hundreds of lives, and the whole House will welcome the Government stepping in to meet the bill for compensation,” said the former Brexit Secretary.
“However, the involvement of the Treasury in previous compensation schemes – Equitable Life comes to mind, but others too – has not always been wholly beneficial.
“Does my honourable Friend agree that we must not allow arbitrary Treasury rules to limit the compensation paid to these postmasters, whose lives have often been completely ruined by the process – not simply the financial process, but the emotional and social damage?”
In fairness Mr Scully acknowledged that this was “an important point”. “Clearly the Treasury has these rules to make sure it gets the best value for taxpayers’ money but, none the less, some things go beyond that,” he said.
Given this reference to the Treasury, the onus is now on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to confirm if he is on the side of innocent postmasters – or not? Let’s hope his answer doesn’t get lost in the post...
EVEN before Boris Johnson declared Omicron variant to be a national emergency during his Covid address to the nation, leading doctors had already concluded that there would need to be a lockdown of sorts in January to prevent the NHS – and exhausted staff – from being overwhelmed.
Yet, while they’re the first to acknowledge the extra public funding that has been made available, they’re also of the view that this spending is counter-productive unless the Government gets to grips with social care at very long last.
Instead there’s an acceptance that switching more money to social care, thereby enabling more frail and elderly people to be looked after in residential homes or their own houses, will help free up hospital beds – and, in turn, make it easier for doctors to treat Covid patients and make inroads into the now record waiting lists that currently exist.
Put like this, it is eminently sensible advice – the problem is the absence of a booster dose of common sense in the corridors of power.
I SUGGEST that the Government thinks again if it intends to foist Tory peer Patrick McLoughlin on this region as the new chair of Transport for the North.
Patrick who? He’s the former Midlands MP who was an unremarkable Transport Secretary for three years before being succeeded by the calamitous Chris Grayling.
Having scaled back TfN’s funding and powers, it appears that Grant Shapps – the current Transport Secretary – wants to impose a weak-willed ‘yes man’ to acquiesce to the London government’s whims.
And, frankly, it would be hypocritical if McLoughlin took up the job in the wake of a speech that he delivered in Leeds after the 2015 election. “We created Transport for the North (TfN) to bring cities together...so the North can shape its own future,” he declared.
That’s not happening so why does McLoughlin think he can support the Government’s current approach?
IN a rare and welcome outbreak of cross-party consensus, Hull East MP Karl Turner’s call in Parliament this week for a National Lost Trawlermen’s Memorial Day clearly resonated with fishing communities around Britain and I hope it is taken on board.
Yet, coming ahead of tomorrow night’s 40th anniversary of the Penlee lifeboat tragedy when eight RNLI volunteers perished as they went to the aid of the vessel Union Star after its engines failed in heavy seas, any tribute should remember all those lost at sea.
Even now, I remember the shock when the loss of the lifeboat Solomon Browne was reported and its impact on the proud Cornish community of Penlee where lights continue to be dimmed on the night of December 19 each year in an poignant act of remembrance. It should be a national event.
And, as the nation’s attention again turns to the Covid emergency, it’s another reminder – if one was needed – that Britain must never take its volunteer rescuers for granted, and especially at Christmas.
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