Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The Full Story: Alastair Campbell faces Iraq inquiry

Advertisement

Alastair Campbell: "Tony Blair's genuine belief was that Iraq had to be confronted"

AS IT HAPPENED - BY EMMA GRIFFITHS
1757 Well, that's it from us after a marathon inquiry session - it was meant to last three hours but went on for six - including various breaks. Many thanks for all your texts, emails and tweets. Our live text commentary will be back on Wednesday for prime minister's questions. Meanwhile the Iraq inquiry will continue tomorrow with evidence from two less-well known figures - former cabinet secretary Lord Turnbull and Nemat Shafik, who was the top civil servant at the Department for International Development between 2008-2009.

1750 The former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC Mr Campbell's insistence Mr Blair had not agreed to regime change early on had been undermined by Mr Blair himself. In a BBC interview in December, Mr Blair said it would still have been "right to remove" Saddam Hussein, even if he knew that there were no WMD. Sir Malcolm said the hearing made Mr Campbell look "in denial". But Lord Falconer, the former lord chancellor, says he thought Mr Campbell gave "straightforward" answers which were "truthful and correct".

1735 As things have calmed down a bit now, it's time for a quick recap of the day's events. Most commentators seem to agree that Mr Campbell gave a robust performance and did not seem overly rattled. He said he defended "every word" of the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD - which included the infamous "45 minute" claim. More widely he said he was "very proud" of the part he played and Britain should be proud of its role in bringing democracy to Iraq. He revealed that Tony Blair had sent a series of notes to George Bush in 2002 in which he implied that, should the diplomatic route to dealing with Saddam Hussein fail and military action become necessary, Britain would "be there". In the afternoon he also suggested Clare Short - the international development secretary who eventually quit the cabinet over the war - had not been included in the "inner circle" of advisers on the war because she could not be trusted not to leak information.

1733 What have other parties been saying about his evidence? The SNP say it shows Gordon Brown played a key role and that the PM should answer questions to the inquiry before the general election. The Lib Dems agree that Mr Brown played an "important part" in the decision-making process and say the inquiry should be looking at whether the war was legal. But former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell told the BBC Mr Cameron was only the "hors d'oeuvre" - ahead of the main event, the appearance of Tony Blair before the inquiry in a few weeks.

1703 So, how is the inquiry hearing being reported around the internet? The Guardian goes with Alastair Campbell rejects claim WMD dossier was 'sexed up' . The Telegraph's Richard Preston looks at his remarks on the second dossier . The Times looks at Mr Campbell's remarks about notes written by Tony Blair to George Bush .

1642 Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who was at the centre of a huge storm between the BBC and Alastair Campbell over the September 2002 dossier, said Mr Campbell gave his usual defence but the panel's questions were noticeably more sceptical than previously and they had asked the right questions.

e-mail sent in by reader
Alastair Campbell has been interviewed countless times on Iraq and WMD and has also made numerous appearances in front of inquiries such as these. At no point as he ever looked 'on the ropes' or even remotely flustered. I'm not sure what going through all of this again is going to achieve?
Tom, Cannock, Staffs

e-mail sent in by reader
It is incredible that a large part of Mr Campbell's comments this morning were levelled at the media and their handling and their own internal agenda, yet there was not a scrap of mention in this regard in the reports I have heard to date. Is the media now beyond criticism or do they not wish to face up to their responsibility in this situation?
James Gilfillan, St Andrews

1627 The Scottish National Party has been listening into the inquiry hearing. They say Mr Campbell's comments at the start - that Gordon Brown was one of the key ministers Tony Blair consulted in the period before the war - show the prime minister should give evidence before the general election. Spokesman Angus Robertson says he must be "held to account" - Mr Brown is due to give evidence but not until after the general election, expected to be called in May.

