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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Head to Head: Death of David Kelly
In the aftermath of the apparent suicide of government scientist Dr David Kelly, blame is being pointed at the BBC and the government.

MPs Peter Mandelson and Clare Short debated the issue on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Peter Mandelson

I have been very keen to quell what, I think, has been an unedifying public row between the government and the BBC for some time and I think this statement by the BBC yesterday (Sunday) helps in that.

I think it was a quite a brave statement and I give the BBC credit for putting it out.

But it does raise certain quite fundamental questions; namely, why the BBC continued for so long describing their principal source for this story as a reputable senior intelligence source when obviously Dr Kelly was no such thing?

How the BBC can reconcile its statement yesterday, that it correctly interpreted Dr Kelly's views, when Dr Kelly in his own evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, directly repudiated Mr Andrew Gilligan's central assertions?

And thirdly, concerning Andrew Gilligan... why he is constantly shifting his ground every time further developments unfold and whether this doesn't really point to a lack of reliability on his part and whether he isn't actually altogether a bit of a loose cannon for the BBC?

I think what should happen is that the BBC should do as it said it would do yesterday and make a very full and frank submission to Lord Justice Hutton.

I think that it would have been very much more helpful if the BBC allied to its statement yesterday had acknowledged that its original story around which all this controversy has grown was wrong.

Clare Short

I think this is disgraceful. I mean Dr Kelly, and we don't know all the pressures that were mounted on him, but has recently died and now we're getting someone like Peter Mandelson, who can only be briefed by Number 10, widening the assault on the BBC.

It's all part of a distraction from the real issues which are, how did we get to war in Iraq? Was the intelligence information exaggerated to suggest there was an imminent threat?

Then we were deceived about the French position and therefore somehow Dr Blix couldn't complete his work and does all of that deceit explain the chaos we've now got in Iraq?

Those are the big questions... and now we're getting this ridiculous assault on the BBC as a complete distraction from the big issues about Iraq.

Of course it is a complete tragedy that Dr Kelly was put under such pressure that he felt the need to take his life and that question needs to be looked into.

But that is a separate question - that's a question of potentially the abuse of power of the Downing Street machine bringing a public servant to this position - that needs to be looked into.

But it's a totally different question than how we got to war in Iraq and muddling them all up in this way and the tragedy of the loss of his life, to distract everyone away from the question that is being asked right across this country - how come there was an imminent threat and yet there were no weapons of mass destruction - that's the real question on Iraq.


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