Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has spoken out about an agreement with a Japanese technology firm, following revelations about its role as the developer of an IT system at the centre of a national scandal.

Fujitsu is the company behind Horizon, the faulty IT system which led to hundreds of subpostmasters and subpostmistresses being wrongfully convicted of false accounting and theft after computer bugs and glitches made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

In the ongoing public inquiry, Fujitsu’s European boss Paul Patterson apologised to those affected, describing the scandal as an ‘appalling miscarriage of justice’, and saying the company had ‘clearly let society down’.

The multinational has said it will not bid for any UK government contracts as the inquiry continues.

The Bolton News: Paul Patterson gave evidence to the inquiry last week (Image: PA)Paul Patterson gave evidence to the inquiry last week (Image: PA)

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However, just last month, Greater Manchester bosses announced they had struck a deal with the company during a trip to Japan.

The ‘exploratory partnership’, signed in Tokyo on Friday, December 8, means Fujitsu and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will work together, with the aim of enhancing the manufacturing sector in the city-region as part of Greater Manchester’s ‘Investment Zone’ programme.

Given the miscarriage of justice, the Mayor has now come under increased scrutiny for the deal.

BBC Radio Manchester’s Mike Sweeney questioned Mr Burnham on the mayor’s weekly phone-in show.

He said: “Fujitsu. The company now readily admits it knowingly allowed innocent people to go to jail and have their lives destroyed. But along with the leader of [Manchester] Council, you were in Tokyo last month and signed an exploratory agreement with Fujitsu.

“Are you reviewing, or how much are you reviewing, the possibilities of that in light of their admissions?”

The Bolton News: Japanese company Fujitsu made the Horizon software at the centre of the Post Office IT scandal (Alamy/PA)Japanese company Fujitsu made the Horizon software at the centre of the Post Office IT scandal (Alamy/PA)

The mayor responded: “Well, certainly they’re very serious admissions, and I just want it to be clear, Mike, that I fully support the subpostmasters and mistresses in their campaign to get justice from the Post Office, from Fujitsu, from the government.

“We obviously then have to wait though, don’t we, to see what the public inquiry finds in relation to all of that, and who is to blame and to what extent people are to blame.

“So, all of that is absolutely non-negotiable, and I’m not going to in any way back away from any of that whatsoever.

“We also, though, have a company that’s been here for a long time. They have a big base in Greater Manchester: 500 people work for Fujitsu in Greater Manchester.

“We can’t, at the same time, just follow the media and just disregard those jobs. We’ve got to work with the company in terms of its plans in Greater Manchester, hence the agreement.

“But there’s no contract, there’s nothing binding – and it’s for that reason, because there’s an ongoing public inquiry here. So, we’ve got a local responsibility to the employer and to the company that are based here, but at the same time we’ve got a responsibility to justice and the subpostmasters.

“But, the situation that we’re in allows that because there’s no decision that’s been made. It’s a complicated situation, if I’m honest, Mike.

“But, we’ve reserved our position, because it’s only sort of a very outline agreement, and it was signed last year, as you say, before some of the recent revelations have come through, in relation to the public inquiry and the evidence that Fujitsu gave to that public inquiry.

“So, we have 500 people whose jobs are here, and we have an employer who’s been operating here for many, many years actually – about 75 years.

“But, at the same time, that company needs to be held to account, like the Post Office needs to be held to account, and like the government needs to be held to account, and nothing that we would do would cut across that, at all.”

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