Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Campbell faces Iraq inquiry: Morning session

Here is an account of Alastair Campbell's evidence to the Iraq war inquiry between 1047 GMT and 1255 GMT, with reaction and your comments:


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.

e-mail sent in by reader
Will the BBC please send Jeremy Paxman to do the interviewing? The present panel are hopeless and do not have the experience in dealing with slick communicators like Campbell. They do not press hard enough to achieve specific unambiguous answers to their questions and Campbell is running rings around them.
V M Wenham, Gerrards Cross

1238 An annoyed Mr Campbell says they wouldn't even be discussing it if it wasn't for the "sexed up" row about the dossier: "When it came to it, I was not being accused of moving this line or moving his line .. I was being accused of distorting intelligence.. And it was simply not true."

1237 Sir Lawrence says there was a shifting of views from one which said five years after sanctions ended, Iraq might be able to produce a nuclear weapon, to one which did not mention five years and gave the impression it could be done in a much shorter time. Mr Campbell says he does not accept that.

1236 References in Mr Campbell's diary to "nuclear timelines just about sorted" - was a reference to Sir John Scarlett having rewritten it in a "way that I understood", he said.

1233 There is some discussion about the timeline in which Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon. Mr Campbell says any changes made in the drafts were because Sir John Scarlett and his team had decided to make changes - he had only pointed out a section that he did not understand "from a layman's point of view".

1228 Mr Campbell again says the dossier was not about arguing there could be an attack by Iraq on the UK mainland. Sir Lawrence says a sentence in a first draft of the dossier that Mr Blair was not saying Saddam could launch an attack on the UK was removed and asks why - Mr Campbell says he said something similar in his statement to Parliament and dossiers get drafted and redrafted.

1227 Sir John picks him up on a reference in the foreword to the dossier that said "What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons". He says intelligence is never "beyond doubt".- Mr Campbell says that is what intelligence officials were saying.

1225 Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot interrupts to ask about the foreword - Sir John Scarlett had said it was an "overtly political statement signed by the prime minister and was therefore not something they could change" - he said he felt he could not intervene. Mr Campbell says he believed that if any of the JIC thought the foreword overstated the case to a degree that would hit its credibility, they would have spoken out. They did make changes, the text was not "sacrosanct".

1224 Mr Campbell again rejects the idea they were making the case for war. He says they were making a case as to why the PM had grown much more concerned about Iraq as a "serious, credible and current threat".

1223 He is asked if anybody challenged the foreword's statement that the intelligence suggested "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce chemical weapons. No says Mr Campbell - it was the PM saying to Parliament that he was "beyond doubt" on the basis of the intelligence he had been shown. Sir Lawrence says it sounds like he was saying it was beyond anybody's doubt.

1220 He says the foreword went to Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett and all members of the JIC and if any had had any concerns, Mr Blair would have "taken those on board". Sir John made some "small suggestions, all of which were taken on board".

1218 Alastair Campbell says he did draft the foreword to the September 2002 dossier - he says he remembers talking to Mr Blair about what it should say and the PM was comfortable with what was said and ultimately would have signed it off.

1216 Could there not have been a "subconscious desire" to push the intelligence further by the Joint Intelligence Committee? Mr Campbell says he does not accept that JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett would have felt under that pressure.

e-mail sent in by reader
Some of the answers from AC make In The Loop seem more a more like a documentary.
Benga, Cheltenham

1215 The prime minister was "absolutely clear that they, the JIC, had to be happy with that document" Mr Campbell said. He added that Mr Blair had been "cautious" in the way he had presented it to Parliament and accused parts of the media of trying to rewrite the history of the dossier.

1213 At no point did the PM or anyone else in Number 10 ask the intelligence services to tailor the document to make a certain argument, insists Mr Campbell. Sir Lawrence says there was a problem that a strong case had to be made on limited evidence. "That document that was presented to Parliament by the prime minister, it was the JIC document with the prime minister's foreword upon it," says Mr Campbell. "I don't believe that that the dossier misrepresented in any sense the position," he adds. He says he would not have been asked about it now were it not for the "controversy that ensued" - a reference to the row with the BBC over claims it was "sexed up".

1209 Sir Lawrence says No 10 had called for more to be done to strengthen the document. Alastair Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had made clear he had not been asked to "beef up" the document, or been over-ridden. The Joint Intelligence Committee wanted the document to be strong as well, he said.

1207 Asked about complaints that the dossier was "intelligence lite" by the "presentational team" - Mr Campbell says he did not agree and said he thought the paper was a good piece of work. Sir Lawrence says it must have raised concerns about what the reaction to the dossier would be. Mr Campbell says if people were expecting a document saying Saddam Hussein was about to "launch nuclear weapons at Peterborough" - that was "not what was said". "It was not the case for war, it was the case for why the prime minister had become more concerned."

tweet
chillly tweets: Campbell has someone behind him nodding in agreement with him. Very clever way to reinforce his point of view. The same chap who agrees with Campbell looks sternly at any Inquiry team member who asks an awkward question. Blatant but clever.

1204 Mr Campbell says there was not a "turf war" between the Foreign Office and Joint Intelligence Committee over the September dossier.

e-mail sent in by reader
An unelected official chairing meetings with intelligence officials is inappropriate - they are being far too easy on Campbell.
Dylan, London

1200 Mr Campbell says there had been reports of "rumblings" about the dossier in the intelligence community in the media - senior intelligence figures had made clear that was not their opinion and they understood why Mr Blair wanted to publish the paper.

1158 Mr Campbell was asked again why he chaired meetings on the dossier even though it was apparently the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett. "I was chairing those meetings because the prime minister was going to present the paper John was working on to Parliament," he says. Mr Campbell says there was "massive media interest". Panel member Sir Lawrence says usually chairing a meeting suggests accountability. Mr Campbell says he was the person charged by the PM to advise on presentational and production issues - there was so much interest in it the website crashed the day it was published, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
As the propaganda spinmeister of Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell continues to be brilliant in defence of his former master. It is amusing to see his questioners allowing him to waffle in answering their gentle questions. Perhaps they are working towards a sucker punch later in the interview...I doubt it though.
Terry, Camberley

tweet
BBCLauraK tweets: Campbell's just received a text message - panel jokes that it might be Tony Blair!

1155 Mr Campbell says the September 2002 dossier was about Mr Blair putting into the public domain what he was being presented with. Why was Mr Campbell involved in meetings on the dossier he is asked. Mr Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had asked for some "presentational support".

e-mail sent in by reader
This is all MUCH too cosy. Nothing like the probing type of questioning you might get, for instance, in a US senate hearing.
Peter, London

1153 There has just been some disruption on the feed from the inquiry room - I thought for a minute panel chairman Sir John might have "pushed the button" and cut it off for security reasons but it looks like it was just a technical issue.

1152 Sir Lawrence is asking about a series of papers prepared on Iraq for the British government. Two agencies could have produced a paper - the joint intelligence committee and the Foreign Office. There was a feeling within the Foreign Office "that it should be their product", says Mr Campbell but the then-JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett said he wanted to be in charge of the process as it was based on intelligence. Some in the Foreign Office wanted "ownership" and they had to make clear that would not happen, says Mr Campbell.

