Ed Davey tells LBC he’s sorry he didn’t uncover 'profound lies' told by Post Office

1 February 2024, 11:56 | Updated: 1 February 2024, 14:39

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey takes part in a live interview on LBC with mid-morning presenter James O'Brien
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey takes part in a live interview on LBC with mid-morning presenter James O'Brien. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Sir Ed Davey has finally said sorry for failing to see through Post Office 'lies' in the Horizon scandal.

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The Lib Dem boss told LBC he should have done it earlier and he didn't know why he had refused to do so.

He finally broke his silence and made a grovelling apology for his part in the scandal - after weeks of dodging questions.

He hit out at the Tories for trying to use him as a "scapegoat" for the sorry saga.

And he revealed that he'd reached out to Alan Bates, the affected Post Master who helped expose the scandal.

The issue shot up the political agenda after an ITV drama moved the nation earlier this year.

Watch Again: James O'Brien exclusive interview with Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey | 01/02/24

PM Rishi Sunak has said that they will all have their convictions overturned and be handed hefty compensation packages to make up for it.

Sir Ed told James O'Brien this morning: "I feel I should apologise for not seeing through those lies [told by the Post Office] but I have to say it would have been pretty tough.

"I should have said sorry earlier. I don't know why, I probably should have."

"When I listened to him [Alan Bates] and his concerns, particularly about the Horizon computer system, and I put his concerns to the Post Office, I didn’t uncover their lies.

"And their lies, were really quite profound - particularly on the Horizon computer system."

Sir Ed faced fury from Post Office staff and MPs for his role in the scandal, which saw hundreds of Sub Post Masters wrongly convicted over many years - and were left ignored by ministers and the Post office.

In an interview with ITV last month he refused ten times to say sorry for his role.

Ed Davey was speaking to LBC's James O'Brien
Ed Davey was speaking to LBC's James O'Brien. Picture: Alamy

Read more: Post Office campaigner Alan Bates turns down 'cruel and derisory' government payout offer for Horizon scandal

Sir Ed went on: "What worried Mr Bates was that the sub postmasters were told they were the only person who could enter their budget on the computer, and there was no possibility of remote access.

“Mr Bates was questioning that so I questioned the Post Office on that. Is there remote access? Are there any bugs in the system? Is it robust?

“I was told categorically that it had been independently assured, there was no remote access.

“We learn years later that was a complete and utter lie and they knew it. They lied to me. What I’m apologising for is not seeing through those lies.”

Sir Ed was business minister from 2010 to 2012 and his role involved oversight of the Post Office.

He went on: "If I gave the impression I didn't feel deeply sorry for the hundreds of families who have suffered... sorry for me not meeting Alan Bates earlier, not seeing through the lies - of course I should say sorry for that."

He said he had contacted Mr Bates since the scandal broke - and was "waiting to hear back".

Mr Bates had written to Sir Ed and asked to meet to discuss the scandal - but was initially turned down.

Sir Ed insisted he would lead the Lib Dems into the next election - despite calls for him to hand back his knighthood and quit his role.

He told James: "I am determined to lead the Liberal Democrats to beat lots of Conservative MPs. They clearly see a threat, that's why they are attacking us. They are weaponising it, that's a tragedy."

His comments come after Mr Bates turned down a "derisory" offer of compensation from the government.

Mr Bates, one of the key campaigners that led to the Horizon scandal being pushed into the public eye, and whose fight inspired the recent TV drama, said the offer was "cruel".

The former sub-postmaster was forced to leave his branch in 2003, and like hundreds of others, was falsely accused of stealing money from the Post Office.

The government confirmed plans for "full and fair compensation" to sub-postmasters caught up in the IT scandal in 2022.

But Mr Bates said the compensation offer had been "around a sixth" of what he asked for.

He told the Telegraph: "'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 he had made his claim, which was prepared with the help of forensic accountants.

"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 a High Court ruling in 2019.

A Government spokesman said: "If any applicant to the GLO (Group Litigation Order) scheme feels that they are owed more than is being offered, we are happy to discuss the evidence with their legal advisers.

"If we can't agree, decisions will be made by an independent panel that includes legal and accountancy experts, who ensure fair redress based on the evidence."