Kemi Patenok says the former post office chair is 'made up'

  • By Michael Race
  • Business Correspondent, BBC News

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Ex-post office chair 'seeks revenge' – Patenock

Business Secretary Kemi Patenok has called it “absolutely false” that the former head of the post office told him to delay compensation for deputy postmasters.

Henry Stanton said he had been told to stop paying the government, ostensibly to help the state fund, “to shake it up at the polls.”

But Ms Badenoch accused him of spreading “constant lies” and presenting “made up stories”.

Mr Stanton was firm in his views.

“Mr Stanton is not one to resort to fiction or invention and decided to go public out of a desire to ensure the public is fully aware of the facts surrounding the many failures that have led to the dire abandonment of postmasters in this country,” a statement released on his behalf said late Monday.

The response came after Ms Badenoch issued a statement in the House of Commons in which she said Mr Stanton's claims were a “blatant attempt to retaliate following his dismissal”.

Delaying compensation will not benefit us,” he added. “It doesn't have a significant impact on revenue—it's a crazy thing to even suggest.”

He said there was “no evidence” that an officer had told Mr Stanton to stop paying, then added: “If such a thing was actually said, Mr Stanton would have to come up with the evidence.”

In response, a statement to Mr Stanton said he “stood by the comment he made in a file note he emailed to himself and colleagues at the time, so it is traceable to a Post Office server”.

Mr Stanton himself added: “In the interests of business and in fairness to postmasters, there was rapid progress in acquittals and compensation for wrongfully convicted postmasters was very generous, but until then we had seen no real movement. After Mr Bates' show [on ITV].

“We'll leave it to others to conclude why.”

The Post Office told the BBC that “it would not be appropriate for us to comment on confidential emails that may or may not have been sent”.

Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of deputy postmasters and postmistresses were falsely accused by a computer system called Horizon that made it look like money was missing from their branches.

Some deputy postmasters went to jail wrongfully and many were financially ruined. Some have died.

The government has promised to overturn sentences and pay compensation, but concerns have been raised about the speed and complexity of getting financial relief to victims, with just 33 claims fully resolved.

Mr Stanton, who was on the board of companies ranging from ITV to WH Smith, was appointed head of the Post Office in December 2022 but was sacked by Ms Badenoch, who last month said “new leadership” was needed. Corruption.

“Early on, I was told by a senior person — I made a file note of it — to stop spending on compensation and replacing Horizon, and put it in quotation marks,” he said. Paper.

“It's not an anti-postmaster thing, it's straight funds. I didn't ask because I said: 'I have no part in it – I'm not here to sway the election, that's not it. It's the right thing for postmasters to do.'”

When Mr Stanton was sacked, Ms Badenoch told him: “Somebody's got to take the rap.”

image source, Parliament of England

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Henry Stanton stepped down as Postmaster General last month

The Government has denied claims about compensation delays and Ms Patenock hit back at Mr Stanton, calling his comments “disgraceful”.

On Monday, he told MPs the reason for sacking Mr Stanton was “because there were serious concerns about his conduct as chairman, including those raised by other directors on the board”.

“During his tenure, a formal investigation was launched into allegations of Mr Stanton's conduct, which included serious matters such as bullying,” he said, adding that concerns were raised about his “willingness to co-operate” with the investigation.

“It is extremely disappointing that he has been elected to continue spreading falsehoods, feed journalists fabricated stories and leak discussions held in confidence,” he added.

In response to the bullying allegations, Mr Stanton's spokesman said: “This is the first time any such allegations have been made known”.

“Mr Stanton was not aware of any aspect of his conduct that would lead to such allegations,” a statement added. “They were certainly not raised by the Secretary of State at any stage, certainly not during the conversation leading up to Mr Stanton's dismissal.

“Such behavior would be completely out of character in any case.”

Late on Monday, a transcript of the phone call to fire Mr Stanton on January 27 was released. It noted that the Business Secretary had received a briefing on “management issues at the Post Office” and that the complaints against Mr Stanton were “so serious” that the Government should intervene.

The readout did not include specific words “someone should take the rap”, but Mr Stanton said he stood by “his character of the conversation”.

Jonathan Reynolds, Labour's shadow business secretary, said: “There are two completely different accounts, one from the former head of the Post Office and one from the Secretary of State”.

“Only one of these accounts can be true. “What we need now is transparency and scrutiny.”

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Liam Byrne, Labor MP and chairman of the trade and commerce committee, told the BBC he had approached Mr Stanton to attend a session next week.

The panel will hear evidence from Post Office chief executive Nick Reid and Alan Bates

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