Secret email about the Post Office Scandal. Shh!

Paul Scully exclusive interview

plus: James Hartley on Today!

Hello everyone

When Paul Scully was reshuffled out of government in November, I got in touch and asked if he’d do a podcast, talking about his experience of being Post Office minister from Feb 2020 to July 2022.

At t time the government was trying to work out how to deal with the Post Office scandal and Mr Scully, in his first job as a minister, was trying to work out what power he had and how he could use it.

We recorded the interview on Tuesday this week and I’m delighted to tell you that once more you are the first to know it is up and ready for your listening pleasure on Audioboom or wherever you get your podcasts.

The two big headlines are that Mr Scully thinks there’s no way former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells should hang on to her CBE and he also admits that the government messed up on his watch in the way it set up the compensation schemes. He’s also very interesting on the minister vs civil servant trade offs which happen when trying to get something done.

Do have a listen.

In other podcast news, I was interviewed by Adrian Goldberg for the Byline Times podcast, and I’ve also augmented my Where Did All The Money Go? chat with Ron Warmington and Mark Baker with a blog post which lists the 14 ways Subpostmasters could find their branch balances in deficit, so you can read along as you listen.

More infuriating Post Office incompetence

Former tax lawyer and all round good egg Dan Neidle has something of a scoop. Dan made a huge journalistic impact on this story after he read Tom Witherow’s excellent piece in the Daily Mail on Francis Duff, who had been done over twice by the Post Office’s appalling incompetence. Dan investigated further and found that yes, it really was just that. Total incompetence.

Well, guess what? The Post Office appears to have messed up the Historical Shortfall Scheme again. Up to 1,100 claimants potentially face fines from HMRC. Read more here.

Government and Post Office News

On Tuesday the government published new figures on where we are with compensation (from its perspective) to coincide with a debate over the “new” Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill. You can read the short transcript of the debate here.

The Post Office published its Annual Report today. The last one told us delightedly how it had awarded itself massive bonuses for doing such a great job helping the Inquiry, work which was personally endorsed by Sir Wyn Williams and his team. It led to bonusgate, (with massive credit to former postmaster Tim McCormack for spotting it) and in my view was such a catstrophic corporate governance failure it should have cost senior people their jobs. Instead it cost them (parts) of their bonuses. Let’s see what gems this latest beauty contains. I look forward to reading Tim’s blog.

Jameses Today

There was something of a coup on Tuesday for the ITV PR team who managed to get a huge plug for Mr Bates vs The Post Office on the BBC’s flagship Today programme*. This one featured The Freeths lawyer James Hartley and the actor who plays him – John Hollingworth – being interviewed on the progamme together.

There’s a good angle. In 2015 James Hartley heard James (now Lord) Arbuthnot being interviewed by James Naughtie on Today about the Subpostmaster scandal. After doing so, he got in touch with Alan Bates, founder of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, to suggest they work on putting together a claim against the Post Offic. The rest is history. Well done the Jameses and Alan. John Hollingworth was excellent value too. You can listen to it here, scroll through to 2 hrs 48 minutes into the programme.

There’s also a lovely long interview with Toby Jones in the Guardian.

(* To be fair I did do a piece for ITV’s News At Ten last night about the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, so it cuts both ways!)

Forensic about failure

On Monday and Tuesday this week the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry heard from Duncan Atkinson KC who investigated 22 specific Subpostmaster cases and elegantly laid bare the failures of Post Office process and competence therein.

From Atkinson’s evidence Joshua Rozenberg picked up on the Gareth Jenkins Problem and the Guardian noted an interesting detail – that a Post Office PR statement over Second Sight’s investigations was cut and pasted into witness statements and used during the prosecution of Subpostmasters.

Today is the last day of Inquiry hearings before Christmas. Another Post Office investigator is being questioned – Lisa Allen, who was involved in the prosecution of Suzanne Palmer. I’ll have a look at the transcript tomorrow as it’s all been a bit hectic today!

Clocking off

This is my last day of proper work this year (I’m hiding in 4 Millbank preparing to do a live outside New Scotland Yard for ITV News later), and this is also likely to be my last newsletter before Christmas unless something really huge comes up.

With that in mind I’d like to wish everyone the very best for this festive season. I’ll be back in touch in the middle bit before NYE to remind you to watch Mr Bates vs The Post Office, but for now I’m going to take a few days with the family. Thanks so much for all your support and correspondence over the past year, I really do appreciate it.

Happy Christmas!

Nick


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