Post Office Chairman Tim Parker: Fatalistic Attraction

Tim Parker – Post Office Chairman 2015 – 2022

The morning started on a light note. After Tim Parker had been sworn in, Jason Beer KC, who was asking questions on behalf of the Inquiry, took him to paragraph 268 of his 136 page witness statement.

Beer told the Inquiry that Parker had written about the Post Office appointing “a criminal with extensive experience to work alongside Brian Altman QC”. Beer wondered if perhaps the word “silk” was missing?
Parker agreed it was.
So, suggested Beer, “rather than the Post Office appointing a criminal, the Post Office would appoint a criminal silk?”
“Correct”, said Parker.

Glad that was tidied up.

Parker’s motivations for taking the job of Post Office chair were not properly explored. He told the inquiry he knew he was walking into a business “in deep crisis” and he showed some caution before agreeing to do so – requesting a good look at the Post Office’s figures. But Parker never took a salary (or, more accurately, he donated his salary to charity) which begs the question – why would a busy, important, incredibly rich man without a knighthood agree to take on this government-owned basket case for no money?

Parker’s due diligence only went so far. He had no idea his predecessor, Alice Perkins (and the business department and the Post Office board) thought Paula Vennells was a bit useless. In terms of his handover with Perkins, he told the Inquiry “I met Alice for lunch before I began.”

Parker has no recollection of any formal handover. Just a lunch.

Jason Beer KC

Grooming the new chair

We were then taken to the briefing given to Parker on his arrival at the Post Office. It was drafted by Mark Davies, the Post Office’s director of communications. The initial draft of the document aimed to tell Parker that:

“thorough investigation has underlined that the [Horizon] system is efficient and robust.”
“We have also asked our external criminal lawyers to review all the cases involving prosecutions.”
“Throughout all this no evidence has emerged to support the very serious allegations being made”
“we only prosecute where there is clear evidence of wrongdoing… We do not prosecute people for making mistakes.”
“Some… complainants have now asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine their cases… we are co-operating fully with this process and providing all information.”
“No information at all has been destroyed, as has been alleged.”

All of the above statements are untrue:

  • there had not been a thorough investigation of the Horizon system,
  • the criminal lawyers had not reviewed all prosecutions,
  • independent investigators Second Sight and Detica NetReveal and Deloitte had all found evidence supporting the serious allegations being made by the JFSA,
  • the Post Office was not co-operating fully with the CCRC and had not provided all information (eg the Clarke Advice),
  • information had been destroyed (a point we were told was picked up by Andy Parsons from WBD before the document went to Parker)
Andy Parsons’ comment on Mark Davies’ document

The briefing was eventually sent to Parker by his chief executive Paula Vennells, who claimed to be its author.

Tim Parker’s defence of his failings as Post Office Chair can be summarised this:

  • it was a complex business with a lot going on. Potential miscarriages was only a part of what he had to deal with, and,
  • had he known how many prosecutions and sackings there had been at the start, his response could have been different
  • resolving the intractable issues raised by Subpostmasters could only be done in a court of law – Bates v Post Office was therefore a benevolent happenstance
  • it was all Jane MacLeod’s fault

Quite Strong Language

Parker’s plans for helping Paula Vennells make the Post Office more commercially-minded were derailed by a letter he received from the Business Department shortly after he was appointed. Parker was told by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the Post Office minister, that he needed to investigate the Horizon system and see whether or not there had been any miscarriages of justice. Neville-Rolfe told him:

“I am… requesting that, on assuming your role as Chair, you give this matter your earliest attention and, if you determine that any further action is necessary, will take steps to ensure that happens.”

Within a week of getting his feet under the desk, Parker appointed Jonathan Swift QC to write a report. You can read the Swift Review here. It’s not great, but it does suggest a lot of things at the Post Office have gone seriously wrong. Professor Richard Moorhead has written ten blog posts about its failings (start here). Parker, increasingly coming across as a semi-detached chair called the Swift Review “relatively reassuring”, telling the Inquiry: “it wasn’t a bad piece of work and it yielded some good recommendations”.

In his report Swift raises an essential point about the Post Office’s bait and switch prosecution tactic – going after Subpostmasters with unevidenced theft charges in order to secure a guilty plea of false accounting. As Swift has it, the Post Office “effectively bullied Subpostmasters into pleading guilty to offences by unjustifiably overloading the charge sheet”. Swift was unequivocal that this was “a stain on the character of the business.”

Beer said: “That’s quite strong language, isn’t it?”
“Quite strong, yeah”, replied Parker.

Jo Hamilton (centre) and her legal team

Secret Swift

Parker chose not to share the Swift Review with the Post Office board. He says this was because he was told not to by Jane MacLeod, the Post Office’s general counsel (the title given to a company’s top in-house lawyer). This apparently came down to Parker’s failure to understand privilege. Parker says he couldn’t do anything with the document because it was privileged.

Beer took him to this, noting “the report on its face is not marked as privileged is it??

“No, no”, said Parker.
“And the report does not say that it’s been provided for the purpose of… any ongoing litigation?”
“It doesn’t”, agreed Parker.
“It doesn’t say that it was provided for the purposes of obtaining legal advice, does it?” asked Beer.
“No”, said Parker, who (like most of us) had no idea what privilege is and the forms it can take.

It turns out Parker didn’t even give the Swift Review to Baroness Neville-Rolfe, his boss and the person who commissioned it. For this and his failure to give the report to the Post Office board, he was later censured by Sarah Munby, a senior official in the Business department. Parker said he was just following MacLeod’s legal advice.

When it came to the group litigation Parker also followed legal advice. He suggested that Bates v Post Office was not a failure, but somehow a natural consequence of the intractable problems the Post Office was faced with. Or as Parker said today: “it remains my view to today that once the litigation had started, and although I think we’ll see it wasn’t necessarily handled in the best and cooperative manner, the litigation… ultimately proved to be a comprehensive… settlement of a lot of very complex issues.”