1150 A February 2002 intelligence paper which looked at Iran, Libya and North Korea as well, suggested they were of greater concern than Iraq, says Sir Lawrence Freedman. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was more concerned about Iraq because it had used chemical weapons and because of the nature of the regime - also there was "no semblance" of being able to get dialogue with Iraq.

1147 "We were aware that our communications had an impact on their (US) positions," Mr Campbell said - and vice versa. Sometimes US communications were "not helpful to us", he adds.

1145 It was when the PM returned from his summer break in 2002 that he decided to bring forward the process on the dossier, Mr Campbell said.

e-mail sent in by reader
alkennedy asks whether Campbell is playing the "It was GW's fault" card. The answer seems to be no - he's playing the "It was all France's fault for not backing us" card.
John B, Sunderland

1144 The dossier was "an exercise in openness" and trying to share with people sensitive information so they were fully informed, he said. Previously the public would have accepted it if a government said it did not discuss intelligence matters, but that had changed.

1142 Why was a dossier necessary in September 2002, Mr Campbell was asked. He said Mr Blair had been growing "more and more concerned" after the 11 September 2001 attacks. He was privy to material that only a few senior ministers were able to see, he adds.

e-mail sent in by reader
How on earth can Campbell say that Blair hoped to avoid war when by Blair's own words he said he would have gone to war regardless?
Hugh, UK

Let's not forget that Campbell is a master of presentation and "spin". I doubt even Blair will prepare as well as he has done.
Alan, Penzance

1140 Despite "terrible divisions" at the time - the UN were able to get involved quickly in the aftermath of the war, partly because of work done by Mr Blair, Mr Campbell says.

e-mail sent in by reader
Alastair Campbell is often being distracted by the detail of some of these answers, I think the panel need to accept his responses in their context and not in the very abstract fashion they've been directed so far.
Simon, Selby, N.Yorks

Well, so far Campbell is doing a very good job of keeping cool and composed...although the inquisitors haven't really tested him yet, I don't think. I hope they put more pressure on him when they return.
Dan, Winchester

I feel the panel need to take control and not let Campbell take control and not answer the questions vaguely - they seem to glossing over the questions.
Mark, Carterton, Oxon

By the constant references to Blair, it seems like they are sizing up a case against Blair in the future.
Fred Stone, London

1138 Panel member Sir Martin Gilbert is asking about UK views on what would happen if the UN route for dealing with Saddam failed. Mr Blair had a "genuine fear" that the UN's own reputation might have been damaged if it did not stand up to Saddam, Mr Campbell suggests

Alastair Campbell
1135 Mr Campbell is talking about the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - the one which contained the famous "45 minutes claim".

1133 The inquiry is restarting. Chairman Sir John says they're already over-running and the session will now run on into the afternoon, although there will be a lunch break.

1127 James Landale says Mr Campbell has spent the morning defending his former boss, Tony Blair - it was a bit like being back in press briefings during the Blair years at Number 10.

Laura Kuenssberg
1124 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says the panel spent a lot of time at the beginning of the session exactly what his job was and about Tony Blair's "inner circle". Did they get down to the nitty gritty? He was not pushed on any points particularly hard, says Laura.
James Landale

BBC deputy political editor James Landale says Mr Campbell was well prepared and looked confident - his defence had been stronger than the acuteness of the questioning. Mr Campbell had argued there was no change in policy by the UK after the Crawford meeting - but it appeared the British government was making clear to the US it would support them if diplomacy failed at a time it was not making that argument in the UK.

1120 Frank Gardner says there was no institutional relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda - they loathed each other, he said. But a fundamentally different message was coming out of the Foreign Office and intelligence services on the one hand and Downing Street in 2003, he says. Downing Street appeared to be backing the US line that there might be a link.

1117 Tony Blair all the way through was trying to get it resolved "without a single shot being fired. That was his motivation all the way through", says Mr Campbell. And the inquiry members are on their feet for a short break.

1115 Did the PM believe that Saddam had to be confronted, even if the UN did not support it, asks Sir Roderic. Even the French were saying Iraq was a threat, Mr Campbell said. The question supposes that the UN was one body when it was a collection of countries, he said.

e-mail sent in by reader
Watching Campbell dealing with this enquiry is just awe-inspiring. The way he answers questions is great. This panel are good, but they'll have to get up very early in the morning to catch Mr Campbell out. Although he is coming across as Blair's lapdog slightly...
Rob, Lichfield


tweet
alkennedy tweets: Is Campbell just playing the "it was all GW's fault" card?

Margit11 tweets: Alastair Campbell really being shown up as the clueless provincial waffle-hack he is.

tweet
trobertc tweets: I think Campbell is doing very well. His job was probably different to other press secretaries because media changed.

1110 In March 2002 Christopher Meyer said he got new instructions to "say to the Americans, look if you want to do regime change and if this is going to require military action ... and you want your friends and partners to join you far better then you do it in an alliance" - such as the UN route. Was that not a change, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says it was consistent with what Mr Blair had argued previously.

1109 Was he not signalling to the American people that he supports regime change in Iraq with that speech, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was saying the British government would support the US government if the diplomatic route failed. "In my view that was not a significant shift," he says. But did he repeat the line in the UK at the time, says Sir Roderic. With modern communications what they are - everyone would have been aware of it, says Mr Campbell. Sir Roderic asks again if that was "his line" in the UK. Mr Campbell says the "overall approach" was the same throughout - although there may have been moments where "emphasis changed". Had he used the line again in the UK after Crawford, Sir Roderic asks again. Mr Campbell says he had repeated that if the diplomatic route failed then the "military options was evident".

e-mail sent in by reader
I do not understand why there is a constant reference to Blair. Why are they not focusing on Campbell's role as advisor?
Andrea Robertson, Ilfracombe

1106 On whether Mr Blair had signed up to a policy of regime change after the Crawford meeting - Sir Roderic points out Mr Blair used the phrase in a speech shortly afterwards. "That language on regime change... You as a communications expert, would you not feel that that was a clear indication that the prime minister was giving to the American people of his support for regime change?" Mr Campbell says he doesn't remember what the US media did with it but he personally did not see it as a "significant shift". He goes through a previous speech Mr Blair made at speed and is asked to slow down for the stenographer.

1105 Mr Campbell says there were continuing discussions about the policy of "containing" Saddam Hussein - including with the French. Sir Roderic asks if Mr Blair was aware of the risks of a policy that might lead to military action. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair would always "candidly" weigh up the "upsides and downsides" of any particular action.

1102 Questioning is handed back to Sir Roderic, who asks about what strategic options were on the table after the meeting at George Bush's Crawford ranch.

1101 Mr Blair had not signed up to get rid of Saddam regardless of WMD, he says. "It was not like that."

1059 Mr Campbell jabs the desk with his finger as he repeats that while Mr Blair felt Saddam Hussein should be removed, he was not pursuing a policy of military action right from the start. Mr Blair had a "fundamental view" about weapons of mass destruction being a "real threat" - and the context changed after the September 11 2001 attacks. Containment was becoming "less successful" and the tolerance for Saddam Hussein's defiance of UN resolutions changed, he said.

1056 Why did weapons of mass destruction become so central to the arguments about Iraq? Because that was "what gave rise to the fear", says Mr Campbell - Mr Blair felt if nothing was done about WMD it was only a matter of time before it was "linked in with" terrorist groups.

1053 At the Camp David meeting in September 2002, did the president and PM discuss what would happen after military action? Yes, replies Mr Campbell - "they were already talking about aftermath" - it was "always on the agenda". But the British government still wanted to resolve it peacefully, he said. He agreed there was a feeling among the "neo con wing" that it would be "all right on the day" - but said others did not share that. The British had the sense there was planning for the aftermath of war "going on" in the US administration, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
I think Alastair Campbell is coming off quite well so far. The questioners are trying to show their mettle by interrupting and speaking over him, but they haven't scored any scalps yet.
Ben, Coventry

1048 The UK was "very keen all the time" to emphasise the importance of the UN while the US attitude to the UN was "lukewarm", says Mr Campbell.

1047 A "key moment" in the history of the Iraq war - was when President Bush asked Mr Blair to persuade his own vice president to go down the United Nations route, says Mr Campbell - who adds that he believes ex-ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer had been "churlish" in his own evidence on that meeting.

Read coverage from opening of session

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.

e-mail sent in by reader
Will the BBC please send Jeremy Paxman to do the interviewing? The present panel are hopeless and do not have the experience in dealing with slick communicators like Campbell. They do not press hard enough to achieve specific unambiguous answers to their questions and Campbell is running rings around them.
V M Wenham, Gerrards Cross

1238 An annoyed Mr Campbell says they wouldn't even be discussing it if it wasn't for the "sexed up" row about the dossier: "When it came to it, I was not being accused of moving this line or moving his line .. I was being accused of distorting intelligence.. And it was simply not true."

1237 Sir Lawrence says there was a shifting of views from one which said five years after sanctions ended, Iraq might be able to produce a nuclear weapon, to one which did not mention five years and gave the impression it could be done in a much shorter time. Mr Campbell says he does not accept that.

1236 References in Mr Campbell's diary to "nuclear timelines just about sorted" - was a reference to Sir John Scarlett having rewritten it in a "way that I understood", he said.

1233 There is some discussion about the timeline in which Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon. Mr Campbell says any changes made in the drafts were because Sir John Scarlett and his team had decided to make changes - he had only pointed out a section that he did not understand "from a layman's point of view".

1228 Mr Campbell again says the dossier was not about arguing there could be an attack by Iraq on the UK mainland. Sir Lawrence says a sentence in a first draft of the dossier that Mr Blair was not saying Saddam could launch an attack on the UK was removed and asks why - Mr Campbell says he said something similar in his statement to Parliament and dossiers get drafted and redrafted.

1227 Sir John picks him up on a reference in the foreword to the dossier that said "What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons". He says intelligence is never "beyond doubt".- Mr Campbell says that is what intelligence officials were saying.

1225 Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot interrupts to ask about the foreword - Sir John Scarlett had said it was an "overtly political statement signed by the prime minister and was therefore not something they could change" - he said he felt he could not intervene. Mr Campbell says he believed that if any of the JIC thought the foreword overstated the case to a degree that would hit its credibility, they would have spoken out. They did make changes, the text was not "sacrosanct".

1224 Mr Campbell again rejects the idea they were making the case for war. He says they were making a case as to why the PM had grown much more concerned about Iraq as a "serious, credible and current threat".

1223 He is asked if anybody challenged the foreword's statement that the intelligence suggested "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce chemical weapons. No says Mr Campbell - it was the PM saying to Parliament that he was "beyond doubt" on the basis of the intelligence he had been shown. Sir Lawrence says it sounds like he was saying it was beyond anybody's doubt.

1220 He says the foreword went to Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett and all members of the JIC and if any had had any concerns, Mr Blair would have "taken those on board". Sir John made some "small suggestions, all of which were taken on board".

1218 Alastair Campbell says he did draft the foreword to the September 2002 dossier - he says he remembers talking to Mr Blair about what it should say and the PM was comfortable with what was said and ultimately would have signed it off.

1216 Could there not have been a "subconscious desire" to push the intelligence further by the Joint Intelligence Committee? Mr Campbell says he does not accept that JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett would have felt under that pressure.

e-mail sent in by reader
Some of the answers from AC make In The Loop seem more a more like a documentary.
Benga, Cheltenham

1215 The prime minister was "absolutely clear that they, the JIC, had to be happy with that document" Mr Campbell said. He added that Mr Blair had been "cautious" in the way he had presented it to Parliament and accused parts of the media of trying to rewrite the history of the dossier.

1213 At no point did the PM or anyone else in Number 10 ask the intelligence services to tailor the document to make a certain argument, insists Mr Campbell. Sir Lawrence says there was a problem that a strong case had to be made on limited evidence. "That document that was presented to Parliament by the prime minister, it was the JIC document with the prime minister's foreword upon it," says Mr Campbell. "I don't believe that that the dossier misrepresented in any sense the position," he adds. He says he would not have been asked about it now were it not for the "controversy that ensued" - a reference to the row with the BBC over claims it was "sexed up".

1209 Sir Lawrence says No 10 had called for more to be done to strengthen the document. Alastair Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had made clear he had not been asked to "beef up" the document, or been over-ridden. The Joint Intelligence Committee wanted the document to be strong as well, he said.

1207 Asked about complaints that the dossier was "intelligence lite" by the "presentational team" - Mr Campbell says he did not agree and said he thought the paper was a good piece of work. Sir Lawrence says it must have raised concerns about what the reaction to the dossier would be. Mr Campbell says if people were expecting a document saying Saddam Hussein was about to "launch nuclear weapons at Peterborough" - that was "not what was said". "It was not the case for war, it was the case for why the prime minister had become more concerned."

tweet
chillly tweets: Campbell has someone behind him nodding in agreement with him. Very clever way to reinforce his point of view. The same chap who agrees with Campbell looks sternly at any Inquiry team member who asks an awkward question. Blatant but clever.

1204 Mr Campbell says there was not a "turf war" between the Foreign Office and Joint Intelligence Committee over the September dossier.

e-mail sent in by reader
An unelected official chairing meetings with intelligence officials is inappropriate - they are being far too easy on Campbell.
Dylan, London

1200 Mr Campbell says there had been reports of "rumblings" about the dossier in the intelligence community in the media - senior intelligence figures had made clear that was not their opinion and they understood why Mr Blair wanted to publish the paper.

1158 Mr Campbell was asked again why he chaired meetings on the dossier even though it was apparently the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett. "I was chairing those meetings because the prime minister was going to present the paper John was working on to Parliament," he says. Mr Campbell says there was "massive media interest". Panel member Sir Lawrence says usually chairing a meeting suggests accountability. Mr Campbell says he was the person charged by the PM to advise on presentational and production issues - there was so much interest in it the website crashed the day it was published, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
As the propaganda spinmeister of Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell continues to be brilliant in defence of his former master. It is amusing to see his questioners allowing him to waffle in answering their gentle questions. Perhaps they are working towards a sucker punch later in the interview...I doubt it though.
Terry, Camberley

tweet
BBCLauraK tweets: Campbell's just received a text message - panel jokes that it might be Tony Blair!

