INDEPENDENT NEWS

SOL: Hutton Inquiry Update - Week 2 Day 1

Published: Wed 20 Aug 2003 11:40 AM
From the Streets of London with William Moloney
Hutton Inquiry Update - Week 2 Day 1
Week 2 Day 1
For the entire day, Alistair Campbell, The Prime Ministers Director of Communications and Strategy, was answering questions.
Over the course of the day he was questioned about the four main issues: The Iraq Dossier, The 45-minute claim, Row with the BBC, Dr. Kelly’s Identification
The Iraq Dossier:
The Prime Minister decided a dossier would be developed as he saw Iraq as a unique threat and wanted to get this message across to the public.
In his diary entry for the 3rd of September, Mr. Campbell wrote “Why Iraq, why now?”.
John Scarlett, Joint Intelligence Committee Chairman, felt that he should have ownership of the dossier.
Mr. Campbell would chair a team to go through the dossier for a “presentational point of view”.
Mr. Campbell had asked, and been assured by Mr. Scarlett, that no senior intelligence figures were unhappy with the governments approach to the information in the dossier.
Mr. Campbell was then shown correspondence, from the former Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence, Martin Howard, expressing concern about the information in the dossier.
Mr. Campbell said he was unaware of the communication.
Mr. Blair saw the dossier first on the 11th of September.
Mr. Blair was “very hands on” with the compilation of the forward of the dossier.
The 45-minute Claim
Mr. Campbell denied having anything to do with the 45-minute claim.
“I had no input, output or influence upon them whatsoever at any stage in the process” he said.
He said the he first saw the claim in the dossier in a new draft on the 10th of September.
Mr. Campbell said he help Mr. Scarlett with the presentation of the dossier as Mr. Scarlett did not have the experience necessary.
Row with the BBC
“I still to this day, find it extraordinary that anybody at the BBC can defend it” Mr. Campbell said of Andrew Gilligan’s report about the sexed up dossier.
“It was grim, it was grim for me, it was grim for TB and there is this huge stuff about trust” he said.
He said that he found it “unbelievable” that Downing Street had not been asked to comment before the report went out.
He agreed that he had sent more complaints to the BBC than usual for their coverage of the Iraq war, but said it was unfair to call the number “considerable”
He chose to go before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
He said this appearance had gone well, as he had “opened a flank on the BBC”. By accusing the BBC of lying, they would be forced to defend themselves in public, he said.
Dr Kelly’s Identification
Mr. Campbell said that with hindsight, it would have been better to release Dr. Kelly’s name in a controlled, straight forward manner, so that he could have be accorded proper support.
Mr. Campbell said that he had been privy to discussions involving the Prime Minister on the 8th of July where making Dr. Kelly’s name public came up.
Mr. Campbell said he did nothing to bring Dr. Kelly’s name into the public arena.
Mr. Campbell, when asked whether anyone considered the effect of Dr. Kelly being named, replied the Dr. Kelly was a “very strong, resolute character, clearly of deep conviction and who had been in many difficult and stressful circumstances”.
Mr. Campbell said the Dr. Kelly had to appear before the FAC to prove Mr. Gilligan’s allegations false.
Mr. Campbell said he found it very distressing that Dr. Kelly had died in these circumstances.
”I just find it very, very sad” he said.
(continuing coverage)
ENDS

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