Always the lawyers

Teju Adedayo and her barrister Ed Henry KC

Parker went on some after this, circling his point that essentially the courts were the best place to resolve the issues Alan Bates and the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance had been raising. Beer waited until Parker had stopped speaking, then he asked: “Are you saying by that answer that it needed a group of brave and determined Subpostmasters to hold the Post Office to account by bringing in the Post Office before a court? And that the Post Office was incapable of doing it itself?”

It seems that was exactly what Parker was suggesting. He told Beer:

“with hindsight… the postmasters… Sir Alan Bates should never have been required to mount a group litigation order. I understand that… all I’m saying is that once it was in train, had it been managed a bit better, then a lot of complex issues might have been determined without the delay and without the cost. But a judge review of all these issues, I still think, one way or another, was the right way to get, you know, an outcome in the end, yes.”

Towards the end of the day, by Ed Henry KC asked whether he was being “fatalistic” about the scandal “and that more could have been done to strive to see the other side, and to strive for settlement without having to enter into the quagmire of litigation?”
Parker replied: “Yeah, I mean, there’s no satisfactory answer to this.”

Over the course of the day we were reminded that Tim Parker took on the job as Post Office chair by agreeing to give the company 1.5 days of his time a week. He then successfully managed to reduce that to 2 days a month. Just the man to run an organisation which he described in “deep crisis” at the time he joined, with “an awful lot going on… and an awful lot of stuff that needs addressing.” Challenged on this, Parker said:

“you asked the question… that somehow what happened here was the result of me not spending enough time at the Post Office, and I would certainly rebut that suggestion. I would say that I was a very active, energetic chair who took a lot of time and spent time with people to understand the business.”

The only way that logic could makes sense was if Parker’s reign was an unqualified success. As it was, he took the business from crisis into catastrophic failure, to the point that were it any ordinary organisation, it would be dissolved.

Parker’s shoulder-shrugging about the inevitability of litigation might have held more weight were it not for the fact that once the judge (Mr Justice Fraser) had begun to find in favour of the Subpostmasters, the Post Office threw the kitchen sink at trying to get him recused.

Parker says when Jane MacLeod suggested the Post Office attempt a recusal application, he was “a little bit uneasy… it’s big deal to get a judge to accept that they had made a judgment that was wrong on technical grounds”. Nonetheless, the Post Office went to the finest lawyers money could buy – Lords Grabiner and Neuberger.

According to Parker, Grabiner “said something along the lines that we had a duty almost to ask for the judge’s recusal….The way the advice was framed was that.. almost… the law required us, where we thought something had been incorrectly managed for whatever reason, we needed to act upon it.”

Grabiner’s claim that the Post Office had a “duty” to apply for recusal was described by Grabiner as nothing more than his personal emphasis, nothing to do with a legal duty. Beer asked Parker: “Can you recall whether you formed a view as in what sense you were under a duty to make the application?”
Parker replied: “I don’t want to make too much of this duty thing. I think we just got advice from two very, very senior lawyers and felt on balance that advice should be taken.”

Swift exit

(l-r) Sam Stein KC, Chris Jacobs and David Enright

The Swift report seems to have been strangled at birth by Jane MacLeod. She allegedly told Parker he could not release it to the Post Office board and then connived to ensure that the minister, Baroness Neville Rolfe, never got to see a copy. In fact – it was such a sensitive document it wasn’t initially digitised. Accordint to Parker, under MacLeod’s instruction, the review was held in paper copy only by four people at the Post Office – MacLeod, Rodric Williams, Patrick Bourke and Mark Underwood.

Swift made eight recommendations including a proper review of the Horizon IT system. He also recommended every single Post Office prosecution should be investigated. Parker tasked MacLeod with implementing the Swift review. She, Williams and Bourke soon found an excuse to avoid doing so. When the Bates v Post Office litigation came around, Williams wrote of the need to create “a piece of advice that says TP [Tim Parker] should stop any further work”. Williams continued “I’m conscious that this feels somewhat unpleasant in that we are being asked to provide political cover for TP. However, putting aside the political background, shutting down TP’s review is, in my view, still the right thing to do.”

Patrick Bourke wrote: “the litigation makes the Review irrelevant since the issues to be considered will be put to a higher standard of testing in the Courts; to continue would be fruitless since we couldn’t use its output, senseless in terms of expenditure, and present unnecessary risk to the organisation’s legal position.”

Between them, they got their way. And what of Parker, the semi-absent, part-time chair?

“When you get to see these emails… which are what’s going on behind the scenes,” he said, “it kind of puts a different complexion on things”.

Jane MacLeod has refused to be questioned by the Inquiry.


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92 responses to “Post Office Chairman Tim Parker: Fatalistic Attraction”

  1. I would love to know how his 2 days a month at the PO. Were they consecutive

    I would imagine something like this

    A cup of tea or coffee mmm
    Chat with his secretary
    Catch up with emails
    Stroll around office holding some important looking documents and make small talk with some peasants.
    Take a dump
    Oh it’s almost lunchtime
    Check Cricket scores on BBC

    Lunchtime couple of hours and a drink or two mmm?

    The Archers catch-up
    Meeting with some very important PO people. I don’t know who they are or what they do but they’re good at telling me what I want to hear.
    Cup of tea maybe mmm?
    Assign some actions arising from meeting
    Check cricket scores
    Arrange meeting for the next day I’m in the office
    Oh look at the time, almost 4PM! Not much point starting anything else now mmm?
    Fill in timesheet.
    Look busy for a few minutes
    5:00PM home time

  2. Any drama student wishing to know how best to play an entitled, self-absorbed yet self-unaware and above all supremely arrogant figure, need look no further for the ultimate exemplar than a certain Mr (let’s hope it stays that way) Parker.