1155 Mr Campbell says the September 2002 dossier was about Mr Blair putting into the public domain what he was being presented with. Why was Mr Campbell involved in meetings on the dossier he is asked. Mr Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had asked for some "presentational support".

e-mail sent in by reader
This is all MUCH too cosy. Nothing like the probing type of questioning you might get, for instance, in a US senate hearing.
Peter, London

1153 There has just been some disruption on the feed from the inquiry room - I thought for a minute panel chairman Sir John might have "pushed the button" and cut it off for security reasons but it looks like it was just a technical issue.

1152 Sir Lawrence is asking about a series of papers prepared on Iraq for the British government. Two agencies could have produced a paper - the joint intelligence committee and the Foreign Office. There was a feeling within the Foreign Office "that it should be their product", says Mr Campbell but the then-JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett said he wanted to be in charge of the process as it was based on intelligence. Some in the Foreign Office wanted "ownership" and they had to make clear that would not happen, says Mr Campbell.

1150 A February 2002 intelligence paper which looked at Iran, Libya and North Korea as well, suggested they were of greater concern than Iraq, says Sir Lawrence Freedman. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was more concerned about Iraq because it had used chemical weapons and because of the nature of the regime - also there was "no semblance" of being able to get dialogue with Iraq.

1147 "We were aware that our communications had an impact on their (US) positions," Mr Campbell said - and vice versa. Sometimes US communications were "not helpful to us", he adds.

1145 It was when the PM returned from his summer break in 2002 that he decided to bring forward the process on the dossier, Mr Campbell said.

e-mail sent in by reader
alkennedy asks whether Campbell is playing the "It was GW's fault" card. The answer seems to be no - he's playing the "It was all France's fault for not backing us" card.
John B, Sunderland

1144 The dossier was "an exercise in openness" and trying to share with people sensitive information so they were fully informed, he said. Previously the public would have accepted it if a government said it did not discuss intelligence matters, but that had changed.

1142 Why was a dossier necessary in September 2002, Mr Campbell was asked. He said Mr Blair had been growing "more and more concerned" after the 11 September 2001 attacks. He was privy to material that only a few senior ministers were able to see, he adds.

e-mail sent in by reader
How on earth can Campbell say that Blair hoped to avoid war when by Blair's own words he said he would have gone to war regardless?
Hugh, UK

Let's not forget that Campbell is a master of presentation and "spin". I doubt even Blair will prepare as well as he has done.
Alan, Penzance

1140 Despite "terrible divisions" at the time - the UN were able to get involved quickly in the aftermath of the war, partly because of work done by Mr Blair, Mr Campbell says.

e-mail sent in by reader
Alastair Campbell is often being distracted by the detail of some of these answers, I think the panel need to accept his responses in their context and not in the very abstract fashion they've been directed so far.
Simon, Selby, N.Yorks

Well, so far Campbell is doing a very good job of keeping cool and composed...although the inquisitors haven't really tested him yet, I don't think. I hope they put more pressure on him when they return.
Dan, Winchester

I feel the panel need to take control and not let Campbell take control and not answer the questions vaguely - they seem to glossing over the questions.
Mark, Carterton, Oxon

By the constant references to Blair, it seems like they are sizing up a case against Blair in the future.
Fred Stone, London

1138 Panel member Sir Martin Gilbert is asking about UK views on what would happen if the UN route for dealing with Saddam failed. Mr Blair had a "genuine fear" that the UN's own reputation might have been damaged if it did not stand up to Saddam, Mr Campbell suggests

Alastair Campbell
1135 Mr Campbell is talking about the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - the one which contained the famous "45 minutes claim".

1133 The inquiry is restarting. Chairman Sir John says they're already over-running and the session will now run on into the afternoon, although there will be a lunch break.

1127 James Landale says Mr Campbell has spent the morning defending his former boss, Tony Blair - it was a bit like being back in press briefings during the Blair years at Number 10.

Laura Kuenssberg
1124 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says the panel spent a lot of time at the beginning of the session exactly what his job was and about Tony Blair's "inner circle". Did they get down to the nitty gritty? He was not pushed on any points particularly hard, says Laura.
James Landale

BBC deputy political editor James Landale says Mr Campbell was well prepared and looked confident - his defence had been stronger than the acuteness of the questioning. Mr Campbell had argued there was no change in policy by the UK after the Crawford meeting - but it appeared the British government was making clear to the US it would support them if diplomacy failed at a time it was not making that argument in the UK.

1120 Frank Gardner says there was no institutional relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda - they loathed each other, he said. But a fundamentally different message was coming out of the Foreign Office and intelligence services on the one hand and Downing Street in 2003, he says. Downing Street appeared to be backing the US line that there might be a link.

1117 Tony Blair all the way through was trying to get it resolved "without a single shot being fired. That was his motivation all the way through", says Mr Campbell. And the inquiry members are on their feet for a short break.

1115 Did the PM believe that Saddam had to be confronted, even if the UN did not support it, asks Sir Roderic. Even the French were saying Iraq was a threat, Mr Campbell said. The question supposes that the UN was one body when it was a collection of countries, he said.

e-mail sent in by reader
Watching Campbell dealing with this enquiry is just awe-inspiring. The way he answers questions is great. This panel are good, but they'll have to get up very early in the morning to catch Mr Campbell out. Although he is coming across as Blair's lapdog slightly...
Rob, Lichfield

tweet
alkennedy tweets: Is Campbell just playing the "it was all GW's fault" card?

Margit11 tweets: Alastair Campbell really being shown up as the clueless provincial waffle-hack he is.

tweet
trobertc tweets: I think Campbell is doing very well. His job was probably different to other press secretaries because media changed.

1110 In March 2002 Christopher Meyer said he got new instructions to "say to the Americans, look if you want to do regime change and if this is going to require military action ... and you want your friends and partners to join you far better then you do it in an alliance" - such as the UN route. Was that not a change, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says it was consistent with what Mr Blair had argued previously.

1109 Was he not signalling to the American people that he supports regime change in Iraq with that speech, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was saying the British government would support the US government if the diplomatic route failed. "In my view that was not a significant shift," he says. But did he repeat the line in the UK at the time, says Sir Roderic. With modern communications what they are - everyone would have been aware of it, says Mr Campbell. Sir Roderic asks again if that was "his line" in the UK. Mr Campbell says the "overall approach" was the same throughout - although there may have been moments where "emphasis changed". Had he used the line again in the UK after Crawford, Sir Roderic asks again. Mr Campbell says he had repeated that if the diplomatic route failed then the "military options was evident".

e-mail sent in by reader
I do not understand why there is a constant reference to Blair. Why are they not focusing on Campbell's role as advisor?
Andrea Robertson, Ilfracombe

1106 On whether Mr Blair had signed up to a policy of regime change after the Crawford meeting - Sir Roderic points out Mr Blair used the phrase in a speech shortly afterwards. "That language on regime change... You as a communications expert, would you not feel that that was a clear indication that the prime minister was giving to the American people of his support for regime change?" Mr Campbell says he doesn't remember what the US media did with it but he personally did not see it as a "significant shift". He goes through a previous speech Mr Blair made at speed and is asked to slow down for the stenographer.

1105 Mr Campbell says there were continuing discussions about the policy of "containing" Saddam Hussein - including with the French. Sir Roderic asks if Mr Blair was aware of the risks of a policy that might lead to military action. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair would always "candidly" weigh up the "upsides and downsides" of any particular action.