e-mail sent in by reader
Tony Blair has publicly stated that he would likely have tried to depose Saddam Hussein even if there had been no WMDs. Even after this, Alastair Campbell is going to say, with a straight face, that Tony Blair wanted diplomacy? I'd say things have gotten off to a very dubiously truthful start.
Zhe, USA

e-mail sent in by reader
AC was outstanding. Not many can stand up to such a grilling and still stay clam. Blair will have problems as you can see where they want to get their teeth into. This will be a warning that Blair needs to get his story straight.
Tom, Cheshire

e-mail sent in by reader
What I have heard from Campbell today he is just like Del Boy, ducking and diving with some of his answers. And what knowledge and authority gives him the right to sit in on top secret talks on the Iraq situation?
Barry Mulvany

No, not Paxman (see earlier suggestion for inquiry questioners) - P D James. She would, very politely, make mincemeat of this man.
P Roberts, Newbury, Berks

1609 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says Mr Campbell's comments on the September 2002 dossier were interesting, as he came under pressure about whether or not Tony Blair was right to make the claims he did about the intelligence available.

Laura Kuenssberg
1610 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, is outside the inquiry building - the QEII Conference Centre - where Alastair Campbell will have to run the gauntlet of media to exit. She says he appeared to be an expert on lots of different issues - showing how wide his brief was when he was communications director. Mr Campbell leaves the building amid a media scrum and gets into a car, which drives off slowly - surrounded by photographers. Further words from Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent, who says Mr Blair and Mr Campbell are "a team" and remain in touch.

e-mail sent in by reader
Liesbet (Amsterdam) worries about future written notes by politicians. They MUST write or they'll convince so few that policy would be defeated. The beauty of written 'reasoning' is that it tests thought processes and demonstrates logic in less passionate manner. Avoidance of written justifications and objectives would condemn wrong-minded politicians all the more. Inquiries within living memory are a part of accountability. Any so-called sophisticated concerns about this are misplaced. On with the enquiry, out with the evidence and opinions and regardless of the official conclusions people will know better how to interpret politics in the future. Lives could be saved.
Garrick, Rome

1603 So that's it from the inquiry for today. Over at the BBC studio security correspondent Frank Gardner points out Mr Campbell's comments that the quick defeat of Saddam Hussein had been a "catastrophic success" - and within seven days he was getting reports of problems with post-war planning. Everyone can remember the pictures of chandeliers being carried away, he said. The problem was Britain was the "junior partner in someone else's war", Frank Gardner adds.

magnifying glass
1605 From BBC world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds: Like a forceful reconnaissance unit, he was not afraid to identify and try to despatch targets, in the hope that the main force would have an easier time. Read Paul's thoughts in full

e-mail sent in by reader
Arguing on detail is always destined to become unclear, distracted and at times seemingly only focused on low level points scoring. The main crux is that the government at the time released a document (dossier) that they did not need to release and are being punished for it. The end result will simply be a more hidden and secretive government when concerned to large strategic decision making. Everyone loses.
Simon, Selby

1600 Mr Campbell says you can have all the advisers you want but in the end, politicians have to make decisions. Sir John thanks him for staying on for the extended session - which was due to finish three hours ago. Tomorrow they'll be looking at resourcing and the capability of government departments to deliver. Now for the verdict on Mr Campbell's evidence...

e-mail sent in by reader
AC is smooth but definitely uncomfortable - His speech rate is higher than usual and he's fidgety and keeps touching his nose and drinking water. The panel are much calmer.
Dylan, London

1601 Sir John Chilcott rounds up the session - he asks if Mr Campbell has had enough opportunity to reflect on "real world lessons" learned from the war. Mr Campbell says he hopes lessons have been learnt on strategic communications. When people asked why we were in Afghanistan that was a "communications issue". "I really hope that because of all the controversies... I hope we don't say 'let's go back to an old-fashioned communications'," he said.

tweet
neilrosscameron tweets: Watching Alastair Campbell not being questioned anything like sufficiently exhaustively at the Chilcot Inquiry is very frustrating...

1559 Mr Campbell said the problems with the aftermath of the war were not as big an issue in the media and politics at the time as it should have been - and he says the BBC's report on the 45-minute claim and the furore which followed was to blame for that.

1556 Within the cabinet there was "a lot of genuine support" for the government's position, Mr Campbell said. Robin Cook and "eventually" Clare Short resigned - but there were not wider calls to "fundamentally re-evaluate the position".

