Kemi Badenoch is accusing the Post Office chair, whom she fired, of seeking retribution.

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Kemi Badenoch has alleged that the Post Office chair, whom she fired, is seeking revenge through his explosive claims about the government’s management of the Horizon scandal.

On Monday, the secretary of the business sector publicly criticized Henry Staunton in Parliament and alleged that he was being looked into for bullying prior to his dismissal.

The intense debate started on the weekend when Staunton spoke to the Sunday Times and accused the government of intentionally delaying compensation for the victims of the Horizon scandal until after the upcoming election.

Badenoch terminated Staunton from his position in the previous month. During his interview, Staunton revealed that Badenoch informed him of his dismissal by saying, “Well, someone will have to take the blame for this.”

He stated that upon beginning his position in December 2022, a higher-ranking government employee directed him to postpone compensations in order for the Conservatives to barely make it through the general election.

Badenoch refuted Staunton’s claims as entirely untrue, stating to lawmakers that there was no evidence that Staunton was instructed to postpone payments. She also deemed this course of action as irrational.

She stated that there is no proof at all to support this claim. There is no evidence to suggest that any official made this statement, and even if they did, it is Mr. Staunton’s responsibility to provide proof.

It can be extremely difficult to disprove a negative statement. When someone makes unfounded accusations and insists on proof that the event did not occur, it is simply causing trouble in my opinion.

“There would be no benefit whatsoever of us delaying compensation,” Badenoch added. “This does not have any significant impact on revenues whatsoever. It would be a mad thing to even suggest, and the compensation scheme which Mr Staunton oversaw has actually been completed, and my understanding is 100% of payments have been made, so clearly no instruction was given.

She expressed her hope that the majority of those who read the interview in the Sunday Times would recognize it as an obvious act of seeking retaliation after being fired.

In addition, Badenoch informed the Commons that Staunton had been subject to an inquiry for harassing behavior prior to his termination. She also stated that there were reports to her department about his non-compliance.

According to her, I let him go due to significant worries about his conduct as chairman, which were also expressed by other members of the board. I must also disclose that during his tenure, an official inquiry was initiated into accusations against Mr. Staunton’s behavior. This included serious issues like bullying. My department received reports about Mr. Staunton’s lack of cooperation with the investigation.

Staunton responded strongly to Badenoch on Monday evening, claiming that he had documented a statement from a high-ranking government employee instructing him to delay compensation for those affected by the Horizon scandal. A representative for Staunton stated that he had “made a written note of it and sent it to himself and colleagues, making it traceable on the Post Office server.”

The representative stated that Staunton was never informed of any accusations of bullying against him. They also clarified that the secretary of state did not bring up these allegations at any point, including during the conversation that resulted in Staunton’s dismissal. Additionally, they stated that such behavior would be completely unlike Staunton.

They stated: “It was beneficial for both the business and the postmasters to expedite the exoneration process and provide more generous compensation for those who were wrongly convicted. However, we did not see any significant progress until after the Mr Bates program. We will leave it to others to determine the reason for this delay.”

The shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds, earlier called for a full Cabinet Office investigation and said ministers must ensure claims the government had sought to stall Horizon compensation payments were “shown to be false in no uncertain terms”.

He stated that there are two conflicting reports, one from the Post Office chairman and one from the secretary of state, and only one can be accurate.

James Arbuthnot, a Conservative member of the House of Lords who has actively advocated for justice in this scandal, stated that the actions described by Staunton are “shameful.” However, he believes that government officials should shift their attention to promptly providing compensation to those affected.

Lord Arbuthnot stated that our main focus should be on holding the government accountable, ensuring prompt and sufficient compensation, and swiftly overturning these convictions.

“If the story is indeed true, it is a shameful one. However, I believe it is time to move forward. I am not particularly interested in engaging in a back-and-forth of ‘Did he say this? Did she say that?’ I am focused on ensuring that the subpostmasters receive their payments as promptly as possible.”

During his interview with the Sunday Times, Staunton mentioned that he was advised by a higher-up to delay spending on compensation and replacing Horizon. He was instructed to slowly approach the election, as documented in a file note.

“It was not a matter of being against the postmaster, but simply a financial issue. I did not inquire about it because I made it clear that I did not want to be involved – I am not here to barely make it through the election, that is not fair to the postmasters. The word ‘limp’ reflects the state they were in.”

Badenoch responded with anger to the allegations on Sunday, posting a series of messages on X accusing Staunton of providing a dishonest account of their conversation during his termination.

On Monday evening, the Department for Business and Trade circulated its short “meeting note” on the call in which Badenoch dismissed Staunton. The note said Badenoch had “received a briefing on the governance issues at the Post Office and that the complaints against HS [Henry Staunton] are so serious that the government need to intervene”.


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