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Carmichael says government must go further to restore postmaster trust

Alistair Carmichael MP

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael has called for the government to go further to restore postmaster relations with the Post Office following a scandal which led to postmasters being falsely accused of fraud.

Speaking in the House of Commons during an urgent question to the minister for postal services, Mr Carmichael called for a judge-led inquiry after the announcement of an independent review into the Horizon dispute.

The Post Office prosecuted postmasters over missing money despite having evidence its own computer system could be to blame. Hundreds were accused after the Horizon system showed cash shortfalls at their branches.

Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said: “I hope that when he returns to the department today he will tell his officials and tell also the Post Office senior management that this review just isn’t going to cut it.

“This is a complex case and that is why it requires a judge-led inquiry, and that is what will happen eventually, so why not just cut to the quick and do it now?”

Responding for the Government, Paul Scully MP said: “The point is the terms of reference within this review are the same as a judge-led inquiry.

“I do not want an inquiry that lasts 13 years and that sub-postmasters are going to come back time and time again with no justice. This is something that I have been pushing on from the moment that I found out the detail about it, and that is why I am going to drive this through to make sure that the answers are heard and that independent chair gets to the bottom of this and gets some answers.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said: “The minister’s response was inadequate. Postmasters are vital parts of our communities, especially in the outer isles where they sit at the heart of island life. This scandal and the Post Office’s woeful reaction to it have undermined confidence in the treatment of our postmasters. The government must do more to repair that trust, starting with a proper judicial inquiry.

“It bears repeating that local post offices have proven their essential role once again during the Covid-19 crisis. We have to ensure that future postmasters are not put off by this scandal.”

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