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James Arbuthnot takes Post Office IT fight to House of Lords

James Arbuthnot takes his seat in the House of Lords and continues campaign for subpostmasters who claim to have been wronged by faulty Horizon IT system

Recently retired Conservative MP James Arbuthnot will continue to fight for subpostmasters that allege injustice at the hands of a Post Office IT system, as he takes his seat in the House of Lords.

Arbuthnot, who joined the house of Lords this week as Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, has been the voice of a group of 140 MPs campaigning for subpostmasters that have been fined – and even sent to prison – for offences they claim they have not committed.

Post Offices use an IT system developed by ICL/Fujitsu Services, called Horizon, for their accounts. Computer Weekly first revealed the stories of subpostmasters who had received heavy fines and even jail terms for alleged false accounting – which they blamed on the Horizon accounting system – in 2009.

The Post Office denies system-wide problems with Horizon. 

Arbuthnot told Computer Weekly he will "most definitely" continue to seek justice for subpostmasters that believe they have suffered at the hands of a faulty Post Office IT system. “I've told the responsible minister, the chief whip and the leader of the house,” he said.

In March 2015, following news of his retirement as an MP after 28 years, he said he remained determined to get to the bottom of the problems associated with Horizon.

Arbuthnot said debate in the Lords  has advantages. "...the minister with responsibility for the matter, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, is in the Lords, so that it is good for the discussion to be direct rather than at a somehow removed level."

"Second, it is good to be able to have the issue running in the two houses simultaneously.  That broadens the number of people who learn about the matter and who might feel inclined to join in.  It also expands the quality and quantity of the advice available - to me and others - as to how to resolve the issue to the benefit of the sub-postmasters, the Post Office and the country.  We can't continue to leave its resolution so desperately unsatisfactory.

"I am beginning to discover that in the House of Lords you actually have to win the argument, and, more than in the House of Commons, that also goes for ministers.  I'm looking forward to having a go at doing just that," added Arbithnot.

Alan Bates, a member of the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) pressure group, which was set up to campaign for the subpostmasters affected, said Arbuthnot had been a good supporter of the campaign.

“It is excellent news that he will continue to support the campaign,” said Bates.

The Criminal Courts Review Commission (CCRC) is reviewing subpostmasters' claims of wrongful prosecution.

Read Computer Weekly timeline of events

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