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Monday, 21 July, 2003, 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK
What are the implications?
Aerial scene
"Very, very stressed, unhappy about what had happened and this was really not the kind of world he wanted to live in". Those were the words of the wife of Dr David Kelly.

The Government's scientific adviser and the man embroiled at the heart of the BBC Government row - was found dead in a field near his Oxfordshire home.

The government has already promised an inquiry led by a judge into the circumstances of his death. And so we have a profound personal tragedy, wrapped up in serious criticism of the BBC, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the Ministry of Defence and of the government as a whole.

Kavin Esler was joined by the Liberal Democrat MP on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee David Chidgey and by Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP and former Defence Minister. We asked both the Conservative party and the government to put up a spokesman but both declined.

David Chidgey, do you feel that your committee does bear any responsibility for what has happened?

(Liberal Democrat, Foreign Affairs Committee)

Can I first say that the news today has been absolutely shocking. And all our thoughts should be with his family and friends and colleagues tonight in offering our sympathy and condolences. I have been asking the question you have asked me of course today and I hope that many other people are asking the same question themselves, all those who have been involved in the process, either on our committee or in the Intelligence and Security Committee, in the media of course as you mentioned earlier in your programme and of course in the Ministry of Defence. It's very difficult. I thought actually that Dr Kelly did rather well in his session with us, how can I tell. I can't have any inkling of how he was feeling at the time or how he felt later.

Were you aware, Martha Kearney was just saying a moment ago that Geoff Hoon actually wrote to Donald Anderson and the committee, saying in effect "be careful with this man. He's under a lot of pressure." Where you aware of that?

I don't have the letter in front of me but I do recall that we were told, we could have him for 45 minutes and we could only discuss with him, Dr Kelly this is, his particular area of work in chemical and biological weapons. We were told that he would appear before the Intelligence and Security Committee that morning for 45 minutes and Mr Hoon said that he thought the same amount of time with us would be reasonable. That's basically the contents of the letter that we received. Can I just say this, I do welcome the Prime Minister's decision to hold a inquiry as soon as we know a little more about the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death. I welcome that and think we should for the sake at least of his family get to the bottom of these issues. But I have to say I don't believe that that is going to be the end of the story. I can not see how, given Dr Kelly's involvement with the dossiers that were put forward to Parliament on chemical and biological weapons, we can divorce that from the main issue of the inquiry that's being under taken into whether or not Parliament was misled in voting to go for war.

Peter Kilfoyle, how do you think the government does draw a line under this? Is this inquiry going to be enough?

(Defence Minister 1999-2000)

It's difficult to say. And whether in fact they can draw a line under this whole business is for the gods to decide you might say. What I would argue is that this tragedy today is obviously a matter of great concern to all concerned. Nobody walks away with any credit from this. But also we must remember that this was all part of a side-show. We must not lose sight of the many others whose lives have been lost also in this war on Iraq. We need to know the answers, the wider answers, involved in why we went to war and why this central premise for going to war, that we were under imminent threat from weapons of mass destruction, is yet to be proven.

David Chidgey, that's one of the things that's been said about your committee. In effect you botched it, and became side-tracked into the matter of the BBC, and the government which may be important but not as important as the issue you were set up to examine.

That's very interesting, on the one hand we hear we're botching it and on the other we hear we're being too tough. To get down to the reality of your question, that is that we were very much limited in what we could do. Were not allowed to interview the heads of our security services, we're not allowed to see the earlier drafts the dossiers that went into making the presentational document to Parliament. Without that information which was denied to us on security grounds it's very difficult to come to a firm conclusion. What I hope will now happen is that we will have a full inquiry not just into the sad fate of Dr Kelly but also into the whole way this has been conducted. I want to see an independent inquiry, not an inquiry which takes several years but one which can be completed within six months, report to Parliament and with the ability and the power to call before it all the witnesses and all the relevant evidence. That's how we'll get to the bottom of it.

Peter Kilfoyle, what is going to be the mood within the Labour Party because of this now?

Within the Labour Party at large there will be a great deal of concern and indeed disenchantment with the way things are going. Within the parliamentary Labour Party there will be a mixture of sadness at the tragic turn of events of today, with on the one part embarrassment I'm sure by those who might feel they have had some part in these events.

Do you want resignations basically?

I think that depends on the outcome of the inquiry which has been announced which I too welcome. But nevertheless, there will be those other people who feel as though when they made their mind up on March 18 and they voted accordingly they have done so on a specious basis.

I want to ask you both about the BBC. What do you wanted from the BBC, David Chidgey, now?

Well I really do think that it's time this "macho game" I think it was described as earlier, came to a end. We all understand how journalists are very keen to protect their sources but you can't have it both ways, you can't make huge accusations about credibility of the government and our process without coming up with hard facts. I was present when Mr Gilligan was questioned by us on both occasions and I have to say that he was particularly unhelpful in the way he went about that in a way which actually probably made the situation worse.

Peter Kilfoyle, what do you want from the BBC?

I want the BBC to keep reporting without fear or favour on a factual basis things that are very often uncomfortable for governments. The fact that governments often get rather angry with the BBC as far as I'm concerned shows that BBC is doing its job. After all the essential point of all this is to find out why we went to war. Why we were fed a line that we were under imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction. We still are yet to be convinced of that. The BBC has a major role in pressing for answers to relevant questions.

We'll leave it there, thank you both very much.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Gavin Esler
discussed how serious the political fall out might be from the death of Dr Kelly, for the government .
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