  3. Remember all of you that it’s a contraction of ‘it is’ and ‘its’ is possessive (belonging to or associated with).

  4. Parker’s slow and deliberate way of speaking is meant to convey gravitas, but he actually says very little of import. He was yet another PO incompetent, failing to ask basic and important questions or apply any degree of critical thought to his job. He exudes arrogance. A charlatan.

  5. A question – like MPs having jobs rather than their main work – has anyone considered why bods like Mr Parker are paid large amounts for putting in minimal hours into many jobs? Does this as a factor into disasters such as Horizon need looked at?

    1. I agree. He was a waste of space.

  6. Sorry Parker

  7. It is interesting that in this time of major disasters that Mr Perkins has both the look and manner of Rock Feilding-Mellen of Grenfell. I found it hard to seperate the two. The scoundrels are legion and unfortunately it looks like they are not going to go away any time soon.

  8. A cynical view from the pulpit.
    Tim Parker’s many roles give you an insight in to how senior company officials operate. So image the scenario, a Company produces plastic garden gnomes and wants to become more profitable, reduces it’s workforce by 2,000. The knock-on effect being a significant number of it’s employees and their families now face uncertainty and hardships. Whilst the inocous plastic garden gnome sat it your garden enjoys security. That’s says volumes about the value of human life, in relation to a piece of plastic tat. The gnome must be protected at any cost.
    The PO knew full well that Horizon was prone to throwing a wobbly on days when the stars didn’t align. Just sheer luck if your PO didn’t fall foul of one of it’s off days. Knowing it was unpredictable and knowing it could strike randomly anywhere, PO persisted in telling the complainant they were the only one. Contracts terminated, court cases, fines, sentences, lives destroyed. All to protect their own failure in acknowledging, well actually something’s just not quite right with Horizon as there’s quite a number of Sub-PM’s now citing all too familiar issues.
    Next time you see a garden gnome sat on a rock in a garden, then remember the PO used a very hard rock to bury the
    discovery by Sub-PM’s that in some instances Horizon just wasn’t adding up, whilst robustly glorifying a plastic box of bugs over the value of human lives.

  9. Claire Lawrence avatar
    Claire Lawrence

    Great summary, Nick. What an arrogant performance by TP. He tells us what a great chair he was, as if presiding over part of one of the biggest miscarriages of justice was just an unfortunate by-product of his brilliance. He also seems not to have understood his role giving evidence to the inquiry with his repeated ‘I don’t know where you are going with this…’ type responses, Sir Wyn eventually getting fed up with him and telling him to just answer the question.

  10. I wonder after the election who the new post office minister will be..pity they did not Mr Hollingrake finsh the job

  11. We have seen a number of arrogant people at this inquiry. I’m sure TP thinks he gave a good account of himself, but he oozed arrogance. Just the way he leaned back in his chair suggested that he might be settling in for an enjoyable evening at Glyndebourne rather than being questioned at a serious inquiry into a national scandal which he played a full part in. So many “really interesting” questions to be discussed as though he had no part in them and there were no real world consequences for other people. Just an academic exercise. I swear I saw the lawyers bristling (“this was not the National Trust” and Jason Beer questioning how many hours he was putting in). There was a faint whiff of condescension that finally came to the fore when he demanded 3 times to know why the lawyer wanted him to answer a particular question. Sir Wyn had to intervene to tell him he was just going to have to answer it.
    Let’s hope he never gets a knighthood – unlike Sir Alan Bates.

  12. Oops – for ‘Alice Parker’ read ‘Perkins’

  13. Interesting that we have news reports this week about people getting massive false reading bills from energy firms based on smart meters and then threatened with debt collertors – ring any bells.. false data, incorrect bills, threats etc etc

  14. Gerald Nykerk avatar

    “………why would a busy, important, incredibly rich man without a knighthood agree to take on this government-owned basket case for no money?”

    I can’t imagine.

  15. Tim Parker was labelled the “Prince of Darkness” by trade unions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Parker_(businessman)#cite_note-Telegraph_2007_profile-1)

    Might seem apprpriate given his performance as a witness to the enquiry………

  16. Could Parker’s statement, that the PO employed a criminal, to work alongside Altman, be something of a Freudian slip? It’s becoming apparent that the PO already had a number of criminals on the payroll.

  17. You have written a brilliant summary, Nick.

    I found Tim Parker’s evidence utterly unconvincing. But several questions occur from it. If the Post Office business was in ‘deep crisis’, when Alice Parker as Chair had been contracted to put in two days a week, who thought it was a good idea to bring in Tim Parker in October 2015 on one and a half days per week? Or to let him go down to just two days a month in November 2017? Especially when it is on record that both the civil servants and Alice Perkins didn’t think Paula Vennells was up to the job as CEO? And Parker himself appears to have shown scant genuine interest in the role of Chair.

    And Mr Parker’s assertion that he had ‘no axe to grind’ regarding Horizon does not stack up. For a reluctant Chair, who seems to have been more interested in pursuing his other commitments elsewhere, opening this particular hornets’ nest would have potentially dragged him into a hugely contentious and time-consuming issue. Far better to look the other way and avoid getting stung.

    Mr Parker’s suggestion that the courts were the best place to resolve the issues Alan Bates and the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance had been raising is disingenuous. If, from the introduction of Horizon, the Post Office had accepted that every computer system will have occasional bugs and had put in place adequate investigative processes to deal with them, this whole tragedy could have been averted. Instead, Parker and Vennells doubled down and, according to the BBC, racked up a further £100 million in legal costs fighting sub postmasters in court:

    Secret papers reveal Post Office knew its court defence was false – BBC News

    In this context, I was amazed by the view attributed to Ken McCall, POL’s Senior Independent Director, in an email dated 16 September 2020 [Inquiry document UKGI00012703] that Tim Parker had been ‘a strong force for positive change in the company’. An alternative perspective might be that Mr Parker landed the tax payer with massive legal bills, contributed to trashing the Post Office brand and caused the subpostmasters yet further unnecessary financial and emotional stress by forcing them to take court action.

    As for Paula Vennells, in the introductory welcome email drafted for her by Mark Davies and sent in her name to Tim Parker, she appears to have substantially misled the new Chairman about the issues surrounding Horizon. One wonders when she is finally going to be held to account for her malign influence throughout this whole affair.

  18. Anthony Frewin avatar
    Anthony Frewin

    A wafflemeister supreme!

  19. Jane Stringer avatar

    That silly hair do? Reminded me of a mixture of meringue and spun sugar.

  20. Thank you Nick for yet again, a good precis of TP at the enquiry. Failed to watch all of it because TP was so obfuscating and kept inappropriately adopting an ‘advisory’ role as well as exhibiting a need to defend his appalling lack of CEO judgement via delivering non answers and lecturing on definitions and inexplicable meaningless tours of ‘contexts’ which were irrelevant.
    Can’t wait for Nov in the norf…..

  21. Having listened to Tim Parker’s evidence I’m beginning to wonder if the PO invented the wheel. Investigation after investigation, examination after examination, report after report, advice after advice and more advice. It’s now quite clear ‘they’ were quite happy in keeping the wheel spinning in perpetuity, with no one prepared to apply the brakes. The cost to the taxpayer has by many millions exceeded the cost of dealing with the issue from the outset when they knew Horizon had issues with badly written code.

  22. The very best part of questioning came at the end from Angela Patrick. Cut straight to the point, made perfectly.

  23. A bouffon buffoon who dropped in looking for a knighthood. I wonder how many accidents he’s seen in his rear view mirror ?

  24. Pam Walker MBE avatar
    Pam Walker MBE

    It never ceases to amaze how incompetent those who regard themselves as leaders of organisations are. For those who believe he was a good Chairman of the National Trust that is not the view of those who live and work on the various estates the NT owns. No concern for employess and their livlihoods but only in turning a charity into a profitable business, in all but name.

  25. 
    At last, Tim Parker was in a position to assist the Inquiry in its fascinating task.

    It was important to explore, in a deeply philosophical way, the meaning of sentences in the written evidence. Words could be interpreted in so many ways, and of course, might not represent what people actually thought at the time.

    Some of the barristers were having trouble understanding what he had said, and kept asking the same question. He patiently attempted to explain to them by describing his response in a different way, more simply, emphasising certain words. Starting sentences with ‘so’, …. and a pause, to make sure they had a chance to concentrate on his answer.

    They didn’t seem to grasp that, had things been different, the outcomes might have been different. If some people had asked more searching questions, we might have avoided all the terrible things that happened. It’s so easy, in hindsight, to realise that.

    In case the Inquiry counsel was experiencing difficulty in understanding some points, Mr. Parker always sought to help him by explaining.

    After the rather strenuous business of coming to the aid of Mr. Beer, who had a limited understanding of a CEO’s role, he was addressed by Mr. Henry. At last he was able to be a little more relaxed. He leant back in the witness chair and crossed his legs. How satisfying it was to be able help these people! He was enjoying it so much.

    At the same time, he had to explain one thing. He felt so deeply about apologizing to the sbmrs that he recounted how he had desperately wrestled with the best way to express his sorrow at their suffering.

    What a day! It was so gratifying to have assisted these poor people.

    Sent from my iPad

    1. I really enjoyed that, thank you! Especially the Fiona Harvey reference.

  26. Brian Bissenden avatar
    Brian Bissenden

    I think he successfully put a nail in the coffin for part time CEO’s & Chairs.

    Who was sitting behind Mr Stein on Friday? He looked a lot like Richard Sharp of BBC fame?

  27. At least, compared to his predecessor Alice Perkins, Parker managed not to convey the same level of contempt and peevishness towards the inquiry in general and, in particular, those having the audacity to ask questions of her. However, what they both have in common is being patrician and privileged establishment figures of the highest order. It was therefore impossible for him to even begin to see things from the average sub-postmaster’s point of view or feel any empathy towards them. Coupled with the fact that Parker was trying to juggle several other senior positions at the time and appeared to be phoning it in as Chair of POL for much of his tenure, the SPMs were never going to get a sniff of justice under his watch. His studied languid style at the inquiry pretty much gives us a good clue how much time and effort he was prepared to put in to do his job as Chair properly as far as the Horizon issue is concerned. In regard to this issue, he seems to have been on auto-pilot, allowing others to direct the ship (his job) and tell him what to do and think.

  28. Lynda Henderson avatar
    Lynda Henderson

    Tim Parker tried to make his appearance a fencing match between two alpha males – a status which Jason Beer’s position confers upon him but which he never plays. Parker maintained a perpetually amused expression and a rather louche lounging position. He continually made voluntary ‘comments’ which were lengthy and almost invariably self-exculpatory. He could be heard ‘voicing’ as Beer read questions. All of this was clearly designed to make him look like an equal, trying to conjure the impression of two lords of the joust to prevent any notion that, God forbid, he was secondary in any way to his gifted interlocutor. It was at once an egotistical and rather pathetic performance.

  29. Bruce Roberts avatar

    “…. what happened here was the result of me not spending enough time at the Post Office,”

    Although truthful, this is misleading because it was part of a repeated question, not an answer.

    1. oops! sorry – will amend

  30. sub-postmasters really needed a Nosey Parker….

    6 million transactions per day , with one or two discrepancies per day is robust … but if issues ‘cluster’ at a few rural post offices then till take months for these to identify £20-70k shortfall than needs investigation at branch

    sadly no Investigators really looked for truth, horizon false accounting glitch, but as paid bonus on monies recovered used bully tactics on innocent SPMzs

    rest is history… ,just 30 conviction per year over 15 years , small fry to POL , life changing for innocent spms

    1. Michael Vaughan avatar
      Michael Vaughan

      wouldnt trust Mr Parker with my dirty socks

    2. yes lots of airliners flying millions of hours a day – they are all robust – apart from the odd glitch which cause a few to crash…step up please and have your boarding cards ready

  31. At one point, he was speaking about the time that he devoted to the Post Office, at first 2.5 days per week, then dropping to 2 days per month. He pointed out that it was difficult to appreciate what was involved with being a CEO.
    Reminded me of the ‘You can’t handle the truth’ speech by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

    1. How is it like the A Few Good Men speech?

  32. Watching him answer questions was like pulling teeth! Nearly every answer had to be given a ‘context’ preamble. On one hand he was droning on about the scale and complexity of POL….and then apparently asked for his working hours to be reduced!! Had to smile when Sam Stein KC incurred the wrath of Sir Wyn yet again for going way over the time he was allotted for questions.

    1. Alan Cornforth avatar
      Alan Cornforth

      The core participants lawyers are never given enough time for questions and are always being rushed. Even on a week when they are only sitting on one day!!

      1. yes love Mr Henry and Mr Stein

  33. Oliver Harrison avatar
    Oliver Harrison

    Silver haired, silver spoon boomer. Public school and Oxbridge.

    Parker treated the Inquiry like a dinner party discussion in which he was largely disinterested. Lots of “mmm, yeah” and waffly answers that started with “So, you know ….”. It’s a wonder he wasn’t sipping wine and absently mindedly toying with his cutlery.

    It was all very discursive and abstract. Good job no one, mmm, you know, actually died or went to prison because of his actions.

    1. Alan Cornforth avatar
      Alan Cornforth

      Clearly a prerequisite of the job, Alice Perkins showed the same attitude as “Bamber” in her evidence. When’s tiffin?

    2. Spot on.

    3. Well observed, Oliver, I felt much the same watching his detached, casual responses, simply filling the day before pre-prandial drinks and a nice dinner at one of his favourite restaurants in town.
      He clearly believes his 6+ year concealment of the Swift review didn’t contribute in any way to this appalling miscarriage of justice and that in any case, it was all Jane McLeod’s fault as he was just following her advice.
      Wouldn’t it be great if we could all get part-time jobs that paid this well, but apparently carry little responsibility?

    4. Spot on with this. Parker came across as a curious sort of chap – a languid patrician more at home running a vineyard who, amongst the many part-time roles he was trying to juggle, was CEO of Kwikfit, of all places. Odd bloke.

    5. That’s brilliant!

  34. I was able to watch most of yesterday’s enquiry. My take was that firstly Parker really didn’t care at all. Didn’t care about the post office, didn’t care about the SPMs, didn’t overly care about the enquiry either. This was further supported by his dropping to two days a month! He was also pulling a very obvious trick which was to get a gong by being chair of the PO, and having insurance by giving his salary to charity, boosting his chances of the gong for services to that also. So basically do very little, for what was probably a large sum of public money to buy a little medal and devalued title. Sadly it seems too easy to do this and why the honours system is in disrepute (I can imaging Alan Bates knighthood was given through gritted teeth, because that not how you do it old boy).

    Lastly, what did he think was the purpose of the Swift review and report. Why on earth would you be pressed to review something by your boss only to then keep it secret from everyone including them. It just makes no sense why he didn’t question what he was being told apart from not giving the slightest care and quite simply not doing the job.

  35. Zarayna Pradyer avatar
    Zarayna Pradyer

    So, Tim Parker, Chairman of the Post Office 2015-2022, and his team were not even able to diligently check his witness statement presented to the Post Office Inquiry.
    What a fine, penetrating insight into the whole scandalous, inhumane debacle.

  36. Is this hair real?

    That is an interesting quesion. in all honesty I can’t answer the question. I want assist this Inquiry but the hair in question was put in place so long ago that I simply cannot provide an honest answer.

    1. If I might ….. if we can just go back a bit (68 years) ….. I think my parents’ genes were channelling Donald Trump. 😉

    2. I want a witness statement from the hair

    3. How can you possibly trust any man with that hair? It screams absolute vanity and anything else (like being chair of an organisation) is secondary. No matter his so-called accomplishments, his judgement is totally undermined by him obviously thinking ‘This is good look’. Sorry, Tim, it’s a disaster. 🤦‍♀️💇🏼

  37. Good morning all.
    I watched most of Parker’s performance open-mouthed yesterday. Yes, he did the right thing in commissioning the Swift Report, but for someone with his experience to be bowled out by serial liars is quite unbelievable. In danger of sounding like the boss in The Life And Death of Reggie Perrin – he didn’t get to where he was without knowing a shyster when he saw one.

    This, more than anything, summed up the ingrained attitude of the GC and her sidekicks:

    “I’m conscious that this feels somewhat unpleasant in that we are being asked to provide political cover for TP. However, putting aside the political background, shutting down TP’s review is, in my view, still the right thing to do.”

    How was that ‘political cover’ for TP? It is highly likely it was political cover for Post Office apparatchiks – how so, you might ask? He’d been there five minutes, they’d had years to finagle, to cover their backsides, and here comes this candy-floss haired meddler with a massive spanner to gum up the works. No wonder Jane McLeod is refusing to speak to the Inquiry, by the sound of it she may be more concerned about accusations of perverting the course of justice.
    What a shower.

  38. Parker was there to get a gong only….
    in fact out of his depth at this level and clearly inexperienced in applying judgment and qualifying advice in legal matters.
    never understood the technical issues and didnt want to look either.
    Basically a complete wet….and again delayed the truth…

    1. I didn’t realise that his gong was awarded for his lack of governance at the Post Office. His attitude and general demeanour puzzled me but it all makes perfect sense now. He appeared to be laughing at the whole thing, smirked his way through questioning and tried to be flip and clever. It didn’t really work did it?