1102 Questioning is handed back to Sir Roderic, who asks about what strategic options were on the table after the meeting at George Bush's Crawford ranch.

1101 Mr Blair had not signed up to get rid of Saddam regardless of WMD, he says. "It was not like that."

1059 Mr Campbell jabs the desk with his finger as he repeats that while Mr Blair felt Saddam Hussein should be removed, he was not pursuing a policy of military action right from the start. Mr Blair had a "fundamental view" about weapons of mass destruction being a "real threat" - and the context changed after the September 11 2001 attacks. Containment was becoming "less successful" and the tolerance for Saddam Hussein's defiance of UN resolutions changed, he said.

1056 Why did weapons of mass destruction become so central to the arguments about Iraq? Because that was "what gave rise to the fear", says Mr Campbell - Mr Blair felt if nothing was done about WMD it was only a matter of time before it was "linked in with" terrorist groups.

1053 At the Camp David meeting in September 2002, did the president and PM discuss what would happen after military action? Yes, replies Mr Campbell - "they were already talking about aftermath" - it was "always on the agenda". But the British government still wanted to resolve it peacefully, he said. He agreed there was a feeling among the "neo con wing" that it would be "all right on the day" - but said others did not share that. The British had the sense there was planning for the aftermath of war "going on" in the US administration, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
I think Alastair Campbell is coming off quite well so far. The questioners are trying to show their mettle by interrupting and speaking over him, but they haven't scored any scalps yet.
Ben, Coventry

1048 The UK was "very keen all the time" to emphasise the importance of the UN while the US attitude to the UN was "lukewarm", says Mr Campbell.

1047 A "key moment" in the history of the Iraq war - was when President Bush asked Mr Blair to persuade his own vice president to go down the United Nations route, says Mr Campbell - who adds that he believes ex-ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer had been "churlish" in his own evidence on that meeting.

Read coverage from earlier on in the session

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.

e-mail sent in by reader
Will the BBC please send Jeremy Paxman to do the interviewing? The present panel are hopeless and do not have the experience in dealing with slick communicators like Campbell. They do not press hard enough to achieve specific unambiguous answers to their questions and Campbell is running rings around them.
V M Wenham, Gerrards Cross

1238 An annoyed Mr Campbell says they wouldn't even be discussing it if it wasn't for the "sexed up" row about the dossier: "When it came to it, I was not being accused of moving this line or moving his line .. I was being accused of distorting intelligence.. And it was simply not true."

1237 Sir Lawrence says there was a shifting of views from one which said five years after sanctions ended, Iraq might be able to produce a nuclear weapon, to one which did not mention five years and gave the impression it could be done in a much shorter time. Mr Campbell says he does not accept that.

1236 References in Mr Campbell's diary to "nuclear timelines just about sorted" - was a reference to Sir John Scarlett having rewritten it in a "way that I understood", he said.

1233 There is some discussion about the timeline in which Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon. Mr Campbell says any changes made in the drafts were because Sir John Scarlett and his team had decided to make changes - he had only pointed out a section that he did not understand "from a layman's point of view".

1228 Mr Campbell again says the dossier was not about arguing there could be an attack by Iraq on the UK mainland. Sir Lawrence says a sentence in a first draft of the dossier that Mr Blair was not saying Saddam could launch an attack on the UK was removed and asks why - Mr Campbell says he said something similar in his statement to Parliament and dossiers get drafted and redrafted.

1227 Sir John picks him up on a reference in the foreword to the dossier that said "What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons". He says intelligence is never "beyond doubt".- Mr Campbell says that is what intelligence officials were saying.

1225 Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot interrupts to ask about the foreword - Sir John Scarlett had said it was an "overtly political statement signed by the prime minister and was therefore not something they could change" - he said he felt he could not intervene. Mr Campbell says he believed that if any of the JIC thought the foreword overstated the case to a degree that would hit its credibility, they would have spoken out. They did make changes, the text was not "sacrosanct".

1224 Mr Campbell again rejects the idea they were making the case for war. He says they were making a case as to why the PM had grown much more concerned about Iraq as a "serious, credible and current threat".

1223 He is asked if anybody challenged the foreword's statement that the intelligence suggested "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce chemical weapons. No says Mr Campbell - it was the PM saying to Parliament that he was "beyond doubt" on the basis of the intelligence he had been shown. Sir Lawrence says it sounds like he was saying it was beyond anybody's doubt.

1220 He says the foreword went to Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett and all members of the JIC and if any had had any concerns, Mr Blair would have "taken those on board". Sir John made some "small suggestions, all of which were taken on board".

1218 Alastair Campbell says he did draft the foreword to the September 2002 dossier - he says he remembers talking to Mr Blair about what it should say and the PM was comfortable with what was said and ultimately would have signed it off.

1216 Could there not have been a "subconscious desire" to push the intelligence further by the Joint Intelligence Committee? Mr Campbell says he does not accept that JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett would have felt under that pressure.

e-mail sent in by reader
Some of the answers from AC make In The Loop seem more a more like a documentary.
Benga, Cheltenham

1215 The prime minister was "absolutely clear that they, the JIC, had to be happy with that document" Mr Campbell said. He added that Mr Blair had been "cautious" in the way he had presented it to Parliament and accused parts of the media of trying to rewrite the history of the dossier.

1213 At no point did the PM or anyone else in Number 10 ask the intelligence services to tailor the document to make a certain argument, insists Mr Campbell. Sir Lawrence says there was a problem that a strong case had to be made on limited evidence. "That document that was presented to Parliament by the prime minister, it was the JIC document with the prime minister's foreword upon it," says Mr Campbell. "I don't believe that that the dossier misrepresented in any sense the position," he adds. He says he would not have been asked about it now were it not for the "controversy that ensued" - a reference to the row with the BBC over claims it was "sexed up".

1209 Sir Lawrence says No 10 had called for more to be done to strengthen the document. Alastair Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had made clear he had not been asked to "beef up" the document, or been over-ridden. The Joint Intelligence Committee wanted the document to be strong as well, he said.

1207 Asked about complaints that the dossier was "intelligence lite" by the "presentational team" - Mr Campbell says he did not agree and said he thought the paper was a good piece of work. Sir Lawrence says it must have raised concerns about what the reaction to the dossier would be. Mr Campbell says if people were expecting a document saying Saddam Hussein was about to "launch nuclear weapons at Peterborough" - that was "not what was said". "It was not the case for war, it was the case for why the prime minister had become more concerned."

tweet
chillly tweets: Campbell has someone behind him nodding in agreement with him. Very clever way to reinforce his point of view. The same chap who agrees with Campbell looks sternly at any Inquiry team member who asks an awkward question. Blatant but clever.

1204 Mr Campbell says there was not a "turf war" between the Foreign Office and Joint Intelligence Committee over the September dossier.

e-mail sent in by reader
An unelected official chairing meetings with intelligence officials is inappropriate - they are being far too easy on Campbell.
Dylan, London

1200 Mr Campbell says there had been reports of "rumblings" about the dossier in the intelligence community in the media - senior intelligence figures had made clear that was not their opinion and they understood why Mr Blair wanted to publish the paper.

