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

21 February 2024, 14:02 | Updated: 21 February 2024, 14:04

Rishi Sunak would not repeat Ms Badenoch's claims when asked at PMQs.
Rishi Sunak would not repeat Ms Badenoch's claims when asked at PMQs. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Rishi Sunak has refused to repeat Kemi Badenoch’s claim that the former Post Office boss lied about delaying compensation to victims of the Horizon scandal.

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Speaking at PMQs on Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer asked the Prime Minister if he would be willing to repeat Ms Badenoch’s claim that Henry Staunton had lied.

But Mr Sunak evaded the question, as he said: “As the Business Secretary said on Monday, she asked Henry Staunton to step down after serious concerns were raised.

“She set out the reasons for this and the full background in the House earlier this week. But importantly we have also taken unprecedented steps to ensure that victims of the Horizon scandal do receive compensation as swiftly as possible and in full.

“Making sure that victims receive justice and compensation remains our number one priority.”

It comes after a row started between the Business Secretary and Henry Staunton over the weekend, as Mr Staunton told the Sunday Times that he had been instructed to to delay payouts to postmasters as the Tories headed into an election.

He also claimed Ms Badenoch said “someone’s got to take the rap” for the scandal when he was fired.

Read more: Badenoch accuses ex-Post Office chairman of 'seeking revenge' over sacking as postmaster payments row deepens

Read more: Badenoch accuses former Post Office boss of lying about 'stalling Horizon scandal payments' claims

Mr Sunak refused to repeat Ms Badenoch's claim.
Mr Sunak refused to repeat Ms Badenoch's claim. Picture: Alamy

Laura Trott on Post Office scandal compensation 'taking too long'

But Ms Badenoch hit back, as she accused the former chairman of lying, who said it was a “disgraceful misrepresentation” of the reason he was ousted.

On Monday, the Business Secretary told MPs that there was "no evidence whatsoever" of his account and branded it "a blatant attempt to seek revenge" for his sacking.

She also claimed he was being investigated over bullying allegations before he was fired as chairman of the Post Office, and that concerns were raised about his "willingness to co-operate" with the probe.

Responding to the Secretary of State's claims, Mr Staunton's spokesperson said Ms Badenoch had made an "astonishing series of claims" about his departure.

"This is the first time the existence of such allegations have been mentioned and Mr Staunton is not aware of any aspect of his conduct which could give rise to such allegations," they said.

"They were certainly not raised by the Secretary of State at any stage and certainly not during the conversation which led to Mr Staunton's dismissal. Such behaviour would in any case be totally out of character."

Badenoch says allegations against ex-Post Office chairman triggered investigation

Speaking in the Commons, she also described it as "so disappointing that he's chosen to spread a series of falsehoods, provide made-up anecdotes to journalists and leak discussions held in confidence".

Ms Badenoch said it had confirmed in her mind that "I made the correct decision in dismissing him".

The Horizon was brought to the fore earlier this year after an ITV drama about the scandal aired on TV in January.

More than 700 branch managers were prosecuted by the Post Office between 1999 and 2015 after faulty Horizon accounting software made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

Hundreds of subpostmasters are still awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.