‘Dead duck’ Post Office should be sold to Amazon for £1, says campaigner Alan Bates

'Dead duck' Post Office should be sold to Amazon for £1, says campaigner Alan Bates

Former sub-postmaster and lead campaigner Alan Bates has called for the Post Office to be sold to the likes of Amazon for £1 as he described it as “a dead duck”.

He led a group of 555 sub-postmasters who took the Post Office to the High Court over the scandal, which was settled in December 2019.

Despite the public outcry after recent ITV drama Mr Bates v The Post Office, and government action, compensation schemes for victims of the Horizon IT scandal have not become speedier or fairer, he said.

Appearing before MPs on the Business and Trade Committee on Tuesday, Mr Bates called for the Post Office to be removed from administering compensation schemes and said it would be “a money pit for the taxpayer for years to come”.

He told the committee he had considered getting all the former sub-postmasters involved in the initial High Court case to “stand as MPs when the next election comes”, adding: “Then we’ll sort it out once and for all.”

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When asked if he was reassured the government has a grip of the redress process, Mr Bates said: “No.

“I’m afraid it’s very disappointing… I can’t see any end to it.”

The best thing to bring about faster and fairer justice would be to remove the Post Office from schemes, he said.

“Take them out of the system. Send someone in to do the job for them, get rid of our Post Office out of any of these schemes. That’s the best thing you can do,” he told MPs.

Those dealing with claims do so from an “ivory tower”, he said.

“Those who are making the decisions about the actual claims, or what claims are going to be made, do not meet the victims face-to-face and discuss it with them.

“It’s all done from an ivory tower from somewhere else and ticking box and that’s it, their job is done and out of the way.”

Cultural problems within the organisation are persistent and will remain, Mr Bates warned.

“It’s been the same for donkey’s years. It will not change and you cannot change it,” he said.

What would help to speed up the compensation process is a reduction in the red tape, he added.

Read more: Bill to compensate victims will be more than £1bn

Another former sub-postmaster appearing before the committee, Tony Downey, shared his experience.

He said he had received a compensation offer that was “nowhere near where it should have been” after waiting for eight months for one.

“I think for most of us, we’re not believed, it’s as though we’re making this up,” Mr Downey told the parliamentary committee.

“They admit it on paper but when it comes to it, they’re not bothered.”

The Horizon IT scandal saw more than 700 sub-postmasters prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon system made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters are still awaiting compensation despite the government announcing those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.