This short, two-clause bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 29 November 2023 and underwent all of its stages on 19 December 2023. The House of Commons speaker has certified it as a money bill. 

The bill relates to compensation available to individuals who suffered after the Post Office introduced the Horizon computer system into branches in 1999. The system, used for accounting and stock-taking, inaccurately recorded losses and money missing in branches. Under the standard postmaster contracts, individuals were responsible for the losses at their branches. The Post Office was resistant to repeated assertions that the Horizon system was flawed and IT glitches were causing the issues. Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted over 730 individuals leading to bankruptcies, imprisonments and in some cases suicides. In 2019, following decades of repeated attempts to expose the problems, the High Court ruled that the original Horizon system had not been sufficiently robust and had suffered from a number of bugs and errors. The judgment was highly critical of what it described as the Post Office’s institutional obstinacy to consider issues with Horizon despite factual evidence of issues with it. Several compensation schemes for the victims of the system have been established since the judgment. 

The bill would establish a financial authority enabling the secretary of state for business and trade to provide ex gratia compensation to those individuals who were the victims of faults in the Horizon system. This could be via both the ‘Group litigation order (GLO) scheme’ and other compensation schemes. Currently, the temporary power to pay compensation under the existing GLO scheme ceases in August 2024. Concerns have been raised by the chair of the statutory inquiry into the scandal that the current deadline cannot be met.

The bill would extend and apply to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its provisions would come into force at royal assent. 

Related posts

  • Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)

    In recent years, there has been a fall in levels of trust and confidence in policing. This followed a series of high-profile scandals, some of which involved serious offences committed by serving police officers. This briefing explores the role of media coverage in changing public perceptions of policing and also reports on calls by various parties to improve the current levels of confidence.

    Current Affairs Digest: Home Affairs (May 2024)
  • The UK economy in the 1980s

    This briefing is the fourth of a series on the post-war history of the UK economy. The series proceeds decade-by-decade from the 1950s onwards, providing an overview of the key macroeconomic developments of each decade. This briefing looks at the 1980s. The decline in the profitability of industry, which began in the 1960s, was reversed in this decade; however, the share of national income received by workers fell to a post-war low.

    The UK economy in the 1980s