Former Post Office boss has changed his story, Badenoch suggests

Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, questioned why Henry Staunton 'never' raised concerns with her about the 'toxic' culture at the Post Office
Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, questioned why Henry Staunton 'never' raised concerns with her about the 'toxic' culture at the Post Office - TOLGA AKMEN/SHUTTERSTOCK
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Kemi Badenoch has accused the former Post Office chairman of having “changed his story” about his sacking over the handling of the Horizon scandal.

In a letter to the Commons business and trade committee, seen by this newspaper, the Business Secretary said “it should be noted” that the executive appeared to have dropped a claim that she told him: “Well, someone’s got to take the rap for this.”

Henry Staunton is due to appear before the committee on Tuesday in the latest escalation of a bitter row over his sacking and time as Post Office chairman.

Mrs Badenoch also questioned why he “never” raised concerns with her about the “toxic” culture at the body, that he described in a newspaper interview last weekend.

Mrs Badenoch’s fresh intervention comes after the Cabinet minister and officials vehemently denied Mr Staunton’s claims in The Sunday Times last weekend that he had been told by a senior civil servant to delay payouts to sub-postmasters ahead of the next general election because of concerns about costs.

In the same interview, he claimed that, when he was sacked last month, Mrs Badenoch told him that “someone’s got to take the rap” for the scandal.

Post Office chairman Henry Staunton - his spokesman insisted he 'has not changed his account of what the Secretary of State was telling him when she called him to summarily dismiss him'
Post Office chairman Henry Staunton - his spokesman insisted he 'has not changed his account of what the Secretary of State was telling him when she called him to summarily dismiss him'

In a letter to Liam Byrne, the Labour MP who chairs the business committee, Mrs Badenoch said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It is important to me that sub-postmasters have trust that the government is doing all it can to provide them with redress and compensation.

‘‘These efforts have been undermined by the allegations made by the former Post Office Chair, Henry Staunton, in his interview with the Sunday Times.”
She added: “It should be noted that Mr Staunton has changed his story since his interview: he now claims that it was the characterisation of our conversation that led him to believe he had to ‘take the rap’ rather than any specific statement by me.”

The letter came after a civil service note of the phone call in which Mrs Badenoch dismissed Mr Staunton on Jan 27 was published last Monday. It stated that the Business Secretary had been given a briefing on “the governance issues at the Post Office” and that the complaints against Mr Staunton were “so serious” that government intervention was required.

The words “someone’s got to take the rap” were not contained in the document. However Mr Staunton said he stood by “his characterisation of the conversation”.

Mrs Badenoch appears to suggest that the apparent inconsistency raises fresh questions about Mr Staunton’s account.

She added: “Mr Staunton said in his interview that the Post Office was plagued by a ‘toxic’ culture. He never raised this with me or my officials during his tenure. If he had such concerns, he had a duty to raise them and as Chair, to act on them. ”

Plagued by ‘toxic’ culture

Last weekend Mr Staunton told The Sunday Times that the Post Office remained a “mess”, plagued by a “toxic” culture in which the company’s executives continued to mistrust sub-postmasters. He claimed that suspicion that sub-postmasters were “digging into the [till] drawers is rife”, despite the exposure of the scandal.

More than 4,000 people have been told they will be eligible for compensation as a result of the Horizon scandal.
Errors in the Horizon software, made by Fujitsu, the Japanese technology company, caused shortfalls to be recorded that did not exist.

Overall, more than 900 sub-postmasters were prosecuted after they were blamed for the shortfalls. Some served time in prison as a result.

Mrs Badenoch claimed in the Commons that Mr Staunton’s account of being told to slow the rate of compensation payments was “full of lies”. She said he had been removed after whistleblowers raised concerns that he was not doing enough to ensure people received their compensation quickly enough.

A spokesman for Mr Staunton insisted he “has not changed his account of what the Secretary of State was telling him when she called him to summarily dismiss him. Rather it is the account which she gave to the House of Commons last Monday which differs in a number of important respects from the read out which was taken by the civil servants on the call, in particular in raising new allegations which she did not mention at the time”.


The spokesman suggested that the “pervasive and deeply embedded toxic culture in the Post Office organisation” only began “emerging from December 2023 onwards”, particularly after the suspension in January of its communications director after he claimed that some sub-postmasters “downright stole”. Mr Staunton took these matters up “with the board and the chief executive who he instructed to take immediate action to rectify the situation”. The spokesman said he made clear to Mrs Badenoch that what was needed was “extensive work to ensure that the culture at the Post Office is overhauled”.

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