Sir Ed Davey refuses to hand back knighthood, despite serving as postal affairs minister during Horizon scandal

9 January 2024, 18:39

Ed Davey has refused to hand back his knighthood
Ed Davey has refused to hand back his knighthood. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Kit Heren

Sir Ed Davey has refused to hand back his knighthood despite his involvement in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

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The Liberal Democrat leader served as postal affairs minister under the coalition government from 2010-2012.

Sir Ed has previously admitted he should have done more to prevent the Horizon scandal, which saw hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted.

But he told LBC that ministers from all political parties had been misled by Post Office officials.

Pressure has grown on Sir Ed after Paula Vennells, the former boss of the Post Office, handed back her CBE on Tuesday. The Prime Minister said she made the right decision.

Read more: Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells returning CBE "obviously the right decision", Downing Street says

Read more: From the 'Prince of Darkness' to Sir Ed: The key figures who presided over the Post Office Horizon scandal

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey. Picture: Alamy

But on Tuesday afternoon, Sir Ed's spokesman rejected calls for him to hand back his knighthood, which he was awarded in the 2016 New Year Honours list.

"As Ed has said many times, he wishes he’d known then what we all know now," the spokesman said.

“It’s right that Vennells gave back her CBE, she was at the centre of a conspiracy of lies against the victims, the public and ministers of all parties.

“As Alan Bates said yesterday, Ed was one of many ministers who was misled and lied to by the Post Office."

Should Sir Ed Davey consider his position following Horizon scandal?

Conservative Cabinet minister Mel Stride said that Sir Ed had "questions to answer" about how he handled the situation.

It comes after Ms Vennells said she would give back her CBE with immediate effect on Tuesday afternoon.

She said: "I continue to support and focus on co-operating with the inquiry and expect to be giving evidence in the coming months.

"I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence.

"I am, however, aware of the calls from sub-postmasters and others to return my CBE."I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect.

Paula Vennells
Paula Vennells. Picture: Alamy

"I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the sub-postmasters and their families, whose lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system.

"I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded."

Ms Vennells was awarded the CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours List for services to the "Post Office and to charity”.

The Post Office scandal has been brought back into the public eye by a TV show called Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which recounts the story, which has been called the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history.

Over 700 Post Office branch managers were given criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software, Horizon, made it look as if money was missing.

Ex-Post Office Manager made bankrupt after being wrongly accused of embezzling £20,000

Sub-postmasters quickly realised unexplainable discrepancies in their records but the Post Office dismissed concerns as no one else was experiencing such issues.

Soon, the Post Office accused the sub-postmasters of taking the missing finances for themselves and started criminal proceedings.

One sub-postmaster from Wales, Alan Bates, and five others from JFSA (Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance) took the post office to court on behalf of 555 claimants.

In 2019, the High Court ruled that the software contained "bugs, eros and defects" with "material risk" which caused shortfalls in the Post Office branch accounts.

Mr Davey said: "I want to congratulate Alan Bates for his campaign. I really hope the government listens and the inquiry delivers for the postmasters."

Alan Bates, the 'hero of the Horizon scandal'
Alan Bates, the 'hero of the Horizon scandal'. Picture: Alamy

The government is considering ways to overturn the convictions, including possible legislation.

But some of the wronged sub-postmasters want to have their names cleared in the courts and the Post Office held to account, rather than through legislation.

Ministers are now drawing up plans to fast-track appeals for postmasters that were wrongly convicted.

Kevin Hollinrake, the postal affairs minister, told the Commons that “options” had been devised to resolve outstanding criminal convictions “much more quickly”.

“We believe we have a solution,” he told MPs, with a further update expected later in the week.

Mr Hollinrake vowed to "leave no stone unturned" amid the growing pressure to quash the convictions and speed up the awarding of compensation to those affected by the IT system error.

"We have devised some options for resolving the outstanding criminal convictions with much more pace," the minister said.

"While the scale of the problem is immense, the Government is unwavering in its resolve to tackle it, to compensate those affected and to leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice."