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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Hutton rejects 'whitewash' claim
Lord Hutton
Lord Hutton was this time facing the questions
Lord Hutton has rejected claims his report into Dr David Kelly's death amounted to a "whitewash".

He had reflected on the claims but "was still of the view that I was right", adding that he had expected criticism.

He defended his decision to focus on the BBC's 45 minutes report and to not examine wider intelligence on Iraq.

Lord Hutton was making his first public comments since he announced the findings of his inquiry into the death of weapons expert Dr Kelly.

The ex-law lord, who faced a wave of critical media coverage after publishing his report, said: "It is certainly not pleasant to be attacked in the press, but it is too strong to say I was shocked."

If I had gone into intelligence matters, the inquiry would have become very protracted
Lord Hutton

He said there were "undoubtedly strong feelings" about the war in Iraq and he felt this might have "coloured" public reaction to his report.

Asked about the "inexplicable" narrow focus of the inquiry, he said it would have taken too long if he had gone into wider intelligence issues. He denied his narrow focus "distorted" his conclusions.

He also defended his decision not to allow Tony Blair to be cross examined on the release of Dr Kelly's name to the media.

Lord Hutton said: "If I had brought the prime minister back to be cross-examined, I have to say, I considered I would be regarded as simply playing to the gallery...

"Various allegations would have been put to the prime minister and there would have been glaring headlines about the allegations and I didn't think it was appropriate to do that."

The retired judge was being questioned by the Commons public administration committee, as part of its investigation into public inquiries.

Crunch questions

Lord Hutton said his inquiry's terms of reference were initially drawn up by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer.

He said he could have extended them to include all the pre-war intelligence, saying he had given "serious thought" to this but decided against it.

HUTTON BACKGROUND
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
January 2004: Hutton report rules Dr Kelly killed himself, clears government over 45 mins claim. BBC chairman and director general resign

"If I had gone into intelligence matters, the inquiry would have become very protracted.

"I also doubt whether it is appropriate for a judge sitting alone to consider such matters," he told MPs.

After the first fact-gathering phase of the inquiry, he explained, he decided to concentrate on the "major controversy" between the government and the BBC.

This was the claim reported by the former BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan, that the government "probably knew" that the claim Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes in an intelligence dossier on Iraqi weapons was wrong.

Lord Hutton acknowledged suggestions that the intelligence itself was wrong were "very serious" but said he thought it more appropriate for a separate inquiry - such as Lord Butler's - to be held into those concerns.

He said he had been "very unhappy" about the leaking of his report's conclusions to the The Sun newspaper, but an inquiry into how this happened "had not been able to find the source of the leak".

BBC 'had to act'

He revealed he has ordered a separate investigation into the steps that could be taken to prevent the leaking of confidential reports to the press in the future.

Asked to comment on the resignation of BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies and Director General Greg Dyke in the wake of the report, he said: "The BBC had to act on the criticisms I had made".

But he said if he had made specific recommendations for the BBC he would have been criticised for "interfering in the freedom of the media and dabbling in matters which were not my concern".

It was revealed last week that the inquiry cost 2.54m in taxpayers' money.

The BBC said this week the proper editorial process for the story had been in place but "but was not then followed" by Mr Gilligan, who has since quit the corporation.

Also this week, former Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell told the public administration committee the Hutton report had changed his views in favour of greater freedom of information.




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