House of Commons


MPs have criticised the tone taken by Business Minister Jo Swinson in her statement on software defects in the Post Office's Horizon computer system.

The Post Office has admitted defects have occurred within a computer system at the centre of a bitter dispute with some of its 11,500 sub-postmasters across the UK.

More than 100 say they were wrongly prosecuted or made to repay money after computers calculated non-existent shortfalls. Some of them lost their homes as a result and a few went to prison.

Addressing the Commons on 9 July 2013, Ms Swinson said a "minute proportion" of the 68,000 computer system users had been affected.

She told MPs the government could not get involved in reviewing the convictions of sub postmasters who believe they were wrongly prosecuted because of defects in the system.

"These are matters which can only properly be dealt with by the relevant judicial authorities," she added.

But veteran Conservative Peter Bone told Ms Swinson she had "got it wrong" on this occasion and suggested the Attorney General should look into the cases.

"I think the House is very concerned about a very small number of people who have had their lives ruined," Mr Bone said.

"It's no good to say 'oh they can appeal and do this and that'. We need proactive action from the government."

The SNP's Angus MP Mike Weir said that while the numbers were small the people who had been affected had suffered "terrible consequences".

Labour MP Kevan Jones and Tory Jonathan Lord both highlighted the impact the problems have had on sub postmasters in their constituencies.

Tory Philip Hollobone said the Post Office should set up a legal fund to review each of the cases "because many will have pleaded guilty to false accounting given the situation with the legal service and the legal advice they received at the time".

Labour said the Post Office report was "disturbing".

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