It is so important that we do what we can to help the victims of the Post Office Scandal. The improper prosecutions were an unacceptable miscarriage of justice, and we must now work to set the record straight and achieve justice for those involved. The accounts of the impacts that these events had on the lives and careers of those involved are deeply upsetting.
When I spoke in the House on the 8th of January, I made it clear that the removal of Paula Vennells’ CBE is a step in the right direction, but that it is simply not enough. This is not a question of retribution but is a question of justice. I am sure that the victims of this scandal who were accused of wrongdoing, be that negligently, recklessly or deliberately, must be delivered justice. Furthermore, those who went about imposing those convictions must be investigated and be held to proper account in court.
We must establish what went wrong and give the victims the justice that they deserve. We must also make sure that individuals who have committed wrong doing are held directly accountable. The Government has decided to convert what was a public inquiry to a statutory footing. This decision will allow the Chair, Sir Wyn Williams, the necessary powers and time to conduct an in-depth analysis of the decision making processes that led to the scandal.
The Government has also made plans to assist those postmasters in attaining compensation. The Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill will help those who exposed the scandal to receive the compensation they deserve. This means that the somewhat arbitrary deadline set previously will not impede the entitlement to proper and deserved compensation. The current deadline for compensation claims is set as soon as possible, with the current deadline of August 2024. However, given that there are complex claims being made, we must be sure not to rush in making decisions on claims. This may mean that some claims take longer, but let me assure you that investigations will be conducted thoroughly and in good time.
To date, more than £148 million has been paid to 2,700 victims across all compensation schemes, 93 convictions have been overturned and, of those, 30 have agreed full and final settlements. Just over £30 million has been paid out in compensation to those with overturned convictions, including interim payments.
Of the original 555 courageous postmasters who took the Post Office to court and who first brought the Horizon scandal into the public eye, £27 million has been paid out to 477 claimants in addition to the net £11 million received through the December 2019 settlement. Forty-seven members of the original Group Litigation Order (GLO) group have also received compensation following the overturning of their convictions, totalling more than £17 million. The Government has received full claim forms from 59 of those postmasters who are eligible for the GLO scheme and issued 43 offers. There have been 21 full and final settlements paid and a further seven full and final settlements accepted. That brings the total number of accepted full and final GLO settlements to 28.
It is worth noting that the 2,417 postmasters who claimed through the original Horizon shortfall scheme have all received offers of compensation. Around 85 per cent have accepted those offers, worth over £107 million. In total, over £91 million has been paid out through the scheme, with the Post Office now dealing with late applications and with cases where initial offers were not accepted.
The irreparable damage done to individuals and families cannot be undone, but justice can still be achieved. I can assure you that the Government and all my colleagues are unanimous in our desire to help those affected, and will continue in our work to help those victims of this horrible scandal.