  39. Elizabeth Moyse avatar
    Elizabeth Moyse

    I was at the inquiry yesterday – this account summarizes it very well indeed. I felt it was unfortunate that Ed Henry left his question about Teju Adedayo until he was running out of time, particularly as she was sitting next to him…it enabled Parker to shrug it off. A propos of how little time Parker actually spent at the Post Office, it is rather odd that many of the emails from him we were shown came from his National Trust email – did he not have a Post Office one? And I would be very interested to know what he was paid for being Chair – he may have given it to charity – I bet it wasn’t one that would help wrongly convicted subpostmasters! The day before yesterday, I was at my local post office and asked the postmistress if they had been affected by the scandal. She told me that at one point they had had 5 or 6 heavies behind the counter going through stuff – but hadn’t complained because her husband preferred to put it behind them. I wonder how many more like them there are…

  40. A strutting peacock who believes that the magnificence of his bonce is proof enough of his extraordinary abilities. He doubtless has never considered self reflection necessary but often indulges in his mirror reflection.

    1. Chris Metcalfe avatar
      Chris Metcalfe

      Head truly in a cloud.

      1. Very good!

  41. Rosie Brocklehurst avatar
    Rosie Brocklehurst

    There is an understandable tendency to think ‘conspiracy of knaves’ in this awful saga and maybe I am wrong. But in an article in 2022 in the Mail, they claim Parker donated his salary of £75000 for 1.5 days a week to charity ‘in recent years’. I am thinking he did not donate it until he needed to look good perhaps after his errors on the Swift review, but he stuck it out rather than resign to do sort out getting a new CEO in place . Nick Read was, unusually, at the Inquiry yesterday? Parkers’ salary reduced to £19,000 when he went down to half a day a week from 2020. As an aside, I thought only 8 cases were recommended for review in the Swift advice ..and the point was no question was asked by Parker as to how many there really were and that only came to the surface well after 2015. It seems extraordinary to me that this P/T chair never asked how many prosecutions there had been when real estimates of much larger figures -hundreds of cases, were being established by Nick in the Inside Out programmes and the Panorama in 2015, the very year Parker came in. Why did he want the job? This was a man who had a history of sacking thousands, of selling off companies he ‘turned around’ and making millions from these sales – (he had £75 million in 2008 and by 2018 recorded as having £273 million by the Times Rich List built up between 2008 and 2015). He had flirted with Boris Johnson and London politics, becoming Boris’s Deputy London Mayor in 2008 but called himself a socialist turned Capitalist. He certainly had no grip on POL, obviously believes some SPMRs who have been acquitted are guilty but won’t say so, and curves round the question of why appalling people like Rodric Williams are still at POL – on the grounds that you wouldn’t be able to do anything if you got rid of people.

    1. Oliver Harrison avatar
      Oliver Harrison

      Rodric Williams. What a king Cnut.

  42. Alan Cornforth avatar
    Alan Cornforth

    It was about 20 minutes (or so) into Tim Parker’s evidence that I suddenly realised that he reminded me of the late great University Challenge presenter Bamber Gascoigne and then, within a minute of this revelation, I heard JB quote from an induction document for TP that started with “this should give him a starter for ten” !!

    That was where the comparison ended, however, as he didn’t answer many questions!

    1. I noticed this funny moment as well. Perhaps he has heard of this comparison with Bamber before. A sub-conscious thing then for him to say starter for 10.

    2. sheena palmer avatar

      Yes, he was a waffler of twaddle. Unbelievable how these people cannot answer a question truthfully with a yes or no. Incompetence, arrogance coupled with sociopathic behaviour seems to have been the board norm for too many years. The NHS is the same

    3. The weird thing is that he didn’t remind me of Bamber Gascoigne but of a Gerry Anderson puppet, Professor Himber from an episode of Fireball XL5 circa 1962.

      This episode predated the Post Office Horizon scandal by around half a century but was called Trial By Robot.

      Steve Zodiac and crew are captured and tried by Himber for damaging an inhabitant of Robotvia. Their robot jurors find them guilty.

      Spooky.

      See the guest cast, it does remind me of Parker and some of the automatons from the inquiry.

      https://gerryanderson.fandom.com/wiki/Trial_By_Robot

  43. Man in a Suitcase*

    Back in the late 60’s this British TV series about McGill, an ex CIA man turned private detective, was very much about betrayal, mistrust and deceit. He travelled everywhere, hence man in a suitcase.

    Tim Parker was the part time POL sleuth and Chair who held down so many roles that he must have found it difficult managing his smalls let alone his briefs. The man in a Samsonite suitcase.

    The man who helped to end national trust in the Post Office brand. A man who hired expensive lawyers like Kwik-Fit fitters. By the end of his tenure, the Post Office vehicle he had been carelessly driving ended up being suitable only for sale by a dodgy second hand salesman. Ironic as by this time he tried to cut his work at POL down to a half a Daily.

    Phew! Jobs, jobs, jobs! as my grandson said after receiving homework during his first week at school.

    You can feel their pain.

    Parker did have British Pathe news to run after all, plus the National Trust and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. The former Kenwood Chef man a blender of justice. Parker in his wide ranging roles always comfortable in his own shoes. A Superman once seen in Clarks, Kent.

    Taking over at POL the man labelled the ‘Prince of Darkness’ when he cut 10,000 jobs at the AA thought he could help develop the commercial skills of the Rev Paula Vennells in cutting costs. The Prince of Darkness schooling the Daughter of Darkness in the dark arts?

    Unfortunately our man in a Samsonite didn’t realise his super powers would be useless in an organisation full of kryptonite. Lurking in the underworld were corporate psychopaths, lawyers undergoing disclosure aversion therapy and the Horizon system, full of errors and so badly coded that even McGill’s CIA would struggle to decipher it.

