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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August, 2003, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Blair's Hutton evidence: Key points
Main elements of Prime Minister Tony Blair's evidence to the Hutton Inquiry.

On the background to the dossier

  • Mr Blair said after September 11, there was a new sense of urgency on the question of rogue states and weapons of mass destruction, and the link with terrorism. He said there was some thought given to trying to bring all that together.
  • He said the decision to have a dossier on Iraq alone was because Iraq was a special case in breach of UN resolutions and a history of using WMD against it own people.
  • The prime minister said he decided to announce the publication of a dossier because he had a phone call with US President George Bush and they decided they had to confront the issue, devise a strategy and get on with it.

    On the dossier preparation

  • James Dingemans QC asked the prime minister about the meeting on 5 September chaired by Alastair Campbell in which it was decided to have a substantial rewrite of the original dossier.
    I am very careful in my statement to make it clear what we were and were not saying... the purpose of the dossier was to respond to the call to disclose intelligence that we knew, but at that stage, the strategy was not to use the dossier as the immediate reason for going to conflict
    On his foreword to the dossier
  • Mr Blair said he was in "no doubt" that Alastair Campbell would assist in the presentation of the dossier but "I also knew that it had to be a document that was owned by JIC [Joint Intelligence Committee] and the chairman, John Scarlett".
  • He saw the 10 September draft and commented on drafts of 16 and 19 September. He also saw the JIC assessment on 9 September.
  • Mr Blair said he did not think he made a comment on the 45 minute claim.
  • Lord Hutton asked if Mr Blair agreed that the wording in an e-mail for the document to be as strong as possible within the bounds of available intelligence was a fair way of describing Number 10's view. Mr Blair said only if the intelligence agencies thought so and there was "no improper weight" given to any aspect of it.
    Providing that it is clearly understood as meaning that it is only if the intelligence agencies thought that the intelligence should be included and that there was not improper weight given to any aspect of that intelligence
    On if it was fair to say Number 10 wanted the dossier to be as strong as possible within the bounds of the available intelligence
  • "The purpose of the dossier was to respond to the call to disclose the intelligence that we knew, but at that stage, the strategy was not to use the dossier as the immediate reason for going to conflict," Mr Blair said.
  • James Dingemans QC asked about comments made by Alastair Campbell to John Scarlett about the dossier. Mr Blair said he could not say he was aware of each and every comment but he was certainly aware of the fact that he would be making comments on it, subject to the fact they were backed by the JIC.
  • Asked about a letter of complaint from a senior intelligence officer about how intelligence was used, Mr Blair said none of those sorts of complaints reached the JIC or him.
  • The inquiry was shown the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which said the language used was more assertive than traditionally used in intelligence documents.
  • Mr Blair said it was "absolutely wrong" for BBC witnesses to suggest he did not use the 45 min claim again after it appeared in the dossier, because the government had doubts about it. Mr Blair said "there was absolutely no reason for us to doubt the intelligence at all".

    On the BBC's news reports

  • Mr Blair said he was in Basra [southern Iraq] when he was told about the Andrew Gilligan broadcast.
    Any person listening to that would think that we had done something improper, not that we just got the facts mixed up... The whole thing since then has been not did the government get this wrong but did the government dupe us?
    On his impression of the Today programme broadcast
  • His reaction was that "it was an extraordinary allegation to make and an extremely serious one".
  • "This was an absolutely fundamental charge. It is one thing to say we disagree with the government, you should not have gone to war. People can have a disagreement about that. This was an allegation that we had behaved in a way that, were it true, as I say tested - the allegation being true it would have merited my resignation".
  • Mr Blair said he asked for the allegation to be checked out with John Scarlett and JIC.
    There was then a Mail On Sunday article by Mr Gilligan that named Alastair Campbell as the person who had done this effectively... with all due deference to the media and everyone, the insertion of Alastair's name... once you put that into the pot with everything else, you have something that's no longer a small item. The combination of these things, both the original report and the sunday newspaper follow-up... frankly since then that's been the issue. We are three months on and it's still the issue... we were then in a complete and full storm.
    On the failure of a strong Downing Street denial to put the claim "to rest"
  • Mr Blair said "there was a raging storm going on". He thought the ISC [Intelligence and Security Committee] were "the right people to deal with this".
  • Mr Blair said the only way the dispute was going to go away was if the BBC said "clearly and unequivocally" that the original story was wrong, and it was pretty obvious they were not going to.
  • Tony Blair said on 7 July, he had a private conversation with BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies, to see if they could come to an agreement. But they were unable to do so.
  • In notes of the conversation, Gavyn Davies said he could not apologise because the source had not been disproved. Mr Blair said to him that it looked like the source is not going to back up Andrew Gilligan's story.
  • Referring to the Today programme Mr Blair said: "Any person listening to that would think we had done something improper, not that we just got our facts mixed up."
    We both agreed that it was important to try and calm things down. I said look, is not the sensible way through this, whatever we think about your original broadcast and allegations, for you to say: 'We stand by our right to broadcast the story but we accept that the story was wrong'. He felt he couldn't do that. He couldn't retract the orginal story. That would compromise the BBC's independence
    On a private conversation, at Mr Blair's request, with BBC governors' chairman Gavyn Davies
  • Mr Blair said the real problem was that the original allegation had "booster rockets put on it by the Mail on Sunday article" [also by Mr Gilligan].
  • He added that the allegation: "Affected the credibility of the country never mind the PM. It was a very, very serious charge."
  • Mr Blair said he did not see an e-mail in which Number 10 press officer Tom Kelly referred to the government-BBC row as a "game of chicken".

