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Breakfast with Frost
On Sunday, 20 July 2003, Breakfast with Frost featured a discussion with Glenda Jackson, MP, Labour; Tim Allan & Richard Ottoway, MP, Conservative

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

PETER SISSONS: Well the Prime Minister is continuing his tour of the Far East but it's clear that he's devastated by events back here in Britain. Well used to the rough and tumble of politics, he can never have anticipated that while standing shoulder to shoulder with a fellow G8 prime minister he would have to field questions about the suicide of a senior government official and faced accusations that he had blood on his hands.

We'll be talking to the Deputy Prime Minister in a few minutes time, but first we'll hear from Glenda Jackson, the former transport minister, who has branded the episode "shameful" and called for resignations, Alastair Campbell's former deputy in Downing Street, Tim Allan, is here, and we're joined by the Conservative Richard Ottoway, one of the Select Committee members who've been taking evidence from ministers, journalists and, of course, Dr Kelly himself.

Mr Ottoway joins us from the south of France. Welcome all. But first Glenda Jackson, you've called for Tony Blair's resignation, what's the key issue for you?

Glenda Jackson MP
Called for the resignations of the Prime Minister, Alastair Campbell and the Defence Secretary

GLENDA JACKSON: The key issue for me is this appalling personal tragedy, which in my opinion was as a direct result of Number 10 creating this artificial war with the BBC to deflect attention from the fact that the Government was having increasing difficulty in giving straight answers to serious questions as to the use or misuse of intelligence information in order to convince the country that we had to go to war against Iraq because she possessed weapons of mass destruction which could be launched within 45 minutes.

I welcome the fact that there is an independent inquiry, or this is, this is something that the Government has denied on the whole issue of how we got to war in Iraq but this will not give its findings for between six to eight weeks, is my understanding, and this is going to hang like a desperate, desperate cloud over the Government for that time.

PETER SISSONS: What is, in your view, Tony Blair's specific offence? We hear that Dr Kelly felt betrayed by the Ministry of Defence - the Ministry of Defence were his immediate employers. Do you know who made his name public?

GLENDA JACKSON: No I don't. But let's be very clear about this, as I've said, in my opinion this tragic human disaster came as a result of the artificial war that had been quite deliberately created, in my opinion, by Number 10.

PETER SISSONS: And you're saying, aren't you, that your attitude now, your call for Tony Blair's resignation, is an extension of your disillusionment about the war?

GLENDA JACKSON: No I, I never believed in any of the reasons the Government gave us for going to war on Iraq. I never believed that those weapons of mass destruction were there or that they could be launched in 45 minutes. I have my own opinion as to why we went to war but that is not what is central about this desperate, desperate episode.

We have seen a highly respected, innocent, devoted public servant, in my opinion being sacrificed as a result of a quite deliberate political strategy to afford a smokescreen, as someone has called it, for the Government, who were having difficulty in giving straight answers to serious questions as to whether they had used or misused intelligence.

PETER SISSONS: Glenda, I'll come back to you in a moment, but Tim Allan, has Alastair Campbell got a case to answer, because he handles the Government's communications and all the criticism you hear, like that blast from Glenda Jackson, is at the way it was handled?

Tim Allan
Tim Allen, Alastair Campbell's former deputy

TIM ALLAN: Well I think, as Andy Marr was saying, I think all sides in the argument have a chance to show some respect and restraint, as Tony Blair has said, over the tragic death and I'm sure all sides will be reflecting on that. But in answer to the specific allegation that Glenda Jackson is making, that this was a smokescreen set up as part of a cunning political strategy, I really don't think the evidence stands up to that.

After all, before Alastair Campbell went to the Select Committee and put his case, everyone was saying he must, he must put his case, he must be, a public figure must be answerable to Parliament, it's outrageous that he's not answering questions on it. When he does then respond to that and put his case and go public and answer the charges against him, he gets accused of creating a smokescreen.

I don't think it is a smokescreen, I think he was accused of very, very serious things that went to the heart of his professional integrity - he was accused of abusing intelligence material - they are very serious allegations, I think all of us would feel, that if our professional integrity got attacked in that way in public we should have the right to at least defend ourselves - a right not given to him, incidentally, by the BBC, who broadcast the story before putting the allegations to him.

PETER SISSONS: Charlie Whelan resigned when he became the story. Whether Alastair Campbell likes it or not, he is now a big part of the story. Is his departure inevitable?

TIM ALLAN: I think that line of argument isn't logical. The reason he is part of the story is that the national public service broadcaster, the BBC, made three very specific allegations in its report that he had inserted the 45 minute claim, that that had been done probably knowing that it was untrue, and against the advice of the intelligence officials. Now those are extremely serious claims, I mean they're fundamental to his, to his ability to do the job, and so that is why he became the story. Now it turns out they're wrong.

The BBC is now not even saying that they're right. The BBC governors and the BBC management are not saying that that, those allegations are true any more. And so of course he became the story because he was given, he was accused of something he didn't do. But to me that reflects badly on the accuser rather than the accused.

