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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Kelly 'not distressed' during grilling
Donald Anderson, Labour MP
Anderson has defended the committee's "strong" questioning
The chairman of the Commons committee which interrogated Dr David Kelly three days before his death has said the scientist showed no signs of distress during the hearing.

Donald Anderson told the Hutton inquiry into Dr Kelly's death the weapons expert had laughed at times during the questioning by the foreign affairs select committee.

Dr Kelly's evidence convinced the committee he could not have been the BBC's source for claims Downing Street "sexed up" a key intelligence dossier to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Set up after apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly in July
Dr Kelly was government expert in Iraq weapons programmes
He was named as source of controversial BBC report
Report alleged government had 'sexed up' a dossier on Iraq's weapons capability
Government denies the allegations

Three days after the televised grilling Dr Kelly's body was found in woodlands near his home with his left wrist slashed. The BBC later revealed he had been the source.

The inquiry heard how Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon wanted Dr Kelly to be questioned for only 45 minutes to save him from too much such public exposure.

There should also be no questions on the "wider issue of weapons of mass destruction and the preparation of the dossier".

Mr Anderson accepted those conditions because he felt trying to negotiate on the issue risked losing the chance to question Dr Kelly.

But a "substantial minority" on the committee said they were "unhappy" about that deal between the committee chairman and the defence secretary.

'Respect shown'

Mr Anderson said Dr Kelly had been "clearly on top of the subject" and the only problem was that he had spoken softly on what was a very hot, sultry afternoon.

Had Dr Kelly "shown any evident signs of distress, I would hope that I would have responded accordingly," said the Labour MP.

Ahead of his 50 minute hearing, Dr Kelly rang the committee clerk to find out more about the questioning process, the inquiry heard.

I have been through the wringer... I am a bit shocked I was told it would all be confidential
Dr David Kelly on his treatment by the MoD

Mr Anderson was asked whether committee members, who called the quiet scientist "chaff" and a "fall guy", were too hostile.

The MP said: "I think that the tenor of the committee hearing taken as a whole was measurable and fair and that there was a degree of respect."

The inquiry has seen an e-mail sent by BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan to a Liberal Democrat official apparently suggesting questions to be put to Dr Kelly.

Mr Anderson said Lib Dem MP and committee member David Chidgey confidentially told him before the hearing that he had received some briefing from Mr Gilligan.

That had surprised Mr Anderson, who said such briefing from another witness to an inquiry was "unprecedented".

Media pressure

Earlier, Mr Anderson explained that a majority on the committee had voted by four to three to call Dr Kelly for questioning after it emerged the MoD official had come forward about his media contacts.

Mr Anderson was followed to the witness stand by journalist Nick Rufford, from the Sunday Times, who began by saying Dr Kelly was a "committed scientist" who "felt a mission to explain".

Mr Rufford told how the scientist had looked pale and tired when they met within minutes of the Ministry of Defence telling Dr Kelly his name was to be published in national newspapers the following morning.

Dr Kelly had looked perplexed when told his home would be besieged by journalists and, contrary to other evidence at the inquiry, Mr Rufford said Dr Kelly told him the MoD had not advised him to stay with friends or in a hotel.

When asked about the way the MoD had treated him, Dr Kelly replied for the record that it had been "pretty good about it" and not reprimanded him.

"Then he said, off the record, 'I have been through the wringer.'

"And I asked him whether he knew his name was going to come out and he said 'I am a bit shocked and I was told it would all be confidential."

When the journalist asked whether his conversation with Mr Gilligan had been reported accurately, Dr Kelly said he had talked to the BBC reporter about "factual stuff" and the rest was "bullshit".

James Blitz from the Financial Times, Richard Norton-Taylor of the Guardian and Tom Baldwin from the Times, are later due to give evidence about how Dr Kelly had been named as the source of BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan's report.

In other developments:

  • Conservative MP John Maples calls for a Commons inquiry into whether Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell misled MPs by saying he had suggested 11 changes to the draft dossier when documents shown to the inquiry show him asking for 15 changes

  • The inquiry heard on Wednesday that Mr Campbell floated the idea of leaking to a newspaper the fact an official had come forward admitting contacts with the BBC, but he was talked out of the idea

  • Dr Kelly told the MoD he did not want his name to come out "in the first wave of publicity", the inquiry heard

The BBC's George Eykyn
"Mr Anderson said when Dr Kelly appeared before the committee he seemed in control of things"

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