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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 22:40 GMT 23:40 UK
Lord Hutton under inquiry
Lord Hutton announces his findings at the High Court in January 2004
Lord Hutton defended the inquiry's terms of reference and its approach
Lord Hutton's evidence before the public administration committee provided first hand testimony of the way in which public inquiries take shape in the United Kingdom.

MPs asked him to explain the "process" of the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Government scientist Dr David Kelly.

It was put to Lord Hutton that many thought it "inexplicable" that his terms of reference were too narrow.

Much of the public reaction following publication of his report was critical of the findings.

Selection

Dr Kelly's body was found on 17 July 2003. Lord Hutton said Lord Falconer asked to meet him in the House of Lords the following day and requested him to chair an urgent public inquiry into the matter:

"I thought it my duty to agree to that request. It all happened in a very short space of time."

Remit

The evidence session revealed the extent to which the appointed judge was in control of proceedings.

Although initially defined by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, Lord Hutton admitted he could have altered the terms of reference but had opted not to.

He said he could have extended them to include all the pre-war intelligence, saying he had given "serious thought" to this but decided against it.

His view was that a detailed scrutiny of intelligence matters would have made the inquiry "very protracted".

And he suggested that any major assessment of intelligence may not have been appropriate for a judge sitting alone.

Method

The former Law Lord's words indicate that public inquiries can and should be tailored to suit the nature of the controversy.

In the future, there might be some highly political disputes where it was not desirable for a judge to chair an inquiry, Lord Hutton said.

Judges conducting inquiries might have their professional reputations affected and he acknowledged there might be advantages in having a tribunal presiding over an inquiry.

Criticism

Lord Hutton said he believed the public "saw the inquiry was conducted fairly and openly" but he expected criticism and said it was inevitable.

"Undoubtedly, there are very strong feelings in the country about the war in Iraq. Many people were opposed to it and I think that coloured the public reaction to the report."

Over the coming few weeks the Committee will have to consider whether the present system of public inquiries can ever deliver conclusions that can be universally accepted.

You can watch the session again on BBC Parliament on Saturday 15 May at 1800 BST.

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