Members of Parliament may punish Paula Vennells, the former head of the Post Office, for deceiving them.


Following revelations that Paula Vennells, the former head of the Post Office, may have known that remote access to the Horizon system was possible two years before refusing it to lawmakers, members are considering imposing sanctions against her.

In an effort to investigate whether former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells misled parliament about the Horizon affair, the cross-party business and commerce committee said that “all options are on the table.”

The announcement comes in response to claims that Ms. Vennells was informed by the general counsel of the Post Office that a subpostmaster’s accounts may be accessed remotely by a unit at Bracknell’s Fujitsu headquarters.On recordings that Channel 4 was able to obtain, Post Office chief attorney Susan Crichton twice attests that Ms. Vennells was aware of the claims two years before the Post Office discontinued legal action against its own sub-postmasters and two years before the former CEO informed Members in 2015 that subpostmasters’ accounts could not be accessed remotely.

In a correspondence with parliament, the former head of the post office denied that remote access could be achieved. This denial was used as late as 2019 in the legal battle against sub-postmasters, including Alan Bates.Liam Byrne, the committee head, stated that his group “will be exploring options for penalizing the leadership that presided over the scandal” and that they are “deeply concerned by the latest revelations.”
“Every option is on the table, including the Commons exercising its powers in relation to contempt of parliament,” the Labour MP continued.

We must take great care to ensure that we do not jeopardize any pending legal actions or interfere with Sir Wyn Williams’ public investigation. When Parliament reconvenes later this month, I will submit my committee’s recommendations for careful review.

A person held in contempt of parliament indicates that there has been interference with the legislature or a hindrance to a member’s ability to perform their duties. The definition of contempt is ambiguous, and only parliament has the authority to determine what qualifies.

Contempt has already been applied to cases of financial malfeasance, misrepresentation to the House, leaking of legislative activities, and disobedience of an order.

The privileges committee said in July of last year that former prime minister Boris Johnson had “wilfully misled” lawmakers on partygate, amounting to “repeated contempts of parliament.”The committee’s recommendation was that Mr. Johnson should not be granted a former member’s pass, which grants most former MPs and prime ministers automatic access to parliament. If he hadn’t already resigned, they would have suggested suspending him from the House of Commons for ninety days.

Since it is no longer traditional for parliament to imprison or fine offenders, several MPs have contended that the penalties for contempt are insufficient.Dominic Cummings, the former head of Vote Leave, was found in contempt of parliament in 2019 after he turned down a summons to testify from the technology, culture, media, and sport select committee.

In the Commons, Mr. Cummings received a reprimand, but nothing more was done, which prompted some Members of Parliament to call for an expansion of parliamentary powers.

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