Sunak declines to back under fire Post Office boss Read

Sunak declines to back under fire Post Office boss Read

Rishi Sunak has declined to say whether he has confidence in the chief executive of the crisis-hit Post Office, Nick Read, following confirmation of an investigation into his conduct.

The issue was put to him at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons after news of the probe was explosively revealed on Tuesday by ex-chairman Henry Staunton in evidence to a committee of MPs.

Mr Staunton divulged that it was the culmination of an 80-page report by a former head of human resources at the Post Office, as he maintained a war of words with the government and his former employer over events leading up to his own dismissal.

In answer to the confidence question over Mr Read, Mr Sunak replied: “It would clearly be inappropriate for me to comment on an investigation before it has been completed.

Money latest
Tax cuts and child benefit change – budget speculation

“Our focus remains working closely with the Post Office to ensure it delivers justice for postmasters caught up in this historic scandal and that is why we will imminently bring forward legislation that we promised.”

On Tuesday, asked if the government and No 10 had confidence in Mr Read, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Yes.”

More on Post Office Scandal

The Post Office is in meltdown over the historic Horizon IT system scandal that saw more than 700 subpostmasters prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015.

Faulty software, designed by Japanese giant Fujitsu, had made it look as though money was missing from their branches.

While all parties involved in the process have publicly admitted that the focus should be on securing financial redress for the victims, progress has proved slow and become overshadowed this week by squabbling between key figures.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player


Post Office redress delay overshadowed by executive drama

Mr Staunton, fired by business secretary Kemi Badenoch in late January, had claimed this month that he had been told by a senior civil servant to go slow in processing subpostmaster compensation claims in the run-up to the general election.

The civil servant involved and the government have denied that was the case but he maintained that position under questions from the business and trade committee of MPs, saying he had been made the victim of a “smear campaign”.

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake told MPs on Wednesday that he “strongly rejected” the allegations, and described Mr Staunton’s decision to reveal details of the investigation into Mr Read as “highly unprofessional”.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Staunton says investigation was made into Nick Read

During an urgent question on the Post Office board and governance, Mr Hollinrake said: “The fact that Nick Read is being investigated is evidence that no one is untouchable and the Post Office culture is changing.

“An investigation is of course not evidence that allegations are accurate. While Nick Read has co-operated fully, Mr Staunton tried to block investigations looking into his conduct, it was this action as well as his attempt to bypass formal process to appoint a new director to the board, which led the Secretary of State (Ms Badenoch) to lose confidence in Mr Staunton.”

Mr Staunton had also told MPs on Tuesday that Mr Read had warned he was going to resign because he was “unhappy with his pay”.

Mr Hollinrake said in the Commons that, while in post, Mr Staunton had urged ministers to double Mr Read’s pay to prevent him quitting.

“I think on two occasions Mr Staunton sought to lobby or did lobby for a pay increase for Mr Read”, he said.

“He sought to double the overall package of Mr Read on those occasions.”