'I am the subject of a smear campaign': Sacked Post Office boss hits out at Kemi Badenoch following public row over exit

27 February 2024, 16:37 | Updated: 27 February 2024, 16:57

Henry Staunton (left) was fired as chairman of the Post Office last month. He has since engaged in a public row with Business Secretary Kemi Bedenoch (right)
Henry Staunton (left) was fired as chairman of the Post Office last month. He has since engaged in a public row with Business Secretary Kemi Bedenoch (right). Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

The former chairman of the Post Office has claimed he is the victim of a 'smear campaign' following a public fallout with Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch over his dismissal.

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Henry Staunton was fired as Post Office boss last month following supposed frustration within the Department for Business over the state-owned company's governance amid the fallout of the Horizon scandal.

Mr Staunton, who became chairman of the Post Office in December 2022, has also faced bullying allegations since his exit and claims that he was increasingly erratic in the months before his departure.

Amid the public fallout with Badenoch since his dismissal, Mr Staunton has claimed he was told to delay payouts to sub-postmasters ahead of the next election.

The former Post Office boss has now stood by his claims as he addressed MPs at the Business and Trade Committee this afternoon, protesting that he has had his reputation "trashed".

Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton, giving evidence to the Business and Trade Select Committee in the House of Commons, Tuesday
Former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton, giving evidence to the Business and Trade Select Committee in the House of Commons, Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Sell Post Office to Amazon for a pound, Horizon scandal hero Alan Bates tells MPs

Read More: Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells formally stripped of CBE by King Charles

Asked by Labour MP Ian Lavery what it had been like to have his reputation "trashed" since his exit, Mr Staunton asked if he could read a short statement and give his version of events.

"What happened to these poor postmasters and families is a tragedy and it is a scandal they have been failed time and time again," he told MPs.

He said the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office, which aired over the beginning of the year, "put a rocket under things" the were moving "far too slowly".

The sacked chairman called for more to be done to make the compensation scheme more generous and said the process needed to be less bureaucratic.

He continued: "We all know that things were moving far too slowly ... and the reason why people have latched onto what I said in the Sunday Times was that finally someone was being honest about how deep seated the problems were and why nothing was being done,"

Mr Staunton said he would have "achieved something if the sunlight of disinfectant, which the Secretary of State so approves of, means that Government now lives up to its promises".

"What the public wants to know is why was everything so slow? ... And why does everything remain so slow? I've spoken up on matters of genuine public concern, have been fired, and am now subject to a smear campaign."

Business Secretary Ms Badenoch has however accused Mr Staunton of spreading "made-up anecdotes".

She claimed there was "no evidence whatsoever" that he was asked to delay the payments until the next election and branded it 'a blatant attempt to seek revenge' for his sacking.

Following her announcement to the House of Commons that Mr Staunton was being investigated over bullying allegations, the former chairman said in a statement he was "not aware of any aspect of his conduct which could give rise to such allegations".

Badenoch says allegations against ex-Post Office chairman triggered investigation

Read More: Hundreds of Post Office scandal victims set to be cleared as details of new legislation announced

Read More: Rishi Sunak refuses to repeat Kemi Badenoch's claim ex-Post Office boss ‘lied’ about delaying compensation

It comes after Horizon hero Alan Bates told MPs at the committee that the Post Office should be "sold off to Amazon" as it has become a "money pit for taxpayers".

Giving evidence to MPs over the compensation payments due to be paid to victims of the Horizon scandal, Mr Bates said the culture at the Post Office "has always been the same".

"It hasn't changed, it's been the same for donkeys years. It will not change and you cannot change it," he told MPs.

He went on to say that the Post Office is a "dead duck" and "has been for years", warning it will become a "money pit for taxpayers".

"My personal view is...you should sell it someone like Amazon for a pound, get really good contracts for all the serving sub-postmasters and within a few years you'll have one of the best networks," he told MPs.

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