Saturday 12 December 2020

Former Post Office staff told NDAs can be waived for inquiry

The Post Office has said non-disclosure agreements signed by present and former staff will not be enforced for those who want to give evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry. This removes at least one obstacle (or excuse) potentially stopping former Post Office from contributing to the inquiry. The waiver also includes serving and former Subpostmasters.

The Post Office made the concession in response to a request from the inquiry chair, Sir Wyn Williams, who himself appears to have been prompted by the Communications Workers Union.

Writing to the CWU's Andy Furey, Sir Wyn says:

"Post Office Limited has indicated it will waive any confidentiality obligations owed to the organisation by current or former postmasters/employees so that such individuals may engage freely with the Inquiry. The waiver is limited in purpose so it applies to any current or former postmaster or Post Office Limited employee who wants to engage with the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry."

There is, of course, a catch. According to the Post Office:

"The scope and operation of any waiver will need to reflect the specific agreement entered into with the individual, given that the terms, rationale for them, and extent to which it might be appropriate to maintain them for matters outside of the Inquiry and its terms of reference, will be case specific.  It would however reflect the overarching principle that Post Office will enable the individual to participate in the Inquiry free from any inhibition created by an NDA."

Hmm... you receives your money, you takes your chances.

The letter which prompted the above appears to have been a letter sent by Mr Furey on 23 November, in which he told Sir Wyn:

"I am concerned that unless your inquiry can demonstrate that witnesses are accorded full protection, you may struggle to get vital witnesses to contribute. Even if you were to get witnesses to participate, it could be superficial and from their perspective they may wish to give the impression they are co-operating even though they may choose to hide behind the non- disclosure position in response to some pertinent questions."

Andy Furey, the CWU's Assistant Secretary told me:

"We welcome this response and we’re pleased that Sir Wyn sought and received assurances from the Post Office to clarify this issue. Hopefully this will provide some reassurances to people, so they feel they can submit evidence to the inquiry, speak from the their experiences and tell the truth of what’s going on without fear of reprisal or repercussions. 

We sincerely hope this also means former Post Office managers and executives who were involved in the decision to prosecute Subpostmasters and the subsequent cover up and rebuttal of the Second Sight investigations - including Alice Perkins, Paula Vennells and Mark Davies - will come forward and tell us what they know."


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