    Like our 1960’s hero McGill, Parker found himself in a situation full of unscrupulous characters prepared to use any means to achieve their ends.

    But that is where the comparison ends. Parker was too smart and too detached to be the fall guy. The cynic may question his amnesia and by the end of the questioning you could see the mask of co-operation with the inquiry slipping.

    Rather than appearing bored like Perkins, he appeared like a schoolchild just before the final bell goes. Wrapping up his lanyard and shutting his file while answering the last question. He oozed self satisfaction and lack of contrition or empathy.

    Despite appearing surly and moody, McGill did feel compassion for those who were the victims in his cases, and would try to help them, often at his own cost.

    On the other hand, Parker, the Prince of Darkness appeared content that the outcome of Bates v the Post Office had resolved the issues.

    He had somehow helped to achieve that end result despite POL throwing £millions of taxpayers money at a rearguard action by the Kwik-Fit lawyers to thwart justice. Parker was the Kenwood chef blender of justice and the skint little people only narrowly missed being pulp in the POL fiction.

    At the end of the inquiry, the former deputy major of London and CEO of the Greater London Council bid us farewell.

    Whether the former Chairman of Transport for London used the tube or not I don’t know. The man in the suitcase with a degree in philosophy disappeared up his own logic. Puff! He was gone! The ultimate salesman who made it big. Like his former boss Boris Johnson only with better hair.

    Listening to Parker reminded me of the words of another great salesman, Arthur Daley…

    Have I not suffered enough? Have I not endured endless sleepless nights of concern? If you prick me, do I not spill claret?

    * As Parker is a trustee of the Royal Academy of Music (jobs, jobs, jobs, phew!) he might be interested to know that the theme to Man in a Suitcase by John Barry was used by Chris Evans as the introductory music to TFI Friday.

    This is not to be confused with Man in a Suitcase from the album Zenyatta Mondatta.

    That is by the Police who are of course not to be confused with the Met Police who are investigating the scandal.

    Let’s hope POL face the music.

    1. Brilliant piece, Big Chris.

    2. Classic summary. I want your kindle version.👌

      1. sheena palmer avatar

        Excellent!

    3. Brilliant piece of writing, Big Chris – and thank you for the TV throwback. I’m slightly too young to have watched Man in a Suitcase, but my older sister absolutely loved it and called McGill “Trunky” (for obvious reasons!) – I think she had a bit of a thing for Richard Bradford. 😉

    4. Superb piece of writing!

  44. And the Devil casts his net.Yet again Roderick Williams and Jane McLeod have perverted the course of Justice. The Police and Solicitors Regulatory Authority need to thoroughly investigate the heinous part these two played in this catastrophe. Mr Henry KC was spot on when he said Williams was at the centre of the web!

    1. Did he take a shot at Roderick by in effect saying that Roderick had no grasp of what the Board was thinking

  45. He came across certainly as someone who would make a good Chairman for the National Trust which he was, but the Post Office? my god the other candidates can’t have been up to much.

    1. Restore Trust got rid of Parker who was totally out of his depth when it came to what the mission of the National Trust was about, and with the expectations of Trust members. They launched a successful campaign to deseat the man for his folly of assuming members wanted more wokery…………mmm not what the mission of the NT is about….silly boy………….

  46. Most of Tim Parker’s E mails in to Post Office shown by the enquiry were written from his other “ day job” positions . E mails were signed off from National Trust and Samsonite whenever he corresponded with staff at the post office. So although he was a part time ad hoc chairman of the post office, 2 days a month at one time ,he was working on other companies time when away from the post office. Surely not the “right” thing to be doing? Wonder what Samsonite and National Trust think to this behaviour.

    1. See my reply to post before yours…..he was much reviled by Restore Trust members who got rid of the silly boy. Obviously using the email system of NT was a method of instilling reverence and (undeserved) respect into those he emailed with it, clearly to impress others. He is a man who surfs amidst who he knows, rather than what he knows and uses his networking contacts to sustain him during his mission to remain ‘important.’ The ‘old boys club’ operative is how he operates and clearly he enjoys being top dog.

    2. Parker was more like an Ad loc chairman.

  47. Mark O'meara avatar
    Mark O’meara

    Tim Parker seems to have been a very part-time Chair of POL, having many other ‘top jobs’ at the same time. He tried to set his Horizon failures in the context of his having been inundated with many other POL challenges, to which Mr Beer pointed out that ‘context’ also included the fact that TP had asked for his hourly commitment per month to POL to be reduced. He didn’t like that.
    He cast doubt on Jane McLeod’s claim (in her witness statement) that she had offered the Swift Report to any Board member ‘on request’. TP said that he could not recall her making this offer in any Board meeting. Is the Inquiry really unable to get JMcL to answer questions now? She could do so without leaving NZ, of course.
    TP used a sloppy way of talking – with many instances of “kind of”, “yeah”, “you know”, “er”, “um” and “mmmm”. This, along with his evident desire to justify and excuse himself, meant that many of his answers to Mr Beer’s questions were rambling and very vague indeed. Perhaps that was the intention. Mr Beer picked him up on his use of language at one point, telling TP that ‘words are important’ (or a phrase along those lines).

