By Parson Thru
Alan Wainscot picked up his phone. It was the line from his PA.
“Hi Alan. I’ve got Philip Jones on the line from Vehicle Safety Group. He sounds a bit flustered.”
“Really? Ok. Put him on. Thank you.”
“Hello. Philip. What can I do for you?”
“Autonomous car investigation. The RTA.”
“More a development.”
“The police have opened a case.”
“I guess you wouldn’t be ringing me if it was Due Care and Attention.”
The line was quiet for a few seconds.
“My Investigations team have had a DI on the phone asking whether it’s feasible for the car to act outside its set parameters and effectively target a pedestrian, or whether he should give up on the idea and pursue the driver/operator - the Due Care and Attention route.”
“Hm. What did your team say?”
“That they would need time to answer the question.”
“Playing for time?”
“Where did he get the idea from? Have there been any leaks?”
“Not to my knowledge, but you can never be sure.”
“Quite. Don’t stall for too long. He’ll become suspicious. Which force?”
“Can we speak to somebody in his command chain?”
“You want me to obstruct a police investigation?”
“That wouldn't be wise.”
“Let it run, then?”
“Leave it with me. I’ll get back to you today. I think we need some political input.”
“Ok, Alan. Thanks. I’ll expect a call.”
“No problem, Philip. Goodbye.”
Alan Wainscot pressed the key to speak to his PA.
“Anne. Can you get me the office of the Permanent Secretary? I need a direct line to him. Thanks.”
He stood up and walked to the window. Summer had come early with clear skies and Mediterranean temperatures. Not good for the absenteeism profile. He couldn’t really blame the staff – low morale and high temperatures? Who wouldn’t eke out a little time in the garden? He often wondered if there was anywhere left to go after this appointment? First or Second Perm Sec? Maybe. Transport? or move on? Defence, maybe? Foreign Office?
The phone rang. He strode over and picked it up.
“Alan, I’ve got the Perm Sec now. He’s about to go to a meeting, is it quick?”
“Yes. Put me through please, Anne.”
The call took all of thirty seconds.
The issue was being referred directly to Number 10. The instruction was to stand by.
Perhaps, he reflected, he didn’t need this hassle any more.
Within ten minutes, the phone rang.
“Hi Alan. It’s the Under Secretary this time.”
“Hi James. How are you?”
“Fine thanks, Alan. I’m afraid the answer from Downing Street is pretty uncompromising. ‘Stop! The enquiry goes no further. Use the chain of command. Justification, national interest.’ That’s it, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, for goodness sake. Ok James. Thanks for getting back so quickly.”
“Don’t thank me. Under orders, old boy.”
Alan Wainscot pushed the key for his PA.
“Could you get me Philip Jones please, Anne? Then how about some lunch?”