    On the Foreign Affairs Committee report

  • Mr Blair said: "I did not I confess right at the very beginning think that FAC were the right people to deal with it... I worried at the beginning that when a select committee is looking at an issue that is such a huge and hot political issue in a sense, that the danger always is that it splits down party lines".
  • He said the coverage of its report was "in balance probably negative. It was at best a muddied picture... you would not have in any shape or form thought the next day: 'Well, that is the government in the clear'".

    On Dr Kelly

  • Tony Blair said he heard an individual had come forward re the source of the Gilligan story on 3 July, when he was phoned by Number 10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell.
  • He said they had to be able to say "we handled this by the book, in the sense of with the advice of senior civil servants, not as I say in order to pass responsibility to them but in order to make sure that this was not, as it were, the politicians driving the system."
    My concern was to get that information not concealed but out there, so that no one could say afterwards that this was something that you people were trying to conceal or cover from a House of Commons committee. I take full responsibility for decisions. I stand by them. I believe they were the right decisions
    On why there was a need to make public the fact the source had come forward
  • Asked about developments over the weekend 5-6 July, Mr Blair said he thought an article in the Times newspaper made it more probable the individual who had come forward [David Kelly] was the source.
  • In his own judgement Mr Blair said that there was a "fair possibility it would leak in any event" (referring to the fact an individual had come forward).
  • Mr Blair said "his firm view" was they had to proceed in a way that Sir Kevin Tebbit, the MoD's top civil servant, and Sir David Omand were entirely content with, consistent with the MoD's internal procedures. Mr Blair told Alastair Campbell to proceed in a careful way.
  • Mr Blair said he was told it was not an Official Secrets Act matter, and that Dr Kelly had effectively been told off.
  • He said in a discussion with Omand on 5 July that he asked to have as much information as possible, and he was told there would be a follow-up interview.
  • Mr Blair said he understood that Dr Kelly's involvement was to be on the basis of his co-operation.
  • On a meeting on 7 July he said: "The very clear view of all of us... was that if it became clear that in all probability he was the source, the information could not remain undisclosed."
  • Mr Blair said also on 7 July, Alastair Campbell called him to say that the fact that an individual had come forward should be disclosed ahead of Mr Blair's appearance at the Liaison Committee. Mr Blair said they should continue dealing with it through Tebbit and Omand.
  • At a meeting at 1145 on 8 July, with Omand present but not Tebbit, they were fairly clear that Dr Kelly was the source, and therefore they had to decide what to do.
  • Mr Blair said the first question was if they simply concealed the information on the source, this might be improper as it was plainly relevant to the FAC and the ISC.
  • Mr Blair said the consensus was Omand should write to the chair of the ISC and copy it to the FAC for courtesy, and then make public the fact the source had come forward.

    On Kelly, the MoD and the media

    I think it was decided to do this by way of a public statement not mentioning the name, a) because we were not entirely clear, b) I think to give at least a little bit of time to us... But the important thing was at least the fact someone had come forward saying 'I am the source' was no longer something we possessed. We had actually been open and said this is the case... In fairness to the MoD press people, I think it was difficult for them
    On why a media statement was put out saying an official had come forward without naming Dr Kelly

  • Mr Blair said he was aware of assistance given by No 10 in drafting the MoD press statement that revealed a source had come forward, without giving a name.
  • But he said he was not aware of the existence of the MOD's plans for a defensive Q&A for dealing with the media, but "I would have thought it perfectly natural that the MoD had to prepare to field enquiries".
  • "I did not see the MoD Q&A but I think the basic view would have been not to offer the name but on the other hand not to mislead people," he said.
  • He added: "You know in fairness to the MoD press people I think it was difficult for them. It was difficult for them."
  • Mr Blair said about the meeting about Dr Kelly: "There was nothing in the discussion that we had that would have alerted us to him being anything other than someone of a certain robustness who was used to dealing with the interchange between politics and the media."
  • He also said the general view was that they could not give people wrong information or mislead them, but on the other hand, "we had not volunteered the name".


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