Ex-Post Office Paula Vennells accused of being in ‘la-la land’

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Ms Vennells also conceded that Horizon fallout would have upset the Royal Mail stock market flotation.

Mr Henry said: “If it were to be established that the Royal Mail group had wrongly prosecuted dozens, hundreds of sub-postmasters who might sue them, it would have threatened to disrupt the flotation in October 2013, wouldn’t it?”

“I’m sure that would have been the case,” Ms Vennells said.

It would also have posed a reputational and financial risk to the Royal Mail group because until 2012 they were the prosecuting authority, he said – “they were responsible for the legacy of prosecutions.”

“Yes, that’s correct,” she responded.

In July 2013, the government announced the Royal Mail privatisation, and forensic accountants Second Sight presented their interim report, “which was a bit of a bombshell” Mr Henry said, because it indicated Horizon bugs.

“It must have been staring you in the face that if you had a blow up concerning the Second Sight report, the prospect of criminal convictions would have been challenged, this would have been hugely embarrassing politically, and potentially damaging to the flotation?” Mr Henry said.

Ms Vennells responded, saying: “I don’t believe I was involved in any of those conversations. The two organisations were now working separately, I had no conversations about any strategy around the Royal Mail privatisation.”

Mr Henry pressed Ms Vennells, saying she “wanted to keep a lid on this because you wanted to please stakeholders – the Post Office board, government, Whitehall.”

He said Ms Vennells was “anxious to please” the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) at the time.

The Post Office is 100% owned by the UK government.

“I had no role at all in relation to the privatisation, I had no conversations with BIS with regards to the privatisation,” she said.

“My concerns at this stage were only about the Post Office, and as the inquiry has seen there were many conversations at this time about how we might find a way through this. I don’t believe I made any connection between this and the Royal Mail privatisation at all,” she said.

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