PM now on the record
Seema Misra’s MP Jonathan Lord squeezed what could be an important statement from the Prime Minister during PMQs this week. I’ve written it up on the blog here.
The parliamentary pressure on the government over the past couple of weeks has been phenomenal. As well as the debate engendered by the announcement that Sir Wyn Williams’ inquiry would be put on a statutory footing, there has been an avalanche of written questions going in to the BEIS ministry, many of them written by Kevan Jones, Lucy Allan and Sir Peter Bone. You can find them all here, but the most interesting factual answer came to Kevan Jones’ question:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what associated costs have accrued to the public purse as a result of the setting up of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry.”
Paul Scully, the Business Minister replied:
“The associated costs that have accrued as a result of the setting up of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry are £459,000 as of April 30th 2021.”
So nearly half a million quid already… wow.
Another Collins tour de force
Tony Collins’ blog posts put mine to shame. Do read his patient evisceration of the government’s current position on the Post Office Horizon Scandal. It’s quite something.
Whilst we’re on the subject of journalism, the Sunday Times piece which was published the week before last now carries a little warning just below the graphic on top of its online version (see above).
When I read the piece I was struck by the line which identified Michael Keegan as the Fujitsu CEO who Paula Vennells (former Post Office CEO) alleged told her the Horizon system was “like Fort Knox“.
The Sunday Times is a careful paper and Sabah Meddings is a good journalist. I am sure they would have take steps to ensure they had got this right before publishing.
Equally – if it is the subject of his complaint, Mr Keegan would have to be pretty sure he didn’t say what is alleged if he were going to start legal action.
There’s only one way to find out, which is to write to Ms Vennells and ask her if she was referring to Michael Keegan in the statement she gave the BEIS select committee inquiry. So I have.
Given she’s never answered any question I’ve ever put to her I’m not holding out much hope. I am sure both the learned friends of Mr Keegan and the Sunday Times will put a similar question to Ms Vennells if they haven’t already.
Less legally contentious journalism
If you want to witness the final extinction of the relationship between the words “trust” and “Post Office”, do read this piece in Marketing Week by Helen Edwards.
Karl Flinders at Computer Weekly has been exceptionally busy recently. Here is his latest on the Chartered Institute for IT campaigning for a change to the infamous legal presumption of IT reliability in the courts.
And if you want to read what I have to say on the subject of investigative journalism and the Post Office Horizon Scandal, do buy a copy of the current issue of Radio Times.
Peter’s Map of Disaster
A lovely chap by the name of Peter Bell has taken it upon himself to manually scrape all the available information he can find about Subposmasters, their convictions and the quashings thereof into a customised Google Map of the UK. It is turning into an excellent resource. This is something of a labour of love, and Peter fully accepts any inaccuracies are his, but I think he’s doing a good job, developing an unusual visualisation of the scale of the scandal. The map is here.
After a tense week of to-ing and fro-ing, the Great Post Office Trial Episode 11: The Reckoning is ready for broadcast on Monday (8pm, BBC Radio 4). I’m sorry we couldn’t persuade Alan Bates to give us an interview and I would like to apologise in advance to those secret emailers whose contributions may not have made the final cut. We conducted more than 15 hours of interviews for a 28 minute programme. I wish we had an hour, but them’s the breaks.
Once the programme has gone out, longer versions of all 11 episodes will be released into the wild, available on Spotify, Apple Music and all your regular podcast platforms, as well as BBC Sounds, which is nice.
Paula goes postal
I was sent the following by a secret emailer the other day – a picture of a postal order (still available! – see below) recently sent out to a Post Office. The Queen is pictured in the top left hand corner and look who signs it on behalf of the Post Office – Paula Vennells! The Post Office is still evidently happy to be associated with the old regime in one way, at least…
Here comes the weekend
I’ll be back on Monday with one more plug for the documentary. We have got a couple of revelations you won’t have heard before, so it might be worth listening to if you can be within earshot of a wireless (or smart speaker).
Thanks to everyone who did give us their time and thanks to everyone who has joined the secret email list over the past week. There are now more people reading this than I ever dreamed possible – your information, tip-offs and documents are fascinating. Even if I can’t do anything with them straight away they may come in useful in the future so please keep them coming.
Have a great weekend.