PETER SISSONS: You were hand in glove with him at Downing Street, have you spoken to him recently?


PETER SISSONS: And what's his, what sort of mood is he in? Is he in fighting mood?

TIM ALLAN: I think, I mean I think, as I said earlier, I think all sides are wanting to have a period of reflection and to show the respect and the restraint that the Prime Minister has called for. I think he, as Andy Marr said, he is a man who does feel his emotions very strongly and he was extremely angry about the accusations that had been made against him, but this is clearly an absolutely tragic outcome that has caused everybody to reflect.

PETER SISSONS: Richard Ottoway, in Nice, what lessons do you draw from this sorry business?

RICHARD OTTOWAY: Well I think everybody involved, whether it be Number 10, Government, Ministry of Defence, or Parliament itself, or the Select Committee procedures, I think they've all got to be looked at very hard to see how they played their part in this. And of course the tragedy was, in my view, that this need never have happened as Dr Kelly's name, in my judgement, shouldn't have been put forward in the first place.

PETER SISSONS: How do you judge the conduct of the Government then in this matter?

Richard Ottaway MP
Ministry of Defence could have protected Dr Kelly from a televised hearing

RICHARD OTTOWAY: Well I mean there were very serious questions to be asked here, I mean how did Dr Kelly's name come into the public domain? But actually even more seriously is why after the Select Committee in, just say 15 minutes, reached the conclusion that Dr Kelly wasn't the key source, why did Number 10 go on saying that in their minds he was the key source. I think that must have put very extensive pressure on everybody involved in this and Dr Kelly.

PETER SISSONS: Do you think the committee could have pushed a sensitive man too far?

RICHARD OTTOWAY: Well I'm, I'm satisfied with my own conduct on the committee. I mean the, you know, the committee has a job to do, it has questions to ask, and in truth maybe if someone is actually particularly sensitive and would find it difficult to appear in this type of situation, perhaps it might have been better if the minister had appeared on his behalf, or decided this man wasn't suitable to go on television.

After all we, we asked for witnesses for the Foreign Office to appear, John Scollard the head of MI6 - the joint intelligence committee to come, and Jack Straw chose to appear on his behalf. So there's obviously a key question to ask Geoff Hoon here as to why he didn't appear on behalf of Dr Kelly.

PETER SISSONS: Your committee decided he probably wasn't Gilligan's source. Does it matter now whether he was or wasn't?

RICHARD OTTOWAY: No, I, in truth, I have to disagree with Tim Allan here, I think this was a distraction. The, Andrew Gilligan's story, to me, has always stood up to the test because it produced a number of key facts which were subsequently confirmed and to, in my judgement, Alastair Campbell's outburst and the naming of Dr Kelly, was in truth a distraction.

Because there are still very serious issues being asked here about the case for whether it was exaggerated uranium in Africa, 45 minutes issue, and those, in truth, are the central questions which we still have to keep our focus on.

PETER SISSONS: Glenda Jackson, you've called for three resignations, Hoon, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair, what sort of damage would that do to the new Labour Party?

GLENDA JACKSON: Well I think as I've already said, I think the damage of this appalling human tragedy hanging over the Government until the inquiry gives its report is going to be considerable and I think as a duty really towards the country, and indeed the Labour Party, there should be resignations.

PETER SISSONS: Better not to wait for the inquiry?

GLENDA JACKSON: As I said yesterday, the bullet should be bitten. This is a desperate, desperate situation.

PETER SISSONS: Tim Allan, what's the best way to get at the truth now? Surely a narrow inquiry of the type that's been suggested isn't the way forward because everything is interlinked, right back from the second dossier to the first dossier and even further back if it hangs together.

TIM ALLAN: Well I think this is, these are matters for the Government to decide.

PETER SISSONS: But what's your instinct? If you were advising inside Number 10, would you say look clean breast of the whole thing, let's not circumscribe this ...

TIM ALLAN: I think is certainly important that there is proper investigation of the run up to the war and the evidence that was put before the country. I think there are those investigations currently ongoing and I think a specific inquiry was set up surrounding the events of the last week which will examine those facts in great detail so all the conspiracy theories and all the evidence can be taken and we can get to the bottom of how Dr Kelly was treated and whether the correct procedures were followed.

I think that's right to have a specific inquiry into that. As to the wider case of examining the whole run up to the war, well I think there are inquiries going on and I think they will get to the bottom of it.

PETER SISSONS: And will Alastair Campbell still be in post at Christmas?

TIM ALLAN: I've really absolutely no idea. I know that -

PETER SISSONS: You wouldn't put money on it?

TIM ALLAN: I think that he feels extremely strongly that he needs to clear his name of the very serious allegations that were made against him by the BBC and I think that he is extremely focused on doing that. As for his long term future, I'm afraid I honestly do not know. I think he's done a phenomenal job for the Labour Party, he is an extremely committed servant of the government and I hope that continues.

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