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Alan Bates deserves compensation, says No 10, after campaigner rejects offer

Campaigning former subpostmaster Alan Bates (House of Commons/PA)
Campaigning former subpostmaster Alan Bates (House of Commons/PA)

Post Office campaigner Alan Bates “deserves the right level of compensation” for his suffering, Downing Street has said, after the former subpostmaster rejected a “derisory” offer from the Government he said was only a sixth of what he had requested.

Mr Bates, whose two-decade fight for justice inspired the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office, said he would be turning down the “offensive” and “cruel” offer.

Labour said it was “hugely concerned” that former subpostmasters wronged in the scandal were not getting the financial redress to which they are entitled.

The Government confirmed plans for “full and fair compensation” to subpostmasters affected by the IT scandal in 2022, but has been criticised for its treatment of the group.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday: “Alan Bates is a distinguished campaigner and deserves the right level of compensation for the suffering he’s been through, that’s the same for all subpostmasters.

“Claims are looked at by external lawyers who look at the evidence and provide advice to officials and now anyone who is not content with their offer is eventually able to take their claim to an independent panel who can decide.”

He said January’s data shows there have been 59 claims this month, with 44 offers and 29 acceptances.

Government minister Laura Trott was questioned about delays in subpostmasters receiving offers after submitting claims to the compensation scheme.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We can’t make things happen overnight in Government.

“I absolutely commit to you that we will continue to look at this and see whether we’re getting it right.”

Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told ITV News: “The whole country feels that Alan Bates is a hero and I think people want to see people like Alan receive the compensation that they are entitled to.

“I still don’t think it will go to right the scale of this wrong, but I think it’s one thing that’s clearly necessary.

“There are three different compensation pots and the Government has already put aside £1 billion for the overall compensation pot, so the money should be there.

“And people like Alan should be getting what they need. So I’m hugely concerned because the process, as it is, should be delivering swift redress to people so clearly this needs looking at.”

Mr Bates told the Telegraph on Wednesday: “‘Full and fair’ might be his majesty’s Government’s interpretation, but in reality the offer is derisory, offensive and after all this time, yes, cruel.

“I will absolutely be turning this offer for financial redress down.

“It’s just a terrible way to treat human beings and I have heard from several subpostmasters who have received similarly derisory offers, while others are still waiting.”

He said the offer had been made on Wednesday, 111 days after his claim, prepared with the help of forensic accountants engaged by his lawyers, had been submitted.

“I have been in the queue along with all the others in the scheme, but if my case is an example of the way they are going to treat all cases, we may as well start looking at a legal action again and let the judiciary decide.”

Mr Bates was among more than 500 people who received an average of about £20,000 after the High Court ruled the Horizon contained “bugs, errors and defects”, in 2019.

Hundreds of Post Office branch managers were convicted of swindling money on the basis of evidence from Fujitsu’s flawed Horizon accounting system, which started being rolled out across the UK in 1999.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month announced a £75,000 offer for subpostmasters involved in a group legal action against the Post Office, with ministers setting aside up to £1 billion for compensation.

A separate scheme for those whose convictions were quashed offers a £600,000 payment, or potentially more if they go through a process of having their claim individually assessed.