A few days ago I wondered how the Science and Technology Select Committee had managed to exonerate Phil Jones on several of the charges against him without actually having any evidence for the defence. Despite having previously expressed a willingness to discuss the report, committee chairman Phil Willis subsequently refused to explain this extraordinary set of circumstances.
Somewhat exasperated, I dropped a line to Graham Stringer, who, readers may remember, was the only member of the committee who seemed to have any great interest in probing for answers to the questions raised by the Climategate emails. He was also the sole dissenter from the majority opinion represented by the report.
I was very gratified to get a swift response from Mr Stringer, particularly now we are in a general election campaign. He said that he was happy to talk about the committee's findings and suggested we speak by telephone.
We spoke yesterday and I found him very engaging. He was keen to emphasise the time constraints that the committee was operating under and also the fact that several members of the committee are utterly convinced of the CAGW case, although he also said he thought that they were not dogmatic in their beliefs.
I particularly raised the question of Ross McKitrick's allegation that Phil Jones had inserted into the IPCC report some statements that had no basis in the scientific literature. I came away with the impression that the committee had not specifically examined this issue, and that their exoneration of Jones was presumably therefore limited to the specific questions that they had looked at. It appears to have been a case of "if in doubt find him innocent".
Of course, innocent until proven guilty is a principle I'm sure we are all right behind, but in these circumstances Phil Willis's declaration that Jones emerged from the inquiry with his reputation intact looks less than a straightforward declaration of the truth.
It is not that Jones has been found innocent; on many of the charges he just hasn't been tried yet.