Sub post offices have mattered, do matter and will matter. I am grateful to the widows of sub-postmasters in the constituency who have now told me of their experiences. Their service to the community has been valued. They were let down by the system, by human failure to protect them from the inadequate computer system. They were let down by the management chain failing to act responsibly.
In one local case, the Post Office investigators were required to carry out a check with independent auditors. The Post Office realised the apparently missing £40,000 was not taken improperly, if taken at all. That happened before 2009. How, for the next six years, did managers allow their chasers to force others to feel they had to put in their own funds to make unreliable books balance?
How did prosecutors, Post Office employees or Crown Prosecution lawyers, find themselves winning convictions or coercing guilty pleas. Innocent people were condemned as criminals without independent or reliable evidence.
I champion causes, often almost alone at first. On Monday, I chaired a major meeting on reforms to the law on residential leasehold. Many MPs and Peers attended. Lee Rowley, the housing minister and Martin Boyd, the newly appointed chair of LEASE, the government funded body to advise leaseholders spoke; so did two academic lawyers.
The meeting was chaired by Sebastian O’Kelly of the campaigning charity LKP, the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership. Organisation was by Katherine O’Riordan, a great companion in the battles over the years. I met Katherine through Colette Hanson who for countless years has been my senior case manager.
For more than a decade, constituents knew how dedicated Colette has been. She listened, she gave support, she contacted authorities who could help, who should help, and who often wanted to help when she had explained how one or more things had gone wrong.
People like her in the Post Office would not silently have gone along with injustice. People like her would have insisted that procedures had to lead to justice.
Let us remain conscious of the importance of community. Locally, nationally and within our shared world. The environment and the threats of climate change make the point.
I am proud to have known Joe Farman, the Cambridge geophysicist. With other Antarctic scientists he discovered the hole in the ozone layer, described as the protective skin that filters the sun’s ultraviolet rays, reducing cancers and eye damage. Margaret Thatcher was a chemist. She understood. That helped achieve the Montreal Protocol, forcing massive change. The ozone layer should recover in the lifetime of our school children.
In past days I have been with hundreds of constituency school pupils and college students. I also talked about parliament’s role in democracy to a group from one of Phil Harris’s education academies. The founder of Carpetright, now Baron Harris of Peckham, Phil went from barrow boy to millionaire. He improves struggling schools.
He claims he has never read a book, he cannot write a letter and he can barely read a speech. He says: ‘Dyslexics have a way of finding creative ways around their difficulty.’
At Oakgrove College, by Durrington High School, and at Ferring Church of England Primary School, I was asked interesting questions about being Father of the House of Commons and about being elected. The elected school and college representatives were welcoming and interested.
Seeing their smiling faces and teeth, some with milk tooth gaps, reminded me of meeting this week on dentistry with the British Dental Association and with Dame Andrea Leadsom, minister for primary care, Start for Life and public health. Expect positive announcements soon. For too long, especially in West Sussex, there has been inadequate dental recovery from Covid.
Those I serve need proper care. Many do have access to good dentistry; too many do not. In every community, we have to put right the things that are wrong.