1555 Mr Campbell says seven days after the invasion there was a meeting where John Scarlett talked about the difficulties with the Americans not "appearing to have the plan" for the aftermath they thought they did.

1554 He says the death toll "has been high" in terms of Iraqis and the loss of British lives but he still believed "on the big picture" of the leadership Tony Blair showed he was "privileged to be there" and "proud" of the part he played.

1552 Mr Campbell says Britain should not be "beating ourselves up" about Iraq but should be "really proud" about the role it played in Iraq. He says Mr Blair was a man of "really deep conviction and integrity" making the "most difficult decision of his premiership" - he says former ambassador Christopher Meyer was "glib" in his assessment of the impact of the war decision on the US/UK relationship.

1549 Sir Roderic moves onto his final questions. He asks about a comment Mr Campbell made that the diplomatic route had failed - others say it was cut short by the US military timetable. Mr Campbell says "that is a view you could take" but where the prime minister was, after "difficult" discussions with the French, was that having persuaded George Bush to go down the UN route there came a point when, once the French said there could be no military action, "that was the end of the process".

1548 KEY POINTS SO FAR: Mr Campbell has denied distorting evidence in the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD saying he defends "every single word". He also denied that Tony Blair changed his mind to back regime change at a summit with President Bush in Crawford in April 2002. He also talked about "quite a lot of notes" written by Tony Blair to George Bush in the build-up to war - which he described as "very frank". He said Mr Blair had told the president if the diplomatic route failed and military action had to be taken "Britain will be there".

1546 Mr Campbell said there was almost a "philosophical difference of approach" between the UK and US about fighting wars and peacekeeping. Mr Campbell said he sent half of his office "out there" but the Americans were sensitive about the British taking over.

1544 Admiral Boyce, the PM and others from "very very early on" were "plugged into the thinking" that should the war happen, there must be planning for the aftermath. The US State department had taken the lead, he said. He said when he was told - by Maj Gen Tim Cross - that they had not been planning properly for the aftermath, it was "a bit of a revelation". They had been getting "assuring noises" from the US, he said. "Assumptions were made about State Department planning," he said - when they realised the Pentagon was taking the lead, the PM was "rattling a lot of cages within the British system" and asking for things to be done, he said. Mr Campbell agreed it went "badly wrong" - saying there had not been "that grip" in the immediate aftermath of the war.

1538 Mr Campbell says before the Crawford meeting the then chief of the defence staff Admiral Mike Boyce and his team were thinking about planning for the aftermath - as far back as March 2002. But they were aware conflict was not "inevitable".

1535 What was the impact on planning for the aftermath of the war, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says it was "difficult" but he did not think that was the reason things sometimes went "as bad as they did" in the aftermath of the war.

1533 Why wasn't Clare Short in the "inner circle" bearing in mind her job, asks Sir Roderic. "That's a very good question," says Mr Campbell, who says cabinet ministers are appointed from "within a fairly narrow pool" of people: "You will get a collection of individuals of variable competence, of variable trustworthiness in the prime minster's eyes" and he would want to have conversations with a "smaller group" of people. Is he implying Clare short was not trustworthy or competent, asks Sir Roderic. When she supported a government position, she was both, says Mr Campbell. "It's not secret she was very difficult to handle at times," he said. "I think the military found her approach to them quite difficult to deal with." He also said there may have been some worry that information you wanted to keep secret, may have got into the public domain.

1530 He says those not involved in the day-to-day formulation of strategy played a role in "testing" it - Margaret Beckett and David Blunkett were among those asking questions he said.

1528 There were a lot of meetings with the smaller group of ministers and later a "war cabinet", including Gordon Brown - who he assumed were "serviced with papers properly". Sir Roderic Lyne quotes former international development secretary Clare Short's diaries and asks if in 2002/early 2003 there was a proper informed debate within cabinet about the strategy. Mr Campbell says they did but it is true there were "lots of discussions outside cabinet" and he could understand if people thought Mr Blair was only keeping the cabinet "up to date".

