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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 August, 2003, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Inquiry hears BBC's Kelly tape
BBC's Susan Watts
Watts taped Dr Kelly conversation
A tape recording of a conversation between BBC Newsnight reporter Susan Watts and Dr David Kelly has been played to the third day of the Hutton Inquiry.

Ms Watts spoke to Dr Kelly the day after a report on BBC Radio 4's Today programme claimed that a government dossier on Iraqi arms had been "sexed up" by Downing Street.

She told the inquiry she had recognised the gist of the comments in the Today report from her earlier conversations with Dr Kelly, but said she had not recognised the claim that the dossier had been transformed in the week before publication by Downing Street.

After hearing the Today report, which quoted an unnamed source now known to be Dr Kelly, she e-mailed and then telephoned Dr Kelly.
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

Ms Watts, who used a handheld tape recorder to record the conversation, said she asked Dr Kelly whether she had "missed a trick" in not picking up on his comments about Tony Blair's press chief Alastair Campbell in an earlier conversation with her.

Dr Kelly said he could not say Mr Campbell had personally put the pressure on for the inclusion in the dossier of the claim that Iraq could use weapons of mass destruction at 45 minutes' notice.

He had never met Mr Campbell, he said, adding: "All I can say is the Number 10 Downing Street press office... But... I think Alastair Campbell is synonymous with that press office because he's responsible for it."

'Glib statement'

Of the 45 minute claim, and Downing Street's attitude to it, Dr Kelly said: "I knew there was concern about the statement... it just got out of all proportion... they were desperate for information, they were pushing hard for information which could be released - that was one that popped up and was seized on.

"It was unfortunate that it was, which is why there is the argument between the intelligence services and cabinet office/number ten, because things were picked up on, and once they've picked up on it you can't pull it back, that's the problem."

Lord Hutton has ruled that the tape of the discussion will not be released.

In the earlier conversation Dr Kelly told Ms Watts it was a mistake for the government's dossier to include a claim that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction could be ready within 45 minutes.

Her notes of that conversation indicate he had suggested Mr Campbell may have played a part in its inclusion.
Susan Watts: OK, just back momentarily on the 45 minute issue I'm feeling like I ought to just explore that a little bit more with you... so would it be accurate then, as you did in that earlier conversation, to say that it was Alastair Campbell himself who...
Dr Kelly: No I can't. All I can say is the Number 10 press office. I've never met Alastair Campbell so I can't (SW interrupts "they seized on that?") But I think Alastair Campbell is synonymous with that press office because he's responsible for it.

But she considered the reference to Downing Street's communications head to be a "a glib statement" of gossip, rather than fact, so she did not include it in her report.

On Wednesday, Ms Watts told the inquiry she considered that Dr Kelly had "specifically denied" the suggestion that Alastair Campbell was responsible for any changes to the dossier.

Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide after being named as the main source for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme report claiming Downing Street exaggerated Iraq's weapons capability to make the case for war.

On Tuesday Mr Gilligan, the Today programme's defence correspondent behind that report, defended his account.

But Ms Watts distanced her reporting from that of Mr Gilligan.

The BBC is the focus of most of the hearing on Wednesday with BBC News special correspondent Gavin Hewitt following Ms Watts into the witness stand.

Richard Sambrook

Mr Hewitt told the inquiry that he spoke to Dr Kelly later on the day that the Today report had been broadcast.

Mr Hewitt said that Dr Kelly told him that "spin did come into play" in the drawing up of the dossier but added that the intelligence itself was "fundamentally reasonable" and that Dr Kelly would have liked to have seen more caveats in it.

Terence Taylor
Richard Hatfield - Personnel director, MoD
Julian Miller - Intelligence and security secretariat, Cabinet Office
Martin Howard - Deputy chief of defence intelligence, MoD
Patrick Lamb - Deputy head counter proliferation department, Foreign Office
Andrew Gilligan - BBC
Susan Watts - BBC
Gavin Hewitt - BBC
Richard Sambrook - BBC
Brian Wells - Director of counter proliferation and arms control secretariat, MoD
John Williams - Press chief, Foreign Office

Mr Hewitt said that the final week before publication had been "very frenetic" and that the dossier had changed substantially.

The BBC's director of news, Richard Sambrook, began giving evidence after Mr Hewitt on Wednesday afternoon in London.

Mr Sambrook began by outlining some of the history of complaints made by Downing Street about Andrew Gilligan reports.

It emerged on Tuesday that the journalist had been criticised by his Today programme editor, Kevin Marsh, as demonstrating "flawed reporting" because of the language he used.

Gilligan told the inquiry his first Today broadcast on 29 May, at 0607 BST, mistakenly said the government knew the 45-minute claim to be wrong.

In the 18 subsequent broadcasts he did that day, he instead said the government knew it to be questionable, because the claim came from a single source.

Ms Watts, who finished her evidence shortly after 1230 BST, said that she had felt pressurised by her BBC bosses to reveal who the source was for her Newsnight reports on the Iraqi weapons dossier.

She said this was because the BBC wanted to "mould the stories" and "to corroborate" Mr Gilligan's Today report. Ms Watts said: "I was unhappy about that."

The BBC's George Eykyn
"Susan Watts explained she had known Dr Kelly over a period of two years"


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