A law aimed at exonerating subpostmasters caught up in the Horizon scandal is expected to be brought forward “as soon as possible next month”, Kevin Hollinrake has said.

The Post Office minister said he hopes all the convictions will be “overturned by July” and that he “very much hopes” compensation will be paid before the next general election, although he joked: “I can’t tell when the general election is going to be so I can’t specifically say yes to the question.”

He was speaking as he updated MPs on the Government’s plans, also telling the Commons that convictions would be quashed as soon as the proposals become law “without the need for people to apply to have their convictions overturned”.

Mr Hollinrake’s appearance in the Commons comes after he announced further details of the planned legislation in a written statement to MPs.

As well as requirements relating to people eligible for exoneration under the legislation, Mr Hollinrake said those affected would have to sign a statement to the effect that they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted before they could receive financial redress.

If they were subsequently found to have signed the statement falsely, Mr Hollinrake said the “may be guilty of fraud”.

In the Commons, the business minister said: “We continue to develop our response to this scandal, and on Thursday I made a written statement detailing the way in which we plan to legislate to overturn Horizon-related convictions en masse.

“We expect to introduce that legislation as soon as possible next month.”

He added: “My statement set out that the new legislation will quash all convictions which are identified as being in scope, using clear and objective criteria on the face of the Bill.

“Convictions will be quashed at the point of commencement without the need for people to apply to have their convictions overturned.”

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake updated MPs on the proposed legislation (James Manning/PA)

Shadow business minister Rushanara Ali welcomed Mr Hollinrake’s commitment to the legislation, adding: “Labour is committed to working with the Government to deliver rightful exonerations, but I know that many Members will have had questions following last Thursday’s written ministerial statement.”

She asked: “Can I press the minister on what exactly we can expect in terms of the legislation being tabled, further details on that, in light of what he said today?”

Ms Ali also asked the minister to “further clarify why convictions prosecuted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are excluded from this legislation” and what steps he would take to get the DWP to “deliver exonerations as soon as possible”.

Mr Hollinrake assured the Labour frontbencher he was working on the plans to exonerate wronged postmasters “on a daily basis”.

He added: “In terms of the differences between the Post Office cases and the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) cases – which are the ones we are seeking to overturn with this legislation – and the DWP cases, there is a different standard of evidence I think it is fair to say.

“Largely, those cases relied on independent evidence – independent of Horizon – for example the surveillance of suspects, collation and examination of cashed orders from stolen benefit books and gyro cheques, handwriting comparisons and witness statements.

“So very much not simply relying on Horizon evidence.”

Elsewhere, Liam Byrne, Labour chairman of the business and trade committee, said there was a “toxic culture of disbelief” of subpostmasters in the Post Office leadership, adding: “The bottom line is that redress is too slow and the offers are too low.”

The Birmingham Hodge Hill MP asked: “When the minister brings forward his Bill will he make sure that the Post Office is now taken out of every single one of the compensation schemes and a hard-wired instruction to deliver, with a fixed legally binding timetable of delivering compensation agreements, is written onto the face of the Bill?”

Mr Hollinrake said he agreed the compensation is “being delivered too slowly”.

He added: “That’s something we’re seeking to accelerate every single day, and we’re doing good work I think with the advisory board in terms of trying to make sure that’s the case.

“I don’t think set offers are too low, I’m not saying there aren’t cases where that is not the case, certainly in terms of some of the cases in any compensation scheme will not be 100% perfect.”

The minister continued to face warnings that the culture of the Post Office “clearly has not” changed.

Kevan Jones, a Labour former minister and long-time campaigner for the subpostmasters, said: “That toxic culture is still there and until (the Post Office) are taken out of this process altogether and be forced to regurgitate the information, nothing will change.”