1526 The panel are back in their seats. Mr Campbell clarifies that Mr Blair's "moral case" speech was the same day as the anti-war march in London. Panel member Sir Roderic Lyne asks about the involvement of the cabinet - the Butler report noted the "remarkable absence of papers" for the cabinet discussions.

1524 The BBC's Frank Gardner says within the intelligence community in Britain there was still a feeling of "hangover" from the September 2002 dossier. People in intelligence did not like it being brought into the public arena, he says.

1520 Over in the BBC News Channel studios BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says Mr Campbell's performance was one of "controlled defiance".

Laura Kuenssberg
1517 Outside the centre, BBC correspondent Laura Kuenssberg says it is interesting that Mr Campbell had some doubts about whether Mr Blair would survive as PM. Sir Menzies Campbell - Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman at the time of the war - is also there. He says Alastair Campbell had mounted a characteristically "robust defence" - but that the war had been wrong and no WMD were found. He also says it was "extraordinary" that private letters between Tony Blair and George Bush suggested Mr Blair had committed the UK to a conflict earlier than thought. He says the letters should be published. He says little new has been revealed and says an experienced QC should have been on the inquiry panel.

1513 Mr Campbell said someone who wants to be re-elected did not do something as momentous as going to war without really believing it was the right thing to do. There was some question about whether he would survive as prime minister. "Of course I had doubts," said Mr Campbell, who said sometimes the Americans were difficult to deal with - but Britain should feel "proud" of the role they played in ending a historically brutal regime, especially with elections due to take place in Iraq within weeks, he said. The inquiry has broken for a quick break.

1511 The decision "weighed" on Mr Blair but he believed that something had to be done about Saddam Hussein, said Mr Campbell. Mr Blair believed there would have been a bigger day of reckoning in the future if the issue was not tackled then, he added.

1510 Mr Campbell said he had been begged by Iraqi exiles to go ahead with the war and Mr Blair had gone on to make the "moral case for war".

1509 The march against Iraq showed "a lot of people" were opposed to government policy, Mr Campbell said. His rule of thumb was that for every person on a march there were probably another ten who thought about it. It had made Mr Blair think "more deeply about the issues".

1508 Mr Campbell says on the day of the Commons debate on Iraq "you had a sense of the country following that debate as it unfolded". He said he had overheard a conversation between two fairly elderly women on a bus about UN Resolution 1441 - and he thought then that people were engaging on a "deeper level" than the "flim flam" in the media.

1505 Mr Campbell talks about trying to get their message out in the face of a hostile media. Sir Martin Gilbert asks about a strategy of getting a more active role for Mr Blair. Mr Campbell said Mr Blair and the Americans realised there was a benefit in him being more "proactive" in getting the message across - via set-piece speeches, visits and press conferences. How effective was it? Mr Campbell said he had to rely on instinct but his sense was that as the debate went on, there was "always a period in which you sense deeper public engagement in them". He says it's true there was hostility but there was also a considerable amount of support for the government's position which "didn't get much air time".

1502 Mr Campbell recalls US vice president Dick Cheney being annoyed with him when he made a comment about the US message on "spreading democracy" - Mr Campbell suggested that in the Middle East they heard it as "they want to bring America here" - Mr Cheney looked "a bit pissed off", says Mr Campbell.

1500 He recalls that Condoleezza Rice had not wanted to say anything too definite about the role of the UN in the aftermath of the Iraq war - but Mr Blair had gone to George Bush and said the message had to be stronger.

1455 Mr Campbell said US comments could make things difficult - US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld could "have thought more" about the impact of his statements on other countries. US figures did not always understand that their statements and position could have an impact beyond their shores, he said.

1453 Mr Campbell says they tried to answer people's questions over time and Mr Blair appeared every week at PMQs, at a monthly press conference and before committees to argue his case. He also had an extended interview with Jeremy Paxman and had faced a TV debate with a selection of women worried about the prospect of war.

