BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 03:10 GMT 04:10 UK
Analysis: Inquiry's explosive last week

By Torin Douglas
BBC media correspondent

The final week of evidence at the Hutton inquiry was always likely to produce fireworks.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and the prime minister's director of communications Alastair Campbell were facing cross-examination by barristers for Dr David Kelly's family and the BBC.

And BBC chairman Gavyn Davies was being subjected to hostile questioning by government lawyers.

Campbell's diary entries... shed a new light on events already exhaustively investigated over the past six weeks

In the event it proved even more explosive - as shown by the rash of asterisks and the f-word in Tuesday's newspapers.

Mr Campbell's diary entries - published by the inquiry, reportedly in the teeth of government opposition - shed a new light on events already exhaustively investigated over the past six weeks.

A daily record of his thoughts as the crisis unfolded, they painted a vivid picture, in primary colours, of an angry man determined to get the BBC to back down over its story.

They also showed he had been determined to "get the source out", exposing Dr Kelly to public inquisition - something which government witnesses had been denying.

Mr Campbell tried to play down the significance of the diary: "I apologise my Lord, this is not an account of the day, this is me just scribbling what comes into my head - it doesn't accurately express what is going on."

But those who had worked closely with him seemed in little doubt. This was the real Alastair, said one.

The paragraph had already been approved by JIC members three times. Mr Scarlett now changed it

The following day, another revelation.

The chairman of the joint intelligence committee, John Scarlett, was shown an e-mail sent to him by the prime minister's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, after the final deadline for changes to the Iraq dossier.

It said a key paragraph should be removed, because it suggested there was no chemical or biological warfare threat from Saddam unless Iraq were attacked.

The paragraph had already been approved by JIC members three times. Mr Scarlett now changed it.

He was asked by the BBC's counsel: "This wouldn't have occurred without Mr Powell's memorandum would it?"

Mr Scarlett said he had been prompted to look at it again by the memo, but insisted he was exercising his judgment, as he was entitled to do.

Wednesday saw the BBC's Gavyn Davies in the spotlight, fiercely cross-examined by the government's QC Jonathan Sumption.

'Abuse of power'

He was asked about an e-mail in which he had told the BBC governors it was vital not to buckle under government pressure, even if the 45-minute point made in the Gilligan broadcast had been wrong.

Mr Davies said he stood by that because the public were looking to the governors to stand up for the BBC's independence and show it was not the state broadcaster.

And so to the final day, with barristers arguing the case for each of the parties.

Jeremy Gompertz, QC for Dr Kelly's family... accused Mr Hoon of hypocrisy and falsehood

Jeremy Gompertz, QC for Dr Kelly's family, seized the advantage of going first.

In a devastating attack, he accused Mr Hoon of hypocrisy and falsehood and the government as a whole of a "cynical abuse of power" in using Dr Kelly as a political pawn in its battle with the BBC.

For the government, Mr Sumption rejected the charges, turning his spotlight on the BBC's failings.

But Andrew Caldicott, QC for the BBC, pointed out that the corporation had admitted to errors, and the government had not.

"Those who do not apologise do not learn", he said.


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific