Permission given to investigate Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved matters
On 18 November 2021 I wrote to the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully MP. In that letter, I highlighted that, as part of the consultation on the Inquiry’s List of Issues, concerns had arisen as to whether and to what extent there existed divergences in the policies and practices adopted by Royal Mail Group and Post Office Limited within the four countries of the United Kingdom when taking action against SPMs, managers and assistants alleged to be responsible for shortfalls shown by Horizon.
I indicated that whilst I was confident that these matters are within the Terms of Reference, an investigation of this theme might ultimately require me to determine facts which are wholly or primarily concerned with Scottish, Welsh or transferred Northern Irish matters (in particular, the conduct of criminal investigations and proceedings). I reminded myself that s.27(2) of the Inquiries Act 2005 requires consultation with the relevant administrations before the inclusion in the Terms of Reference of anything which would require me to make such a determination. I therefore requested the Minister should consult with those administrations and grant me permission to do so.
I am pleased to announce that the Minister has consulted with Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh Ministers pursuant to s.27(2) of the Inquiries Act 2005 and he informed me (in a letter dated 28 March 2022) that they are fully supportive of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry and they are therefore content that as part of my investigations I may determine facts that are wholly or primarily concerned with matters in their jurisdictions. That means that I will be addressing Issues 162 and 163 in the Completed List of Issues.
The Minister has, as a result, granted permission for me to exercise powers in accordance with s.27(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005 to investigate matters that are either wholly or primarily concerning Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The Minister has further decided that England and Wales is the relevant part of the UK for the purposes of s.31(1) of the Inquiries Act 2005, which means that the law of England and Wales will apply and/or a court in England and Wales will determine the following issues:
a. the law under which evidence or documents are permitted or required to be withheld (s.22 of the Inquiries Act 2005);
b. enforcement of a threat or a failure to comply or to breach a notice under ss.19 or 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005, or an order made by the Inquiry (s.36 of the Inquiries Act 2005).
I am pleased that the Minister has given permission and I look forward to taking evidence in these jurisdictions.