Horizon scandal piles more pressure on Tories as they face accusations of demanding compensation to victims is ‘stalled’ until after election

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The Horizon IT scandal of the hounding of over 900 completely innocent Post Office managers by the Post Office leading to multiple prosecutions for theft, fraud and false accounting took a sharp turn over the weekend, with the Tory government accused of deliberately stalling compensation payments to the victims.

They were wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 due to flaws in the Horizon accounting system built and operated by the Fujitsu company – a company that has gone on to be awarded further multi-billion pound contracts by the Tories.

The accusations surfaced in an interview published in the Sunday Times with the former Post Office chair Henry Staunton.

Staunton was brought in to take charge of the Post Office in December 2022 as a clean pair of hands to sort out the fallout from the Horizon IT scandal.

However, he was sacked by Tory Home Secretary Kemi Badenoch last month – a fate he only learned of through press reports.

In his bombshell interview, Staunton claimed that a senior civil servant had instructed him to stall compensation payments to victims so that the Tory government could ‘limp into the election’ with the lowest possible financial liability.

According to Staunton, he was told by this fairly senior person that: ‘It was not an anti-postmaster thing, it was just a straight financials’ that spending on compensation and the cost of replacing Horizon would have to come from the government purse as the Tories ‘limped’ into a general election.

If the Tories were forced to shell out billions in compensation and fixing or replacing Horizon it would make justifying all the tax cuts to the rich and corporations even more impossible than it already is.

On Monday Badenoch, under the protection of Parliamentary privilege, used the Commons to launch an attack on Staunton accusing him of ‘completely false’ accusations and that there was no proof he was instructed to delay compensations.

Staunton responded that the proof did in fact exist in the form of a note that he sent at the time to record the conversation which he emailed to himself and to colleagues and ‘which is therefore traceable on the Post Office server’.

The political crisis that has erupted over Horizon is engulfing the Tories and the Post Office, and it took a further turn yesterday when the BBC revealed that the Tory government under David Cameron knew the Post Office had ditched a secret investigation that could have proved the innocence of wrongly accused postmasters.

This secret investigation was ordered by the Post Office in 2015 to look at claims the Horizon accounting system could be remotely accessed and balances altered without the knowledge of postmasters – but this was abruptly ended in 2016 when some of the accused launched legal action against their convictions.

Tory ministers were informed the investigation had been ditched, according to records uncovered by the BBC, but remained silent while the Post Office and Fujitsu were publicly claiming that accounts could not be accessed and tampered with remotely right up to 2019.

Leading barrister Paul Marshall commentated that on the face of it ‘it discloses a conspiracy by the Post Office to pervert the course of justice.’

What the Horizon scandal has exposed, and continues to expose before the working class, is the reality that the Tories, corporations and the bosses treat ordinary working people with utter contempt.

It is a capitalist system that grinds workers into the ground to protect the profits of the bosses and companies and a Tory government that stands accused of wanting to hold up even the meagre compensation due to the victims of what has justly been called one of the greatest miscarriages of justice.

It is not just the Tories that are limping into the future but the entire rotten capitalist system, and the time has come to put both out of their misery by demanding the TUC call a general strike to kick out this Tory government and bring in a workers’ government and socialism.

Join the WRP and Young Socialists to build up the leadership required for the victory of the British socialist revolution – there is no time to lose.