Campaigner Alan Bates says Post Office caused ‘harm and injustice’ as he appears at Horizon inquiry – UK politics live

Alan Bates: once I saw ‘harm and injustice’ I had to dedicate part of my life to this cause

At the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry, Alan Bates has said that he has dedicated a large part of his life to campaigning about the scandal because of the “harm and injustice” that he saw.

Appearing at Aldwych house in London, Bates, who was featured as a character in the ITV drama that drew so much focus to the scandal, said:

Once I’d started my individual little campaign and we found others along the way, and eventually we all joined up. It has required dedication, but secondly, it is a cause. I think it’s also stubbornness as well. But it’s … I mean, as you got to meet people, and realise it wasn’t just yourself. And you saw the harm, the injustice that had been descended upon them, it was something that you felt you had to deal with.

Alan Bates at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry
Alan Bates at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry Photograph: Reuters

He told the inquiry, which has been running for three years, that he had spent four times as long campaigning about Horizon as he had being a subpostmaster, although that had been the decision of the Post Office. He believed they terminated his contract because of his frequent complaints about the Horizon system.

Having used computerised sales software in other roles, Bates said he found the reporting aspects of the Horizon system limited.

Today’s session began with lead consul Jason Beer KC issuing a lengthy criticism of the Post Office for its repeated late discloure of documents to the inquiry, which he said had been “highly disruptive”.

Inquiry chair Wyn Williams said he was determined to continue the hearings on the present timetable, despite the difficulty of the Post Office failing to produce documents in a timely fashion, because the alternative, an adjournment, would be worse. He said he believed the inquiry should not last a day longer than necessary,


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Key events

The Post Office Horizon IT inquiry has heard that despite the government having told Alan Bates that it had a “hands off” relationship with the company, there was in fact back channel communication between the two parties.

A July 2013 email, sent from shareholder executive Mike Whitehead from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to Post Office staff, showed how the government requested a meeting with the Post Office to discuss how to respond to communications from Bates.

Bates said he was not aware of this at the time.

Bates has also accused the Post Office of simply trying to outspend campaigners legally to prevent their case making progress, and expressed surprise that in 2013 former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells had not offered to meet him to discuss what had been discovered by forensic accountants.

Alan Bates is continuing his evidence at the moment, and it is quite in the weeds of how the mediation scheme did not work. He has said that at one point it had become clear to him that the role of a new general counsel appointed by the Post Office was to try to find a way to wind up the scheme.

Downing Street has said that Rishi Sunak and the president of Rwanda Paul Kagame look forward to asylum seeker deportation flights departing from the UK to Rwanda in the spring.

In a read-out of the meeting today between prime minister Rishi Sunak and president of Rwanda Paul Kagame in London, PA Media quotes a Downing Street spokesperson saying:

Prime minister Rishi Sunak welcomed the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, to Downing Street today.

The prime minister reflected on the 30-year anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda, noting the importance of this time of remembrance and that it is a reminder of just how far Rwanda has come. President Kagame thanked the prime minister for the UK’s continued support.

They discussed regional security and the deteriorating conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The prime minister underlined the importance of a political process to resolve the situation.

The leaders also discussed the pioneering UK and Rwanda migration and economic development partnership, which will break the business model of criminal gangs risking lives at sea, and the prime minister updated President Kagame on the next stages of the legislation in parliament.

Both leaders looked forward to flights departing to Rwanda in the spring.

The testimony of Alan Bates has begun again at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry. Before the break he was saying that one of the problems with the later mediation scheme was that it would only work if both sides had gone in with good faith. However, he noted that the secretariat and funding for the scheme came from the Post Office.

His written testimony is now being quoted where he said that as the scheme progressed the original intention to uncover the truth became replaced by a culture of blaming the applicant. He cited delays in document disclosure as an example of them not engaging.

Notably the Post Office has been criticised by Jason Beer KC the leading counsel at the inquiry for repeated late disclosure which has described as “highly disrupting”.

Jane Croft

The Sun lost £66m last year and its online audience dropped by 4 million readers as the newspaper continued to grapple with the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal.

Total losses at the Murdoch-owned tabloid have now reached £515m over the past five years, amid declining print sales and the high cost of paying damages to victims of illegal information gathering.

The Sun is still facing a number of lawsuits including one brought by Prince Harry in a case that is due to go to trial before the high court next year.

Read more here: The Sun loses £66m amid costs from phone-hacking scandal


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Update – a reader emails me to say that you may be able to watch the YouTube feed here. I can’t, as for some reason it is blocked on my YouTube account. Maybe it was Ed Davey’s doing, conspiring to stop me spelling his name wrong every two minutes.

The Post Office Horizon IT inquiry has broken now for another 15 minutes. Just to put you in the picture, I have got access to a video feed via Reuters, but they don’t seem to have put the live video on the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry which is why I haven’t embedded it, apologies.

Alan Bates has said that he had long contended that an intermediate third party should have been introduced, saying he had heard stories of subpostmasters with huge losses that they were not declaring to the Post Office because they were so scared of the reaction.

In the morning session he had been highly critical of the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP), which he said had been no help.

During the lunch break the present chief executive of the federation said the testimony was “difficult to hear”.

Calum Greenhow said he could not address the individual issues raised by Bates as it was “a long time ago”, but said “Whilst we can’t go back and undo what has been done, the NFSP of today is committed to helping the inquiry in any way we can. I am sorry for what he and others experienced.”

Alan Bates has resumed giving evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey was specifically mentioned in the morning session at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry, with Alan Bates saying that he took offence at the way his initial attempt to meet Davey when he bacame post office minister at the start of the coaltion government in 2010 was rebuffed.

The inquiry was read a briefing note given to Davey, which suggested the minister meet with Bates when there was the potential the story might gain more media traction, but advised him to avoid committing to any kind of investigation into the Horizon IT system and to regard the meeting as “sub judice”.

Since the morning session finished the Liberal Democrats have issued a statement, saying:

Ed has said that he’s sorry that he didn’t see through the Post Office’s lies, and that it took him five months to meet Mr Bates.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to ensure postmasters get full and fair compensation urgently, and Post Office executives who lied for decades are held properly to account.

During the session Bates said he was more annoyed with the department and civil servants than individual ministers.


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If you were wondering what the governor of the Bank of England was up to today, I can tell you that Andrew Bailey, alongside chief cashier Sarah John, have been at Buckingham Palace presenting King Charles with the first banknotes to feature his likeness.

King Charles is presented with the first bank notes featuring his portrait. Photograph: Yui Mok/Reuters

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has hosted president of Rwanda Paul Kagame in Downing Street today. Sunak has spent month trying to unsuccessfully push through legislation that would allow asylum seekers who reach the UK to be deported to Rwanda to be processed and remain there, and the government is attempting to pass a bill that will declare Rwanda a “safe” country.

Rishi Sunak meets with president of Rwanda Paul Kagame in Downing Street. Photograph: Alberto Pezzali/Reuters

PA Media reports a Home Office spokesperson said: “As the government of Rwanda have made repeatedly clear, they stand ready to host thousands of migrants under the partnership.

“The scheme is uncapped and provisions are in place to provide accommodation as required. We remain focused on getting flights off the ground as soon as possible.”

Labour has demanded “urgent clarity” on the Rwanda scheme after the Times reported that most of the properties on a new housing estate earmarked for asylum seekers deported from the UK have been sold to local buyers.

Shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said: “Now it seems there will be even less capacity to house those that are removed. The Tories’ so-called plan is unravelling by the day and taxpayers are footing the bill. It’s time for change.”

Former home secretary Suella Braverman had described the homes as “beautiful” when she visited them in March 2023, saying at the time “During my trip I have had the opportunity to visit housing projects supported through our partnership that people seeking refuge will come to call home.”

The then home secretary Suella Braverman tours a construction training academy in March 2023 in Kigali during her visit to Rwanda and meets graduate builders who will be helping to construct houses intended to house asylum seekers deported from the UK. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/Stefan Rousseau / PA

Striking junior doctors, consultants and specialists have suspended industrial action in Wales after agreeing to formal negotiations about pay with the Welsh Government.

The British Medical Association’s three branches of practice – junior doctors, consultants and specialist doctors – voted to suspend the strikes and begin talks with the Welsh government, PA Media reports.

Recently installed first minister Vaughan Gething said further funding had been identified to support the negotiations.

Daniel Boffey

Daniel Boffey

Here is an excerpt from Daniel Boffey’s article summing up the morning’s evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry:

Alan Bates, who has led the campaign to rectify what has been called the UK’s biggest miscarriage of justice, has accused the Post Office of spending two decades “denying, lying, defending and attempting to discredit and silence me”.

He also described the response of the former Post Office minister, and now leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey to his appeals for help as “disappointing and offensive”.

“[The government] should have been involved far earlier,” Bates said of the conduct of the Post Office’s sole shareholder while giving evidence on Tuesday morning.

In his first appearance at a public inquiry into the scandal, Bates, 69, whose battle over the injustice was the focus of a celebrated ITV drama, laid out the events that led to his campaign, including the termination of his own contract in 2003.

Bates, who took over his Post Office branch in Llandudno in 1998, told how he had repeatedly complained during his tenure that the Horizon accounting system could not be relied upon and that it was wrong that operators were being obliged to make good on shortfalls.

His contract was terminated without any reason being given in November 2003.

To laughter in the inquiry room, Bates was then shown internal documents unearthed by the inquiry’s lawyers in which Bates’s’ termination was said to be due to him being “unmanageable” and referred to him as someone who “struggled with accounting”.

Speaking at an inquiry session in Aldwych house in London, Bates responded: “It’s just they decided they were going to make a lesson of me.” He added that his determination to uncover the faults of the Horizon scandal was due to “stubbornness” and a sense of injustice after learning that hundreds of others had also been affected.

Read more here: Alan Bates tells inquiry Post Office spent decades ‘lying and trying to discredit me’

Away from the UK, Ireland’s Dáil has confirmed Simon Harris’s nomination as the new taoiseach.

Next, he will be formally appointed as Leo Varadkar’s replacement by Ireland’s president.

You can follow updates from that in our Europe blog.

Scotland’s first minister has warned that a vote for the Greens by Scots at the upcoming general election would be a “wasted vote”.

PA Media reports Humza Yousaf told the National newspaper that votes for the Greens would split the pro-independence vote. He said he has “a great amount of time” for the Scottish Greens, who entered the Scottish government in 2021, but cautioned:

In a Westminster election, particularly when we’re facing a challenge from Labour, the danger of voting Greens – who are not going to win a single seat in the general election in Scotland, I think they would be the first to admit that – is that would be a wasted vote.

If you want to advance the cause of independence, if you want a party that aligns with your values – whether that’s social justice or on the climate or wellbeing economy – then the SNP is the party that you need to be voting for.

Former armed forces minister Heappey: both Labour and Tories should commit to spending 3% of GDP on defence

Former armed forces minister James Heappey has said the Conservatives and Labour should commit to spending 3% of GDP on defence in their election manifestos.

He told listeners to the Today programme this morning:

The UK should step up and show some leadership within the European parts, or even the non-US part of Nato, and should commit 2.5% of GDP on defence spending at the Nato 75th anniversary summit in Washington this summer.

And I would hope that both of the parties that hope to form the government after the next general election would have a 3% commitment in their manifestos for delivery in the next parliament.

On 15 March, Heappey announced he was to step down as armed forces minister, and would leave the House of Commons at the next general election

The Post Office Horizon IT inquiry has broken for lunch for the day. Here’s a video clip from earlier when Alan Bates explained the harm he thought the Post Office had done.

Alan Bates says ‘harm and injustice’ inspired his Post Office Horizon scandal campaigning – video

Alan Bates is saying that he holds the civil service more responsible for the lack of progress than ministers. He says:

I do think a lot of the ministers, a lot of them come in for the stick in the inquiry, and all the rest of it. I’m sure some of it’s deserved, but I actually hold the department, and I hold the civil service more to blame in a lot of these instances, why things never progressed at the time. Because I’m sure between them and Post Office briefing ministers that were briefing them in the direction they wanted to brief them.

He suggests that the department must get “nagged” on a lot of issues, and he suspected that civil servants just tried to stall all of them until they saw which ones were getting more traction. He repeats that he blames officials more than minister.


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