Post Office campaigner Alan Bates given knighthood – but insists there’s still ‘work to do’

Alan Bates, the campaigner who highlighted the Post Office scandal, will be given a knighthood after being recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours list.

Other famous faces on the list include artist Tracey Emin and cyclist Mark Cavendish, who will be given a damehood and knighthood, respectively.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has received the highest award possible, being made a Companion of Honour.

Singer Rebecca Ferguson, Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon, Countdown’s Susie Dent and Strictly Come Dancing’s Amy Dowden were among the showbiz names to be made MBEs.

Mr Bates founded the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance and told Sky News he is accepting the honour “not just for myself… but on behalf of the whole group”.

He described the accolade – given to him for services to justice – as “recognition of the sheer hell that they’ve been through over the years”.

“It’s not just for me, it’s for all of them,” he said.

More on Paula Vennells

Hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongfully convicted of stealing from the Post Office because of a faulty accounting system called Horizon.

Read more: All the big names recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours list

Mr Bates rejected the offer of an OBE last year because former Post Office boss Paula Vennells had been given a CBE in 2019.

The former CEO handed the award back in January and was later officially stripped of the title by the King amid the fallout from a TV drama on the scandal.

Mr Bates said it would have felt “wrong” to accept an OBE last year, adding it would have felt like “an insult” to other former sub-postmasters.

“We’re a lot further forward with everything now,” he added.

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Pic: Reuters
Paula Vennells, former Chief Executive Officer of the Post Office, arrives at Aldwych House for the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, in London Britain, May 24, 2024. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska
Paula Vennells gave back her CBE in January. Pic: Reuters

Mr Bates said the knighthood was “a bit of a shock, a bit out of the blue” – and he initially thought “it was a bit of a wind up”.

He admitted he did “weigh up” whether to accept the honour, considering there’s still “work to do” and many victims have not received full and fair financial redress.

Mr Bates has encouraged other wronged former sub-postmasters to “stand firm” and not “sell yourself short” – vowing they will “go back to the courts” to fight for compensation if needed this autumn.

He also said that he believed Fujitsu, the company behind the faulty Horizon accounting system, is yet to contribute towards compensation.

“I think they’re going to have to cough up somewhere along the line,” he said.

“I very much see the government at the moment providing the redress for people, as a sort of middleman.

“I think there’s a lot of money to be recovered from elsewhere to repay the taxpayer in all of this.”

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‘We’ve got to get money out to the victims’

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Meanwhile, it is believed a team of around 80 Metropolitan Police officers are monitoring the Post Office inquiry closely.

Mr Bates insisted they “certainly should be looking at whether or not there are criminal prosecutions that should be brought, and not just for individuals, but corporate charges as well”.

He met with police officers last month just before Ms Vennells gave evidence at the Post Office inquiry – which was also the day he was offered the knighthood.

Police are still investigating Post Office, says Mr Bates

If police had said they were not investigating the matter, the former sub-postmasters would have fundraised privately to prosecute, he said.

“Unlike them – the Post Office prosecuting the sub-postmasters,” he said. “I think we’ve got to wait and actually see evidence first – before prosecutions.”

When asked whether or not he has confidence in the Post Office and its interim chairman Nigel Railton at the moment, Mr Bates replied: “I don’t know, but I mean if he decided to sell the business, I would heavily support him.”

Alan Bates at the Post Office inquiry
Alan Bates at the Post Office inquiry in April

Mr Bates reflected on how life has changed for him and his wife since the TV programme aired, describing himself as “the least likely celebrity you could find”.

“It’s always been about the job,” he said. “Getting the job done, it’s not been about me.

“I still like escaping up to the hills, when I can, by myself.”

Mr Bates’ wife Suzanne ‘very proud’

When Mr Bates receives the knighthood, his wife Suzanne will automatically become a Lady.

“She’s always been a lady to me,” he insisted. “It’s not going to change our lives at all. We’re just going to be Alan and Suzanne.”

Alan Bates and his wife Suzanne Sercombe in April. Pic: PA
Alan Bates and his wife Suzanne Sercombe in April. Pic: PA

Suzanne said she is “very proud” of her husband, who she said is “very, very deserving”.

In response to Mr Bates’ statement about Fujitsu failing to contribute compensation, the company said in a statement: “The Fujitsu Group has always regarded this matter with the utmost seriousness and offers its deepest apologies to the sub-postmasters and their families.

“The UK statutory public inquiry is ongoing and we remain steadfast in our commitment to cooperate entirely.

“Based on the findings of the inquiry, we will also be working with the UK government on the appropriate actions, including contribution to compensation.

“The Fujitsu Group hopes for a swift resolution that ensures a just outcome for the victims.”

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