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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 13:11 GMT
BBC governors hold crisis talks
Gavyn Davies
Davies questioned some of Hutton's findings
BBC governors are holding a crisis meeting on Thursday after Lord Hutton's damning verdict led the corporation's chairman to quit.

Gavyn Davies resigned after the most serious claims in Andrew Gilligan's BBC's reports were branded "unfounded".

But he questioned some of the retired law lord's findings on the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

It also emerged Lord Hutton has ordered "an urgent investigation" into the leaking of his findings to The Sun.

The law lord has asked Martin Smith, solicitor to his inquiry, to investigate who had access to the report in advance of publication.

Lord Hutton's report cleared the government of "sexing up" its Iraq weapons dossier with unreliable intelligence.

But he criticised "defective" BBC editorial controls over defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan's broadcasts on the Today programme.

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The BBC governors met informally on Wednesday evening and are now pondering their response to the report in a meeting in London.

As they met, the prime minister's spokesman said BBC director general Greg Dyke's statement after the publication of Lord Hutton's report did "not amount to a considered statement from the BBC governors".

"We still want an apology. The BBC should apologise for broadcasting a false allegation which was unfounded," he said.

'Bald conclusions'

The turmoil at the BBC comes amid calls for the BBC to come under outside regulation and after Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said the Hutton report would be taken into account in the 2006 review of the BBC's charter.

September 2002: Government produces dossier about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, including claim they could be deployed within 45 minutes
May 2003: BBC Today programme's Andrew Gilligan broadcasts report of claims Downing Street "sexed up" dossier, with 45 mins claim included against intelligence agencies' wishes
10 July 2003:Dr David Kelly named as suspected source of report as government continues to deny the story
17 July 2003: Dr Kelly found dead
August 2003: Lord Hutton begins six weeks of hearings about the circumstances around Dr Kelly's death

In his resignation statement, Mr Davies said that as the man at the top he had to take responsibility.

But he questioned whether Lord Hutton's "bald conclusions" on the dossier's production could be reconciled with the balance of the inquiry's evidence.

And he asked whether enough weight was given to Dr Kelly's taped conversation with Newsnight's Susan Watts.

Following the publication of Lord Hutton's findings, BBC Director-General Greg Dyke said the corporation apologised for key things Mr Gilligan got wrong in his broadcasts.

But he added that Dr Kelly was a credible witness whose views the public had a right to know.

Ex-BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland warned against mass resignations and called for a period of reflection at the corporation.

In his long-awaited report, Lord Hutton said he believed Dr Kelly had killed himself after being named as the suspected source of the BBC's controversial weapons dossier story.

Among his findings were:

  • The BBC governors should have properly investigated Downing Street's complaints as they defended the corporation's independence

  • There was no "dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous strategy" by the government to leak Dr Kelly's name covertly to help its battle with the BBC

  • The Ministry of Defence was "at fault" for failing to tell Dr Kelly that his identity as the suspected source would be confirmed to journalists who suggested it

  • Mr Blair's wish for the dossier to make a persuasive case might have "subconsciously influenced" Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett to use stronger words than usual but Mr Scarlett had acted to ensure the dossier was consistent with reliable intelligence

The prime minister said the report showed the real lie was that he had lied to Parliament or deliberately misled the public by falsifying intelligence.

"I simply ask that those that have made it and repeated it over all these months now withdraw it fully, openly and clearly," he said.

I don't think anyone comes out of this affair smelling of roses.
Christopher Robins, London, UK

Dr Kelly's has family urged the government to learn from their tragedy.

Conservative leader Michael Howard said there was a stark contrast between Dr Kelly and "the cabal of ministers and advisers ... who were so obsessed by the war with the BBC that they gave scant attention to his welfare".

Liberal Democrat Charles Kennedy called for an independent inquiry, saying: "We are still no closer to determining whether this country went to war on a false prospectus."

It also emerged that Lord Hutton will be grilled by MPs over the implications of his report for how governments are run.

He will be giving evidence to the Public Administration Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the role of inquiries in government.

Mr Blair will open a Commons debate on the report next Wednesday and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon will close it.

Meanwhile an NOP poll commissioned by the London Evening Standard suggests that more people believe it was unfair than fair for the BBC to receive most of the blame for the Kelly affair in the Hutton report.

Following interviews with 521 people on Wednesday, the poll suggested that 35% thought it was fair, 56% thought it was unfair and 10% did not know. The figures were rounded up by pollsters.

The BBC's Nick Higham
"Headquarters of an organisation in crisis"

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