1451 Panel member Sir Martin Gilbert refers back to Alastair Campbell's diary, which made a note of public opinion "turning against us during August" - what did he do about it, Sir Martin asks. Nothing very "fancy", says Mr Campbell. The publication of the dossier was one thing and something Mr Blair dubbed the "masochism strategy" - where he made public appearances.

1450 Mr Campbell says SIS (the security services) were perfectly happy with the February "dodgy dossier" and the JIC chairman would not have known that some of the detail was plagiarised so may have been happy with it.

1448 Mr Campbell says he is not sure if John Scarlett saw a draft copy of the February "dodgy dossier" or if the unit in charge of drawing it up had sent it to him but they "should have done".

1446 Back to panel member Sir Roderic Lyne - he says Mr Campbell had said joint intelligence committee chairman John Scarlett was not consulted on the February 2003 dossier. He asks if it was not "a bit surprising" that Scarlett was not consulted on a new paper and did not see it in a final form.

1440 Sir Lawrence Freedman asks if it occurred to anybody that weapons were not being found in Iraq because they were not there. Mr Campbell agrees "that was an issue" for him, as communications chief. He said Sir John Scarlett had warned that they may not be found - Mr Campbell says the belief that WMD would be found was "real, it was profound". Knowing it was a "hugely controversial" decision and it was possible that WMD would not be found was a "very very big issue and a very difficult situation". He says he was "never in doubt" WMD would be found. "I fully expected and envisaged and I think the prime minister did that within a reasonable short time frame ... [the military would be saying] Here's this, here's that and the other."

e-mail sent in by reader
Unbelievable! Did he just say that despite there being no evidence AT ALL that Iraq's CBW supplies were growing, the claim that it was went in the dossier solely because it was something the PM (despite all the evidence) believed that was the case?
Jez, Leeds

e-mail sent in by reader
Very good questioning. Frankly amazingly weak performance by clever Campbell - few direct answers, longish explanations open to suit the history and interpretation of words. Blair is being exposed for the feeble mindedness of his regime. Even if being in Iraq suits UK 'interests' the decision to go to war was at best shaky and looks awful put against revealed facts.
Garrick, Rome

e-mail sent in by reader
This kind of nitty gritty will only lead to no politician ever writing anything down anymore, be it in documents or diaries. Now the problem is what 'growing' means. I sure hope that our government inquiry is going to be more substantial.
Liesbet, Amsterdam

1438 Sir Lawrence Freedman said when Mr Blair then talked about it he referred to "intelligence" reports published over the weekend - he says it was presented as if it had a similar status and process to the September 2002 dossier. Mr Campbell says he would defend the "integrity and professionalism" of the September dossier "to the end of my days" but accepted with the February dossier there was a "simple but serious mistake" - by including the information from an academic, and that had made it controversial. He accepted the "quality control" was not there.

1434 Inquiry panel member Sir Lawrence Freedman says it was not a trivial issue as US Secretary of State Colin Powell was about to make a big speech to the UN.

1431 The international communications group had been informed that there was intelligence relating to the Iraqi campaign of concealment and intimidation of the UN inspection process - Mr Campbell said there was a discussion about whether it could be used publicly. At one point Mr Campbell commissioned the group to do a paper on Iraq and the "messing around" of the inspection process. They produced a paper, he changed the title and made some "textual changes" - which then went "round the system". He did not know if that included the Joint Intelligence Committee. A decision was made during a trip to the US that it would be given as a briefing paper to Sunday newspaper journalists travelling on the plane with Mr Blair. It got "relatively little" exposure at the time, he said, but was quickly discredited and dismissed as the "dodgy dossier" - not to be confused with the official September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD which included the 45-minute claim. He said it was not right to say the dodgy dossier had been lifted off the internet - it was in the Middle East journal.

e-mail sent in by reader
Roddy Lyne is way sharper than the other people on the inquiry. He's actually making Campbell uncomfortable.
Jules, London

