INDEPENDENT NEWS

SOL: The Hutton Inquiry - Week 3 Day 2

Published: Thu 28 Aug 2003 09:58 AM
From the Streets of London With William Moloney
The Hutton Inquiry - Week 3 Day 2
Witnesses called today, amongst others, were Wing Commander John Clark and Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence.
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Wing Commander Clark
Wing Commander Clark was called as a witness as he shared an office with Dr. Kelly and could give insight into his state of mind.
“He really was the fount of all knowledge in respect of Iraq... he was the expert”
Wing Commander Clark said Dr. Kelly had been “angry and frustrated”, as well as a little embarrassed, when accreditation problems prevented a second trip to Iraq.
Dr. Kelly had spoken proudly of his media contacts and had said he was operating within the MOD rules.
Wing Commander Clark had accompanied Dr. Kelly to the FAC committee hearing.
He had offered to accompany Dr. Kelly three days before the hearing. His role was to provide moral support.
“He felt he was tired. He was clearly not looking forward to the hearing....he was not looking forward to being televised”.
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Geoff Hoon
Mr. Hoon said he came to the dossier process “relatively late”, not seeing a draft till the week beginning the 16th of September.
He said he was unaware of any concerns from the Defence Intelligence Staff had till he was preparing to give evidence to MP’s.
”The debate was whether particular intelligence indicated or suggested or showed a particular conclusion”.
When he heard Mr. Gilligans report, he reaction was that it made a “serious charge”- which Ministers had lied to Parliament and the public.
“I took particular exception to the charge as I have responsibility for decisions affecting the lives of British Serviceman.”
He first learnt that an official had come forward as Mr. Gilligan’s source on the 3rd of July. He did not recognize Dr. Kelly’s name.
“My first reaction was that this was something which could well lead to disciplinary proceedings”.
Mr. Hoon informed Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff, that Dr. Kelly had come forward.
On Monday the 7th of July, it was agreed that Dr. Kelly was to go through a second security interview.
”I recognised that the FAC might have an interest in taking evidence from anyone who had been in contact with Andrew Gilligan.”
Mr. Hoon said he had not seen drafts of the press release about Dr. Kelly meeting Andrew Gilligan.
Mr. Hoon said he was not directly aware Downing Street involvement in drafting the MOD press release, but it would not surprise him.
Mr. Hoon said he had never seen the question and answer paper for MOD press offices which said they should confirm Dr. Kelly’s name.
On the 7th of July, Mr. Hoon discussed with Alistair Campbell ways to get the BBC to acknowledge that Dr. Kelly was their source.
Mr. Campbell floated the idea of leaking Dr. Kelly’s name.
Mr. Hoon was asked by Lord Hutton if the only reason of the MOD statement was issued solely to get the BBC to acknowledge Dr. Kelly as their source.
Mr. Hoon said that was partly the reason and also to avoid the charge of a cover-up.
It was suggested by counsel that the main reason for the Q and A sheets given to MOD press officers was to help journalist’s identify Dr. Kelly.
“If you are suggesting that there was some deliberate effort here to identify Dr. Kelly, I say that is absolutely wrong.”
Mr. Hoon said it was often very hard for press officers to “baton down the hatches” in the face of journalists.
Lord Hutton suggested you could simply say “We do not give out civil servants names”
Mr. Hoon said that this was not “strictly true”.
When asked about his decision to over rule his Permanent Secretary and have Dr. Kelly to appear before the FAC.
He said it was “ultimately my decision” but he had known the PM shared his view that it would be “extraordinarily difficult” to refuse permission for Dr. Kelly to give evidence.
Mr. Hoon said the conditions he laid down about Dr. Kelly’s appearance at the FAC was to protect Dr. Kelly, not to limit what he could say.
He admitted that Dr. Kelly had been given a “great deal of help and advice” in preparing Dr. Kelly for the FAC hearing.
“I cannot see any way in which Dr. Kelly was poorly treated in the process within the MOD.”
******ENDS******

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