Rishi Sunak poised to make huge Post Office announcement at PMQs | Politics | News

January 10, 2024
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Prime Minister’s Questions is set to be even more newsworthy than usual today as Rishi Sunak may use it to announce a major breakthrough in the Post Office scandal.

There are multiple reports this morning that the Prime Minister will use the weekly session to make a statement from the Commons dispatch box.

Ministers and officials worked late into the night yesterday to nail down details around how the Government can speed up the overturning of wrongful convictions of postmasters en masse.

Fewer than 100 postmasters have had their convictions overturned so far.

One proposal at the forefront of the Government’s consideration is new legislation.

While the move appears like an easy fix, officials and commentators have observed it would be unprecedented, and go further than the blanket pardons used to clear those historically convicted of homosexuality.

There are also concerns about Parliament intervening in individual legal cases, and how it would affect a perceived separation of powers between the Commons and the judiciary.

This morning Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said the Government is “actively considering” a new law.

However he warned: “There is a separation of powers for a reason.”

Yesterday afternoon the PM’s spokesman said he wasn’t aware of judges raising “significant challenges”, though Lord Arbuthnot who was one of the first MPs to pick up on the scandal warned that Parliament overturning court decisions would be “concerning”.

He told the Telegraph: “The most concerning thing is the idea that the legislature can overturn judicial decisions. That is the sort of thing that we deprecate when it happens in places like Russia.

“There is a saying: Hard cases make bad law. We don’t want to have the precedent of the legislature finding that it doesn’t like a decision the courts made and just saying ‘okay, we will change everything’.

“Some lawyers think we should, some think we shouldn’t. it’s a difficult decision… We need to take advice on that.”

He added: “We are disappointed with the speed of progress so far. Overturning the convictions is a critical thing, we hope to come to a decision very shortly.”

Later he confessed an announcement is “very, very close” and could “possibly” come today.

Scotland’s separate legal system will mean the Scottish Parliament would have to pass a separate law, though the SNP Government has already said it is looking at a similar pardon scheme.

Another option being mulled over by the Justice Secretary is the issuing of a royal pardon for Post Office victims.

The Royal Prerogative of Mercy can be used by the monarch on the advice of the Lord Chancellor in cases where the King believes his intervention is necessary to honour his Coronation oath to administer justice “in mercy”.

However victims have warned that this would not be the equivalent of an acquittal, and are demanding full exoneration.



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