Seems that Mr Campbell has been really trapped over the use of 'beyond doubt'.
Alex P, Wales

e-mail sent in by reader
What becomes apparent from Mr Campbell's account, seems to be that the 45 minute warning was just a footnote in the whole proposal to go to war and should be discounted. When looking at the original document, however, this "45 minute" window was repeatedly inserted into the document as presented to Parliament. So why is it now trivialised?
Philippe Geril, Ostend

e-mail sent in by reader
Allowing Mr Campbell to answer without interruption has enabled him to reveal two major points. His apparent failure to understand the public perception of the 45 min weapons claim and the 'draft/redraft mistakes happen' claim. These were precisely the situations for which he was employed. If I can see it, so can everyone else. Any idea why he might want to dismiss these two points?
Bob, Gourock, Inverclyde

1428 There were British members, US members, French and Spanish representatives and people from across Whitehall involved, he said. The group was commissioned to do the February dossier, he said.

1426 US and UK concerns about losing a PR battle went back to Kosovo, Mr Campbell said, and he had been asked to help Nato put together a different communications model - which was adapted after 11 September 2001 and then again for Iraq.

1422 Baroness Prashar asks if any thought was given to constitutional proprieties - given that intelligence should be kept separate from decision making. Yes it was, says Mr Campbell - but the judgement was reached that it was right to release it.

1419 Mr Campbell adds Mr Blair did see Iraq as "a growing threat". The containment policy wasn't working as effectively as it had been, 11 September 2001 had changed the context and there was growing intelligence crossing his desk which made him concerned. Sir Roderic says that does not mean the intelligence found there was a "growing threat". Ultimately the PM has to make judgements about what to say, says Mr Campbell.

1415 Sir Roderic asks if it was accurate to represent the threat from Iraq at the time as "growing". Mr Campbell says Mr Blair had grown more and more concerned about the threat from Saddam, based on intelligence presented to him.

1414 "Current, serious and credible threat" is a phrase often used to describe the threat from Iraq, says Sir Roderic - but at the time Mr Blair said Iraq's WMD programme was "active, detailed and growing". Where did the phrase "growing" come from, asks Sir Roderic, as he can't find it in intelligence documents. Mr Campbell says the documents refer to a "step change" in the programme and that constituted growing.

1412 Mr Campbell says more could have been done to put over the case about what caveats there were but ultimately, in terms of what the public took out of it, it would not have made much difference.

1409 Sir Roderic recounts a previous inquiry appearance in which the panel was told intelligence was "sporadic and patchy" in 2002. The 9 September assessment said intelligence was "limited" - yet two weeks later the PM told Parliament that the assessed intelligence had established information "beyond doubt". Mr Campbell says he can only speak from his own position - that was the way Mr Blair put it to the public. Mr Campbell said he stood by the phrase "beyond doubt".

1406 Sir Roderic is back onto the "beyond doubt" reference in the September dossier - did the intelligence services ever use that phrase? Mr Campbell repeats that it was the prime minister's phrase. Sir Roderic asks what was the basis for that "definitive" phrase - Mr Campbell says it based on the intelligence available to the PM. Sir Roderic asks if doubts and caveats were not expressed in every intelligence briefing on Iraq? Mr Campbell says Mr Blair made his own caveats in his statements to the Commons. Sir Roderic says it is "puzzling".

1400 KEY POINTS SO FAR: Mr Campbell has denied distorting evidence in the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD and denied that Tony Blair changed his mind to back regime change at a summit with President Bush in Crawford in April 2002. He also talked about "quite a lot of notes" written by Tony Blair to George Bush in the build-up to war - which he described as "very frank". He said Mr Blair had told the president if the diplomatic route failed and military action had to be taken "Britain will be there".

1351 Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey says of Mr Campbell's evidence: "This shows Gordon Brown's hands-on involvement in the decision to invade Iraq. It's clear that Brown not only wrote the cheques but also played an important part in making the decision to go to war."

Laura Kuenssberg
1342 From BBC Political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg: The exchanges this morning were quite sedate but that doesn't mean mean they weren't quite revealing.