    1. I also found his casual speech – and vocal “tics” (mm-hmm, mm-hmm) whilst Jason Beer KC was reading out passages – annoying. I’m sure he was simply showing attentiveness, but his arrogant air gave the impression of a man who was giving Mr Beer permission to continue speaking! Mr Beer, in his own inimitable way, landed quite a few subtle punches – one of my favourites approximately 15 minutes into the afternoon session:
      TP: If I may make one general observation about this sort of backward-looking, what were people doing eight years ago, type of thing, you can only look at the evidence that you have on a piece of paper and people write sentences which can or cannot reflect truly what was going on. So I’m not here to, you know, doubt what is actually written here. But sometimes things that are recorded don’t exactly reflect what people were doing at the time. I don’t know in this case but I just think it’s worth bearing in mind that you cannot take every sentence that is written and that you read as gospel in this context.
      JB: That’s certainly the case: a number of people have sat in your chair and said that what they wrote does not
      reflect what they meant at all.
      TP: (laughing) Um, very good.
      When Parker looked down after saying this he was no longer laughing – I think Mr Beer’s mildly sarcastic comment had just hit home. 😉

    2. I worked with professionals who also delivered similar responses to TP when asking them to deliver a more professional detailed response and to actively produce more appropriate direction for essential tasks. It was ony months later I found out they they were on cannabis…….dulls the brain, makes people think they are superior and invincible and they become incapable of making meaningful progress in the job they are paid to do, as well as being totally out of touch with the main objective of the work in hand.
      As TP proceeded during this enquiry to not answer questions but pretend he had been invited to give advice (the sheer self conceit self importance and arrogance at its height) ‘what this enquiry needs to understand is….and with 30 years experience of being a CEO ”etc such arrogance and conceit is how those cannabis users I sadly had to work with would act while under the influence of a drug none of the rest of us were using………They live in cloud cuckoo land, which is where TP obviously lives.

      My final disgust at his behaviour was when he was being questioned by the lawyer with one of the victims by his side, and he sat with legs akimbo across his knee, hands on his hips as if he was some gunslinger in a wild west saloon……………………………professional incompetence at its worst……

      He should be sued for professional negligence.

  48. “requesting a good at the Post Office’s figures.”

    Perhaps “requesting a good (look?) at the Post Office’s figures.”

    Very funny under the circumstances…

    The inquiry consists of long periods of tedium interspersed with too few moments (such as that one) of levity… Which is understandable.

    1. oops thanks – will fix

  49. TP has hit the highest spot on my league table of evil Post Office creeps. He’d “toyed” with the idea of making an apology in his opening statement. He worked hard throughout the morning to make Jason Beer KC his ‘chum’. Every answer relating to the SPMs was evasive, cold-hearted, constantly minimising the living hell they endured, and continue to suffer as they listen to these ‘entitled’ business leaders (!) explain away their part in this scandal. TP lied and lied and lied …

    1. The real tragedy in his reply was the fact he said he had asked others if it would be a good idea……MMMMMMMM what a shame he DIDN’T ask an independent lawyer what ‘legal privilege’ meant what a shame he didn’t ask an independent IT expert more questions about the veracity of the Horizon system etc etc. At all times he relied upon superficial understanding of what was put in front of him and preferred not to look deeper into poor decisions and bad advice ( e.g McLeod saying legal privilege important , and Swift report needs to be kept private etc ) made by those around him.

      The one thing that made my jaw drop was the fact he had been appointed to sort out the tech issue and report back to the Baronness which he FAILED to do big time……needs suing for professional negligence.

  50. Graham Thorpe avatar

    So he’s yet another one who tries to get away with giving a sort of commentary on the events while acting as if he was not an important part of them himself. They’ve all done it in their turn.

  51. Patty Solomon avatar

    Still don’t understand what “robust” is supposed to mean in the context of the Horizon system. The word is used repeatedly but it is not a term used in the context of computer systems or software or programming.

    I am writing from Australia as a retired Professor of Statistics so please let me know if this has been covered already.

    1. Only used by those wanting to sell their software (or bait) or bluff/bluster there way out of something as no one can disprove it.

    2. Justice Fraser discussed the meaning of ‘robust’ in the context of Horizon in his excellent 2019 judgment. The judgment is available online and well worth a read:

      https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/bates-v-post-office-judgment.pdf

    3. As far as I can tell it is used by the good, the bad and the awful non-technical participants in the Inquiry and other non-technical commentators to mean the following:
      1) The system works correctly most of the time and at least well enough such that almost all tranactions are completed correctly.
      2) Looking at the scale of the overall system the impact of transactions failing is not material( to POL but very likely is material for the SPM involved – but POL is not concerned about that at all…it is immaterial after all! )

      Listening to GJ and others has revealed:
      1) The use of poor quality developers
      2) Absence of thorough and repeatable testing
      3) The use of data structures which can without suitable error handling and without sets of tests which can substantiate assertions about the behaviour of systems allow garbage to appear ‘correct’.
      4) Failure to provide sufficient logging, etc to enable stored data to be explained and to be explained to non-techos, eg SPMs, prosecution and defence lawyers

    4. Yes, it was a term introduced to cover up the fact that the system had been found to be at fault by Second Sight, even the Swift report I believe, so that instead of saying yes there were problems with the computer interaction and Fujitsu could alter accounts at post offices without SPM’s knowing about it, ‘robust’ was decided as the best camouflage term the PO deployed to pretend all was well with the IT system.
      Word soup, or ‘lying’ would be a better description of why it was used.

    5. The opposite of “robust” is “fragile” and in the same way as TRUE = NOT FALSE, “robust” = “not fragile.” You might say casually of a computer system, “Doesn’t fall over or crash too easily.”

      Horizon was “not fragile” which is self evident due the high volume of transactions it was processing 24/7.

      Boris Johnson was “robust” in so far as he blundered along somewhat impervious to a catalogue of gaffes, errors and indiscretions.

      The Johnson analogy makes it plane that “robust” does not mean accurate, precise, complete or infallible. It is no different when “robust” is used within the context of computing.

      My personal field is networks. If you can envisage a network that is being flooded with more traffic than can possibly be processed. A robust network would continue working in a degraded capacity, enough to send whatever commands are needed to thwart the flood. Because there is no spare capacity, the only way to create sufficient capacity for the command traffic is to prioritise it and drop other traffic. In this case the only way to be robust is to be imprecise, incomplete and inaccurate.

      To be honest I prefer the Johnson analogy.

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