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Sir Alan Bates welcomes MP’s elevation to House of Lords

Former Labour MP has moved to the House of Lords where he will continue campaigning for justice for victims of the Horizon scandal

Recently knighted Alan Bates has welcomed the elevation of former MP Kevan Jones – a long-time supporter of the former subpostmaster’s campaign for justice – to the House of Lords.

The Upper House now has two of the loudest voices supporting subpostmasters over the past two decades, as Jones joins James Arbuthnot on the red benches.

Bates, the campaigner who has fronted the subpostmasters’ fight for justice for a quarter of a century, said: “It’s good news that Kevan has been elevated to the house of Lords. I am sure he will continue with his support from the Lords with James Arbuthnot. They have both been great supporters of us for many years.”

Jones was made a Life Peer as part of Parliament’s dissolution prior to the general election on 5 July.

He has campaigned for many years for justice for subpostmasters affected by the Post Office Horizon scandal, where subpostmasters were blamed and punished for accounting shortfalls caused by computer errors.

Jones became involved when representing Tom Brown, a former subpostmaster in his constituency of North Durham, who lost everything after being wrongly blamed and forced to repay thousands of pounds of unexplained losses, which didn’t actually exist.

Jones told Computer Weekly that he will continue to campaign for Horizon victims, as well as those that lost livelihoods after encountering problems with the Post Office Capture system, in a campaign that he began earlier this year.

The former Labour MP said the new Labour government “needs to carry on the progress” that has already been made in seeking justice for those affected.

At the time of writing, the government was yet to appoint a Post Office Minister, but Jonathan Reynolds, who became secretary of state for the Department of Business and Trade, which owns the Post Office, is “supportive” of getting justice for subpostmasters and “understands” the issues, according to Jones.

Jones joins fellow long time campaigner Arbuthnot, who also joined the fight early when he took on the case of Jo Hamilton, a constituent when he was MP for North East Hampshire. He was made a peer in 2015, at the time vowing to continue his fight for justice for subpostmasters affected by the scandal.

Although this was six years into his and subpostmasters’ campaigning, back then the aim was getting the attention of other MPs and where possible the press and the public.

Today, following the very public unravelling of the scandal through a statutory public inquiry and an ITV drama and documentary about the scandal, it is about getting financial redress for victims and holding those responsible for the scandal to account.

Prior to its huge landslide victory in the general election, a Labour spokesperson said: “Subpostmasters have been vindicated in their courageous search for justice after so many lost their livelihoods, liberty and even lives because the Post Office wrongly felt workers were inherently dishonest, while technology was infallible. 

“Labour is clear that anyone found to be responsible for this injustice facing the full consequences of their actions, and we will continue to push for justice for those who have been so badly wronged.”

Conservative peer Arbuthnot said that he will support Labour in “exactly the same way as I supported the Conservatives, by setting out what I believe is the correct approach”, adding: “If they want me to continue serving on the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board (which I think does still have important work to do), I shall.  If they don’t – and it’s entirely a matter for them – then I shall continue to speak about the matter and offer my views from the backbenches in the House of Lords.”

He said that the legislation exonerating hundreds of postmasters, which passed through Parliament “with the support of almost everybody in both Houses of Parliament”, means a “huge step forward has already been taken, but there is more still to be done”.

“We need to ensure that payment is made speedily to those who have been exonerated as well as to everyone else who has suffered through this dreadful saga, and we need to ensure that those responsible for what happened are held to account for it,” added Arbuthnot. “But perhaps even more important, we must examine the failings of our institutions – including the failings in government oversight and our legal system – and bring in changes designed to ensure that we do better in the future.”

The Post Office scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters and the problems they suffered due to accounting software. It is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history (see below for timeline of Computer Weekly articles about the scandal, since 2009).

Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal.

Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story.

Timeline: Computer Weekly articles about the scandal since 2009

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