Lord Maude of Horsham debates involving the Department for Business and Trade during the 2019 Parliament

Horizon: Compensation and Convictions

Lord Maude of Horsham Excerpts
Wednesday 10th January 2024

(5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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The noble Lord highlights perhaps one of the most cynical aspects of this terrible case: each of the sub-postmasters was told that they were alone and that this was happening only to them. We have all seen the programme and we all know the people in our communities who do these vital jobs. They work alone in small shops in small towns and villages and do not necessarily have the support that they need. That was perhaps one of the most invidious parts of the drama series and, at the end of the day, perhaps the help given by one or two constituency MPs was to believe these folks and get them together, which resulted in the group of 555 coming together. It is very relevant to say, “Why does the little guy have to keep convincing the big guy? What is going on?” Again, I know that the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice are now very focused on this issue and that they will come out of this with some serious questions that need to be answered. That will be part of the follow-up to the Williams inquiry. Let us find out exactly what happened. Out of this, I think that some serious questions will be asked about future processes and that this House will come back to this issue more in the coming years.

Lord Maude of Horsham Portrait Lord Maude of Horsham (Con)
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My Lords, nothing that is done at this stage can even get close to putting right these terrible wrongs, which will be a dark stain on our polity for a long time. The whole House will welcome what is now being done, which is the best that can be done at this stage. I will focus on the issue of the company, Fujitsu. In 2010, we found that it was deeply entrenched across the whole of central government. Its performance in many of these contracts was woeful, and the procurement system regulations then in place made it impossible—although we tried—to prevent it getting further contracts. Does my noble friend agree that, if that company has any sense of honour, let alone a concern for its reputation, it should come forward very quickly, without waiting for the results of these inquiries, which we know will take some time, and make a big ex gratia payment towards the compensation that is rightly being paid?

Lord Offord of Garvel Portrait Lord Offord of Garvel (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for that. He speaks with great experience of the inner workings of Whitehall, obviously, and has seen the way that these anomalies arise. The public would be entitled to say, “Why has this company been so embedded for so long and made so much money out of the taxpayer?” So, with emotions running high at the moment, we understand the calls for compensation. It has been made very clear in the other House that the cost of this should not fall solely on the taxpayer. If there are other sources of compensation, there must be access. I must say that, if I were the chief executive of a company in this situation, I would be thinking about that matter very carefully.