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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 19:07 GMT 20:07 UK
MoD plays down Hoon reports
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon has been accused of exposing Dr David Kelly
Defence officials have dismissed "misleading" claims that Geoff Hoon sanctioned the naming of weapons expert Dr David Kelly as the BBC's source for a story about Iraq's weapons capability.

The officials also indicated that the defence secretary was ready to give evidence in public to the inquiry into Dr Kelly's death which is to be chaired by senior judge Lord Hutton.

Earlier Prime Minister Tony Blair "emphatically" denied he authorised Dr Kelly's identity to be made public during the dispute over Iraqi weapons.

Mr Blair's comments came as speculation grew as to how Dr Kelly's identity came into the public domain.

The scientist was found dead in Oxfordshire on Friday after apparently committing suicide. On Sunday the BBC said he was the source for their report claiming Downing Street had "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's illegal weapons.

Mr Hoon stands accused by several newspapers of allowing Dr Kelly to be named as a "mole".

I don't think the BBC is out to get anybody
Sir Christopher Bland
But according to a statement released by the MoD, the defence secretary and his officials will "set out the approach taken by the department after Dr Kelly came forward" and admitted to being the BBC's source.

In another development, BBC chairman Gavyn Davies released a statement in which he said that all the governors stood by their earlier assertion that they believed it was in the public interest to broadcast the story about the way the case for war was presented.

He said: "I and my fellow governors learned that Dr Kelly was the principal source for both Andrew Gilligan's and Susan Watts' reports only after Dr Kelly's tragic death.

"This information does not require us to amend our unanimous statement of 6 July when governors made clear we were satisfied it was in the public interest to broadcast the stories by Andrew Gilligan and Susan Watts, given the information available at that time."

The Times newspaper had said an unnamed governor had demanded an emergency meeting to review whether the board had all the facts it needed when it issued a statement supporting the report by Mr Gilligan earlier this month.

Mr Davies has said there are no plans for a special meeting.


Sir Christopher Bland, ex-chairman of the BBC board of governors, said his former colleagues had not "leapt" to the defence of Mr Gilligan.

Sir Christopher said the board of governors had stood up "to incredible government pressure and bullying".

He dismissed accusations by former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson that the BBC was obsessed with a "vendetta" against the prime minister's director of communications Alastair Campbell.

"I don't think the BBC is out to get anybody. If there is an obsession and a vendetta, to an informed observer ... the vendetta was on the other foot."

Intense scrutiny

The row continues to dominate the UK's newspapers with the Financial Times saying Mr Hoon had approved a media strategy whereby the Ministry of Defence would confirm Dr Kelly's name to journalists if they suggested it.

The weapons expert apparently killed himself last Thursday, after coming under intense scrutiny from both the media and his own employers.

David Kelly, government weapons proliferation adviser
Dr Kelly was questioned by MPs days before his apparent suicide
According to the Daily Mirror, Mr Hoon was implicated in the naming of the scientist by Downing Street on Monday, when it said: "The matter was overseen by those at the appropriate level at the top of the MoD."

In the initial row which followed the story, the MoD did not name Dr Kelly - who had come forward to his employers - except in a confidential letter to the chairman of the BBC.

But the strategy of confirming his name meant three newspapers were able to deduce who he was.

Downing Street had also been "consulted" over the strategy, the FT said.

The Independent believes the MoD wanted to protect Dr Kelly's identity, but was overruled by Downing Street.

If the inquiry is only going to serve as a blame throwing tool, I suggest that it be shelved
Johnny, London

Lord Hutton has said he will decide the scope of his investigation himself under the terms of his reference.

But Downing Street said the peer should stick closely to the terms set by Mr Blair.


And opposition MPs complained that the inquiry would not have the power to summon witnesses, take testimony under oath, or rule witnesses who failed to co-operate to be in contempt.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said anyone responsible for passing Dr Kelly's name on to the media after guaranteeing him confidentiality would find themselves in an untenable position.

Dr Kelly's body was found in woodland near his Oxfordshire home on Friday.

An inquest into his death opened and adjourned on Monday, after the coroner said he had died from a cut to his wrist.

Mr Blair - currently on a visit to China as part of a tour of the Far East - confirmed he would personally give evidence to the inquiry.

Officials from Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence, as well as the BBC, are also expected to be questioned.

The BBC's Nick Higham
"The MoD said speculation in the media is misleading"


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