Simon Thompson and Royal Mail bosses could be recalled to parliament again after ‘extraordinary’ evidence session

Multiple sources say they’ve never known anything like the public response to the committee hearing

Royal Mail bosses could be recalled to parliament again over concerns about inaccurate evidence, or even face proceedings of perjury following an ‘extraordinary’ hearing last week.

Simon Thompson, CEO of Royal Mail, was recalled to parliament to give evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee last week after evidence he gave in an earlier session was deemed “not wholly accurate”.

Committee chair Darren Jones said last week that he would announce “further action,” and NationalWorld understands that committee members discussed potential next steps at a meeting yesterday (28 February) but that a decision is yet to be made.

A ‘deeply unsatisfactory episode’

The BEIS committee will meet today for this first time since an “extraordinary” session last week involving senior figures at Royal Mail.

Before giving evidence to the committee, three witnesses from Royal Mail were asked by the committee to take the oath - a highly unusual step which is taken very rarely by select committees.

Committee member Andy McDonald said the decision to have those giving evidence take the oath “tells you a great deal about how we as the committee perceived the evidence from the first session”.

The committee received more than 1,500 pieces of correspondence after the first hearing, much of which directly contradicted Thompson’s evidence. One MP told NationalWorld that similar responses had already started “flooding in” in the days following the latest hearing.

Several sources with knowledge of the response to the sessions told NationalWorld they had never seen a similar level of engagement to an inquiry.

McDonald described the session as a “deeply unsatisfactory episode,” which, he said, “doesn’t reflect well on the current state of Royal Mail”.

The Middlesbrough MP said he was “staggered” to learn that Thompson had not issued any guidance to staff throughout the business about the proper use of Postal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

The committee asked Royal Mail about the use of PDAs to monitor individual worker performance, and whether data collected by the devices was used in disciplinary proceedings.

At the first session, Thompson denied that the devices were used for this purpose, but the committee received a number of pieces of evidence following the session calling this into doubt. In the follow-up session, Royal Mail conceded that this kind of information was held, but that it should not be used to monitor individuals’ performance or for disciplinary purposes. And that if this was the case, it was done so despite official guidance.

“The evidence on PDAs staggered me. That given what we heard previously, there’d been no communication to the workforce and to management about how they should be used,” McDonald said.

‘Toxic culture’

McDonald also said he was particularly concerned by comments from Keith Williams, Royal Mail chairman, who suggested that a “toxic culture” at the postal service, as described by Jones, would go away once the ongoing industrial dispute with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was resolved.

“Industrial disputes happen and they take their course,” he said, “but a toxic culture is different. Surely you should be saying what steps you are taking to address that fundamental failure in your organisation.”

After the session, Jones tweeted: “The answers we heard on the BEIS committee from Royal Mail leaders today completely failed to stack up against the thousands of testimonies we’ve received from postal workers across the country. I’ll be announcing what further action we’ll be taking on this issue shortly.”

A source told NationalWorld that the committee members were again unhappy with the evidence provided by Royal Mail.

The committee could write to Ofcom regarding Royal Mail’s failure to meet its Universal Service Obligation and produce a report with recommendations for both the company and regulators.

One MP said he would like to see Royal Mail bosses recalled once again to give evidence to the committee.

The committee could even attempt to initiate proceedings against Royal Mail bosses for perjury, over concerns that their testimony was deliberately inaccurate, although a source told NationalWorld they didn’t believe there had been quite enough clear cut evidence to pursue this course of action.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We were pleased to assist the Committee with their questions, and share the steps we are taking to resolve our ongoing industrial dispute with the Communication Workers Union and secure the long-term future of Royal Mail for our people and customers.”