1335 Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer tells BBC Radio 4's World at One that Mr Campbell's testimony shows Iraqi "disarmament was the aim" of the Blair-Bush discussions of 2002. He says it was "striking" that the inquiry panel, which has access to classified documents, was ignoring some of the "more outlandish ideas" put forward by some "conspiracists".

tweet
benbutterworth tweets: Campbell didn't routinely see intelligence reports and didn't "go out looking for them". Why did he see them at all?

smurray38 tweets: Alastair Campbell: "I may have a rep. for worrying and obsessing about headlines... but the truth is I don't." Knowing laugh from gallery.

James Landale
1315 From BBC deputy political editor James Landale: Downing Street would not have wanted to hear Mr Campbell say that Gordon Brown was "closely involved" in discussions with Tony Blair ahead of the war in Iraq.

Many people would want the questions to be more aggressive, but this is not Newsnight and the panel don't have an editor or producer chattering in their ears to ask this or that. Campbell is a polished performer and comes across as being very believable. He should go into politics, he'd go a long way!
Simon, Manchester

CotswoldHarry tweets: Campbell was quite open until WMDs were mentioned, he then folded his arms across his chest. Putting up a barrier?

Laura Kuenssberg
1300 From BBC Political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg: Mr Campbell had been "absolutely resolute" in his assertion that the final decision over what was published in the dossier - including the 45 minute claim - had been up to intelligence chief Sir John Scarlett. "He stuck to his guns - it was not a decision that was made by him or anyone else in Downing Street," she told the BBC News Channel.

1255 Chairman Sir John Chilcot is calling the lunch break - there will be further questions on the dossier and the later February 2003 paper - the so-called "dodgy dossier".

1254 Sir Lawrence says the reason the dossier had been criticised was because a lot of the material in the dossier, turned out to be not true - Mr Campbell said that was a debate about the intelligence.

1253 Mr Campbell says the dossier was not "looked at negatively at the time" and was only looked at negatively now by a media "that refuses to accept" Lord Hutton's conclusion in a previous Iraq inquiry. "You say the dossier is regarded negatively, actually a lot of people do not regard it negatively," Mr Campbell insists.

1249 Sir Lawrence asks if, when he saw the Sun headline "45 minutes from doom", or a similar one in the Evening Standard - he was surprised. Mr Campbell said he was not surprised by anything in the British newspapers. "I defend every single word of the dossier, I defend every single part of the process," he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
I don't think it needs Paxman to grill people, it could just be that there simply isn't anything more to tell. I have to say I think this whole inquiry is a gross waste of taxpayers time and more importantly money.
Peter, London

1248 Sir Lawrence says the 45-minute claim did attract a lot of attention at the time. Mr Campbell says it attracted some attention but was not the main newsline on the day. "We did not plan our communications around that particular point," he says. He says it was not true that he was obsessed with headlines.

1246 Mr Campbell again says that the 45-minute claim has been "gone over exhaustively" because of the controversy that emerged later - the BBC row.

1245 Sir Lawrence there was a discrepancy between drafts of the texts - an early draft said Iraq "may be able to deploy" the weapons - the foreword was more solid. Mr Campbell said he had simply suggested the two should be consistent.

1244 Key points so far: Tony Blair's ex-communications chief Alastair Campbell says Blair did not change his mind to back regime change at a summit with President Bush in Crawford in April 2002. He has also denied distorting evidence in the infamous September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The session was due to end at 1pm, but is to reconvene for an extra session during the afternoon.

1242 Mr Campbell is questioned about the 45-minute claim in the dossier - which referred to "battlefield systems". Sir Lawrence says there is "ambiguity" in the dossier about the claim: "When you are using the word munitions, that conveys battlefield use". Was that distinction understood? Mr Campbell says the 45-minute claim within the dossier discussions was "not that big a deal" at the time. He points out that the intelligence referred to a timescale of "20 to 45 minutes" and if they had wanted to "sex up" the dossier they would have erred on the side of the 20-minute claim. He says they were never saying Saddam Hussein had weapons that could hit Cyprus in 45 minutes but added it "could have been clearer" - with the benefit of hindsight.

Read coverage from earlier on in the session: Part 1 Read coverage from earlier on in the session: Part 2



Print Sponsor



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific