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MPs to ponder ‘sanctioning’ ex-Post Office chief over statements to Parliament

03 Apr 2024 3 minute read
Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells – Image: Anthony Devlin

MPs are set to consider “sanctioning” the former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells after a further set of leaked recordings appeared to raise questions about her statements to Parliament on the Horizon scandal.

Covert recordings obtained by ITV and Channel 4 show Ms Vennells, who led the Post Office at the height of the scandal, was told in 2013 that there had been allegations the Horizon system could be accessed remotely, something she later told a committee of MPs was not possible.

It later emerged that subpostmasters’ Horizon accounts could be accessed remotely by staff working at Fujitsu’s headquarters in Bracknell.

Responding to the recordings, Labour MP Liam Byrne, who chairs the Commons Business and Trade Committee, said he was concerned Ms Vennells may have potentially misled Parliament.

He said: “We are deeply concerned by the latest revelations regarding the Post Office and will be exploring options for penalising the leadership that presided over the scandal. All options are on the table, including the Commons exercising its powers in relation to contempt of Parliament.

“We have to make absolutely sure that we don’t jeopardise any future legal action or undermine Sir Wyn Williams’ public inquiry. I will present my committee with options upon Parliament’s return later this month for careful consideration.”

Warned

In a call on July 2 2013, an independent investigator warned Ms Vennells not to categorically deny that Horizon could be accessed by Fujitsu staff in case “some bloody whistleblower” contradicted her.

Seven years later, in a letter to a parliamentary committee, Ms Vennells said she had been told by Fujitsu that the system could not be accessed remotely.

The recordings do not appear to contain any explicit statement confirming that Horizon could be accessed remotely.

Ms Vennells has already handed back her CBE as a result of her role in the scandal.

‘Deepest apologies’

Fujitsu declined to comment directly on the recordings or Mr Byrne’s statement, but a spokesperson said: “The Fujitsu Group regards this matter with the utmost seriousness and offers its deepest apologies to the subpostmasters and their families.

“The UK statutory public inquiry, to which our UK subsidiary is providing full co-operation, is examining complex events that have unfolded over many years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to this co-operation.

“Based on the findings of the inquiry, we will also be working with the UK Government on the appropriate actions, including contribution to compensation. The Fujitsu Group hopes for a swift resolution that ensures a just outcome for the victims.”

The Post Office and Ms Vennells have been approached for comment.


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Hywel
Hywel
14 days ago

So Fujitsu are working with the UK government ‘including a contribution towards compensation’.
Shall we start with a figure of £1 Billion, and go from there?

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