1158 Mr Campbell was asked again why he chaired meetings on the dossier even though it was apparently the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett. "I was chairing those meetings because the prime minister was going to present the paper John was working on to Parliament," he says. Mr Campbell says there was "massive media interest". Panel member Sir Lawrence says usually chairing a meeting suggests accountability. Mr Campbell says he was the person charged by the PM to advise on presentational and production issues - there was so much interest in it the website crashed the day it was published, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
As the propaganda spinmeister of Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell continues to be brilliant in defence of his former master. It is amusing to see his questioners allowing him to waffle in answering their gentle questions. Perhaps they are working towards a sucker punch later in the interview...I doubt it though.
Terry, Camberley

tweet
BBCLauraK tweets: Campbell's just received a text message - panel jokes that it might be Tony Blair!

1155 Mr Campbell says the September 2002 dossier was about Mr Blair putting into the public domain what he was being presented with. Why was Mr Campbell involved in meetings on the dossier he is asked. Mr Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had asked for some "presentational support".

e-mail sent in by reader
This is all MUCH too cosy. Nothing like the probing type of questioning you might get, for instance, in a US senate hearing.
Peter, London

1153 There has just been some disruption on the feed from the inquiry room - I thought for a minute panel chairman Sir John might have "pushed the button" and cut it off for security reasons but it looks like it was just a technical issue.

1152 Sir Lawrence is asking about a series of papers prepared on Iraq for the British government. Two agencies could have produced a paper - the joint intelligence committee and the Foreign Office. There was a feeling within the Foreign Office "that it should be their product", says Mr Campbell but the then-JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett said he wanted to be in charge of the process as it was based on intelligence. Some in the Foreign Office wanted "ownership" and they had to make clear that would not happen, says Mr Campbell.

1150 A February 2002 intelligence paper which looked at Iran, Libya and North Korea as well, suggested they were of greater concern than Iraq, says Sir Lawrence Freedman. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was more concerned about Iraq because it had used chemical weapons and because of the nature of the regime - also there was "no semblance" of being able to get dialogue with Iraq.

1147 "We were aware that our communications had an impact on their (US) positions," Mr Campbell said - and vice versa. Sometimes US communications were "not helpful to us", he adds.

1145 It was when the PM returned from his summer break in 2002 that he decided to bring forward the process on the dossier, Mr Campbell said.

e-mail sent in by reader
alkennedy asks whether Campbell is playing the "It was GW's fault" card. The answer seems to be no - he's playing the "It was all France's fault for not backing us" card.
John B, Sunderland

1144 The dossier was "an exercise in openness" and trying to share with people sensitive information so they were fully informed, he said. Previously the public would have accepted it if a government said it did not discuss intelligence matters, but that had changed.

1142 Why was a dossier necessary in September 2002, Mr Campbell was asked. He said Mr Blair had been growing "more and more concerned" after the 11 September 2001 attacks. He was privy to material that only a few senior ministers were able to see, he adds.

e-mail sent in by reader
How on earth can Campbell say that Blair hoped to avoid war when by Blair's own words he said he would have gone to war regardless?
Hugh, UK

Let's not forget that Campbell is a master of presentation and "spin". I doubt even Blair will prepare as well as he has done.
Alan, Penzance

1140 Despite "terrible divisions" at the time - the UN were able to get involved quickly in the aftermath of the war, partly because of work done by Mr Blair, Mr Campbell says.

e-mail sent in by reader
Alastair Campbell is often being distracted by the detail of some of these answers, I think the panel need to accept his responses in their context and not in the very abstract fashion they've been directed so far.
Simon, Selby, N.Yorks

Well, so far Campbell is doing a very good job of keeping cool and composed...although the inquisitors haven't really tested him yet, I don't think. I hope they put more pressure on him when they return.
Dan, Winchester

I feel the panel need to take control and not let Campbell take control and not answer the questions vaguely - they seem to glossing over the questions.
Mark, Carterton, Oxon

By the constant references to Blair, it seems like they are sizing up a case against Blair in the future.
Fred Stone, London

1138 Panel member Sir Martin Gilbert is asking about UK views on what would happen if the UN route for dealing with Saddam failed. Mr Blair had a "genuine fear" that the UN's own reputation might have been damaged if it did not stand up to Saddam, Mr Campbell suggests

Alastair Campbell
1135 Mr Campbell is talking about the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - the one which contained the famous "45 minutes claim".

1133 The inquiry is restarting. Chairman Sir John says they're already over-running and the session will now run on into the afternoon, although there will be a lunch break.

1127 James Landale says Mr Campbell has spent the morning defending his former boss, Tony Blair - it was a bit like being back in press briefings during the Blair years at Number 10.

Laura Kuenssberg
1124 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says the panel spent a lot of time at the beginning of the session exactly what his job was and about Tony Blair's "inner circle". Did they get down to the nitty gritty? He was not pushed on any points particularly hard, says Laura.
James Landale

BBC deputy political editor James Landale says Mr Campbell was well prepared and looked confident - his defence had been stronger than the acuteness of the questioning. Mr Campbell had argued there was no change in policy by the UK after the Crawford meeting - but it appeared the British government was making clear to the US it would support them if diplomacy failed at a time it was not making that argument in the UK.

1120 Frank Gardner says there was no institutional relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda - they loathed each other, he said. But a fundamentally different message was coming out of the Foreign Office and intelligence services on the one hand and Downing Street in 2003, he says. Downing Street appeared to be backing the US line that there might be a link.

1117 Tony Blair all the way through was trying to get it resolved "without a single shot being fired. That was his motivation all the way through", says Mr Campbell. And the inquiry members are on their feet for a short break.

1115 Did the PM believe that Saddam had to be confronted, even if the UN did not support it, asks Sir Roderic. Even the French were saying Iraq was a threat, Mr Campbell said. The question supposes that the UN was one body when it was a collection of countries, he said.

e-mail sent in by reader
Watching Campbell dealing with this enquiry is just awe-inspiring. The way he answers questions is great. This panel are good, but they'll have to get up very early in the morning to catch Mr Campbell out. Although he is coming across as Blair's lapdog slightly...
Rob, Lichfield

tweet
alkennedy tweets: Is Campbell just playing the "it was all GW's fault" card?

Margit11 tweets: Alastair Campbell really being shown up as the clueless provincial waffle-hack he is.

tweet
trobertc tweets: I think Campbell is doing very well. His job was probably different to other press secretaries because media changed.

1110 In March 2002 Christopher Meyer said he got new instructions to "say to the Americans, look if you want to do regime change and if this is going to require military action ... and you want your friends and partners to join you far better then you do it in an alliance" - such as the UN route. Was that not a change, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says it was consistent with what Mr Blair had argued previously.

1109 Was he not signalling to the American people that he supports regime change in Iraq with that speech, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was saying the British government would support the US government if the diplomatic route failed. "In my view that was not a significant shift," he says. But did he repeat the line in the UK at the time, says Sir Roderic. With modern communications what they are - everyone would have been aware of it, says Mr Campbell. Sir Roderic asks again if that was "his line" in the UK. Mr Campbell says the "overall approach" was the same throughout - although there may have been moments where "emphasis changed". Had he used the line again in the UK after Crawford, Sir Roderic asks again. Mr Campbell says he had repeated that if the diplomatic route failed then the "military options was evident".

e-mail sent in by reader
I do not understand why there is a constant reference to Blair. Why are they not focusing on Campbell's role as advisor?
Andrea Robertson, Ilfracombe

1106 On whether Mr Blair had signed up to a policy of regime change after the Crawford meeting - Sir Roderic points out Mr Blair used the phrase in a speech shortly afterwards. "That language on regime change... You as a communications expert, would you not feel that that was a clear indication that the prime minister was giving to the American people of his support for regime change?" Mr Campbell says he doesn't remember what the US media did with it but he personally did not see it as a "significant shift". He goes through a previous speech Mr Blair made at speed and is asked to slow down for the stenographer.

1105 Mr Campbell says there were continuing discussions about the policy of "containing" Saddam Hussein - including with the French. Sir Roderic asks if Mr Blair was aware of the risks of a policy that might lead to military action. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair would always "candidly" weigh up the "upsides and downsides" of any particular action.

1102 Questioning is handed back to Sir Roderic, who asks about what strategic options were on the table after the meeting at George Bush's Crawford ranch.

1101 Mr Blair had not signed up to get rid of Saddam regardless of WMD, he says. "It was not like that."

1059 Mr Campbell jabs the desk with his finger as he repeats that while Mr Blair felt Saddam Hussein should be removed, he was not pursuing a policy of military action right from the start. Mr Blair had a "fundamental view" about weapons of mass destruction being a "real threat" - and the context changed after the September 11 2001 attacks. Containment was becoming "less successful" and the tolerance for Saddam Hussein's defiance of UN resolutions changed, he said.

1056 Why did weapons of mass destruction become so central to the arguments about Iraq? Because that was "what gave rise to the fear", says Mr Campbell - Mr Blair felt if nothing was done about WMD it was only a matter of time before it was "linked in with" terrorist groups.

1053 At the Camp David meeting in September 2002, did the president and PM discuss what would happen after military action? Yes, replies Mr Campbell - "they were already talking about aftermath" - it was "always on the agenda". But the British government still wanted to resolve it peacefully, he said. He agreed there was a feeling among the "neo con wing" that it would be "all right on the day" - but said others did not share that. The British had the sense there was planning for the aftermath of war "going on" in the US administration, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
I think Alastair Campbell is coming off quite well so far. The questioners are trying to show their mettle by interrupting and speaking over him, but they haven't scored any scalps yet.
Ben, Coventry

1048 The UK was "very keen all the time" to emphasise the importance of the UN while the US attitude to the UN was "lukewarm", says Mr Campbell.

1047 A "key moment" in the history of the Iraq war - was when President Bush asked Mr Blair to persuade his own vice president to go down the United Nations route, says Mr Campbell - who adds that he believes ex-ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer had been "churlish" in his own evidence on that meeting.

Read coverage from earlier on in the session

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.

e-mail sent in by reader
Will the BBC please send Jeremy Paxman to do the interviewing? The present panel are hopeless and do not have the experience in dealing with slick communicators like Campbell. They do not press hard enough to achieve specific unambiguous answers to their questions and Campbell is running rings around them.
V M Wenham, Gerrards Cross

1238 An annoyed Mr Campbell says they wouldn't even be discussing it if it wasn't for the "sexed up" row about the dossier: "When it came to it, I was not being accused of moving this line or moving his line .. I was being accused of distorting intelligence.. And it was simply not true."

1237 Sir Lawrence says there was a shifting of views from one which said five years after sanctions ended, Iraq might be able to produce a nuclear weapon, to one which did not mention five years and gave the impression it could be done in a much shorter time. Mr Campbell says he does not accept that.

1236 References in Mr Campbell's diary to "nuclear timelines just about sorted" - was a reference to Sir John Scarlett having rewritten it in a "way that I understood", he said.

1233 There is some discussion about the timeline in which Iraq could produce a nuclear weapon. Mr Campbell says any changes made in the drafts were because Sir John Scarlett and his team had decided to make changes - he had only pointed out a section that he did not understand "from a layman's point of view".

1228 Mr Campbell again says the dossier was not about arguing there could be an attack by Iraq on the UK mainland. Sir Lawrence says a sentence in a first draft of the dossier that Mr Blair was not saying Saddam could launch an attack on the UK was removed and asks why - Mr Campbell says he said something similar in his statement to Parliament and dossiers get drafted and redrafted.

1227 Sir John picks him up on a reference in the foreword to the dossier that said "What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons". He says intelligence is never "beyond doubt".- Mr Campbell says that is what intelligence officials were saying.

1225 Inquiry chairman Sir John Chilcot interrupts to ask about the foreword - Sir John Scarlett had said it was an "overtly political statement signed by the prime minister and was therefore not something they could change" - he said he felt he could not intervene. Mr Campbell says he believed that if any of the JIC thought the foreword overstated the case to a degree that would hit its credibility, they would have spoken out. They did make changes, the text was not "sacrosanct".

1224 Mr Campbell again rejects the idea they were making the case for war. He says they were making a case as to why the PM had grown much more concerned about Iraq as a "serious, credible and current threat".

1223 He is asked if anybody challenged the foreword's statement that the intelligence suggested "beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce chemical weapons. No says Mr Campbell - it was the PM saying to Parliament that he was "beyond doubt" on the basis of the intelligence he had been shown. Sir Lawrence says it sounds like he was saying it was beyond anybody's doubt.

1220 He says the foreword went to Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett and all members of the JIC and if any had had any concerns, Mr Blair would have "taken those on board". Sir John made some "small suggestions, all of which were taken on board".

1218 Alastair Campbell says he did draft the foreword to the September 2002 dossier - he says he remembers talking to Mr Blair about what it should say and the PM was comfortable with what was said and ultimately would have signed it off.

1216 Could there not have been a "subconscious desire" to push the intelligence further by the Joint Intelligence Committee? Mr Campbell says he does not accept that JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett would have felt under that pressure.

e-mail sent in by reader
Some of the answers from AC make In The Loop seem more a more like a documentary.
Benga, Cheltenham

1215 The prime minister was "absolutely clear that they, the JIC, had to be happy with that document" Mr Campbell said. He added that Mr Blair had been "cautious" in the way he had presented it to Parliament and accused parts of the media of trying to rewrite the history of the dossier.

1213 At no point did the PM or anyone else in Number 10 ask the intelligence services to tailor the document to make a certain argument, insists Mr Campbell. Sir Lawrence says there was a problem that a strong case had to be made on limited evidence. "That document that was presented to Parliament by the prime minister, it was the JIC document with the prime minister's foreword upon it," says Mr Campbell. "I don't believe that that the dossier misrepresented in any sense the position," he adds. He says he would not have been asked about it now were it not for the "controversy that ensued" - a reference to the row with the BBC over claims it was "sexed up".

1209 Sir Lawrence says No 10 had called for more to be done to strengthen the document. Alastair Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had made clear he had not been asked to "beef up" the document, or been over-ridden. The Joint Intelligence Committee wanted the document to be strong as well, he said.

1207 Asked about complaints that the dossier was "intelligence lite" by the "presentational team" - Mr Campbell says he did not agree and said he thought the paper was a good piece of work. Sir Lawrence says it must have raised concerns about what the reaction to the dossier would be. Mr Campbell says if people were expecting a document saying Saddam Hussein was about to "launch nuclear weapons at Peterborough" - that was "not what was said". "It was not the case for war, it was the case for why the prime minister had become more concerned."

tweet
chillly tweets: Campbell has someone behind him nodding in agreement with him. Very clever way to reinforce his point of view. The same chap who agrees with Campbell looks sternly at any Inquiry team member who asks an awkward question. Blatant but clever.

1204 Mr Campbell says there was not a "turf war" between the Foreign Office and Joint Intelligence Committee over the September dossier.

e-mail sent in by reader
An unelected official chairing meetings with intelligence officials is inappropriate - they are being far too easy on Campbell.
Dylan, London

1200 Mr Campbell says there had been reports of "rumblings" about the dossier in the intelligence community in the media - senior intelligence figures had made clear that was not their opinion and they understood why Mr Blair wanted to publish the paper.

1158 Mr Campbell was asked again why he chaired meetings on the dossier even though it was apparently the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee chairman Sir John Scarlett. "I was chairing those meetings because the prime minister was going to present the paper John was working on to Parliament," he says. Mr Campbell says there was "massive media interest". Panel member Sir Lawrence says usually chairing a meeting suggests accountability. Mr Campbell says he was the person charged by the PM to advise on presentational and production issues - there was so much interest in it the website crashed the day it was published, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
As the propaganda spinmeister of Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell continues to be brilliant in defence of his former master. It is amusing to see his questioners allowing him to waffle in answering their gentle questions. Perhaps they are working towards a sucker punch later in the interview...I doubt it though.
Terry, Camberley

tweet
BBCLauraK tweets: Campbell's just received a text message - panel jokes that it might be Tony Blair!

1155 Mr Campbell says the September 2002 dossier was about Mr Blair putting into the public domain what he was being presented with. Why was Mr Campbell involved in meetings on the dossier he is asked. Mr Campbell says Sir John Scarlett had asked for some "presentational support".

e-mail sent in by reader
This is all MUCH too cosy. Nothing like the probing type of questioning you might get, for instance, in a US senate hearing.
Peter, London

1153 There has just been some disruption on the feed from the inquiry room - I thought for a minute panel chairman Sir John might have "pushed the button" and cut it off for security reasons but it looks like it was just a technical issue.

1152 Sir Lawrence is asking about a series of papers prepared on Iraq for the British government. Two agencies could have produced a paper - the joint intelligence committee and the Foreign Office. There was a feeling within the Foreign Office "that it should be their product", says Mr Campbell but the then-JIC chairman Sir John Scarlett said he wanted to be in charge of the process as it was based on intelligence. Some in the Foreign Office wanted "ownership" and they had to make clear that would not happen, says Mr Campbell.

1150 A February 2002 intelligence paper which looked at Iran, Libya and North Korea as well, suggested they were of greater concern than Iraq, says Sir Lawrence Freedman. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was more concerned about Iraq because it had used chemical weapons and because of the nature of the regime - also there was "no semblance" of being able to get dialogue with Iraq.

1147 "We were aware that our communications had an impact on their (US) positions," Mr Campbell said - and vice versa. Sometimes US communications were "not helpful to us", he adds.

1145 It was when the PM returned from his summer break in 2002 that he decided to bring forward the process on the dossier, Mr Campbell said.

e-mail sent in by reader
alkennedy asks whether Campbell is playing the "It was GW's fault" card. The answer seems to be no - he's playing the "It was all France's fault for not backing us" card.
John B, Sunderland

1144 The dossier was "an exercise in openness" and trying to share with people sensitive information so they were fully informed, he said. Previously the public would have accepted it if a government said it did not discuss intelligence matters, but that had changed.

1142 Why was a dossier necessary in September 2002, Mr Campbell was asked. He said Mr Blair had been growing "more and more concerned" after the 11 September 2001 attacks. He was privy to material that only a few senior ministers were able to see, he adds.

e-mail sent in by reader
How on earth can Campbell say that Blair hoped to avoid war when by Blair's own words he said he would have gone to war regardless?
Hugh, UK

Let's not forget that Campbell is a master of presentation and "spin". I doubt even Blair will prepare as well as he has done.
Alan, Penzance

1140 Despite "terrible divisions" at the time - the UN were able to get involved quickly in the aftermath of the war, partly because of work done by Mr Blair, Mr Campbell says.

e-mail sent in by reader
Alastair Campbell is often being distracted by the detail of some of these answers, I think the panel need to accept his responses in their context and not in the very abstract fashion they've been directed so far.
Simon, Selby, N.Yorks

Well, so far Campbell is doing a very good job of keeping cool and composed...although the inquisitors haven't really tested him yet, I don't think. I hope they put more pressure on him when they return.
Dan, Winchester

I feel the panel need to take control and not let Campbell take control and not answer the questions vaguely - they seem to glossing over the questions.
Mark, Carterton, Oxon

By the constant references to Blair, it seems like they are sizing up a case against Blair in the future.
Fred Stone, London

1138 Panel member Sir Martin Gilbert is asking about UK views on what would happen if the UN route for dealing with Saddam failed. Mr Blair had a "genuine fear" that the UN's own reputation might have been damaged if it did not stand up to Saddam, Mr Campbell suggests

Alastair Campbell
1135 Mr Campbell is talking about the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - the one which contained the famous "45 minutes claim".

1133 The inquiry is restarting. Chairman Sir John says they're already over-running and the session will now run on into the afternoon, although there will be a lunch break.

1127 James Landale says Mr Campbell has spent the morning defending his former boss, Tony Blair - it was a bit like being back in press briefings during the Blair years at Number 10.

Laura Kuenssberg
1124 The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg says the panel spent a lot of time at the beginning of the session exactly what his job was and about Tony Blair's "inner circle". Did they get down to the nitty gritty? He was not pushed on any points particularly hard, says Laura.
James Landale

BBC deputy political editor James Landale says Mr Campbell was well prepared and looked confident - his defence had been stronger than the acuteness of the questioning. Mr Campbell had argued there was no change in policy by the UK after the Crawford meeting - but it appeared the British government was making clear to the US it would support them if diplomacy failed at a time it was not making that argument in the UK.

1120 Frank Gardner says there was no institutional relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda - they loathed each other, he said. But a fundamentally different message was coming out of the Foreign Office and intelligence services on the one hand and Downing Street in 2003, he says. Downing Street appeared to be backing the US line that there might be a link.

1117 Tony Blair all the way through was trying to get it resolved "without a single shot being fired. That was his motivation all the way through", says Mr Campbell. And the inquiry members are on their feet for a short break.

1115 Did the PM believe that Saddam had to be confronted, even if the UN did not support it, asks Sir Roderic. Even the French were saying Iraq was a threat, Mr Campbell said. The question supposes that the UN was one body when it was a collection of countries, he said.

e-mail sent in by reader
Watching Campbell dealing with this enquiry is just awe-inspiring. The way he answers questions is great. This panel are good, but they'll have to get up very early in the morning to catch Mr Campbell out. Although he is coming across as Blair's lapdog slightly...
Rob, Lichfield

tweet
alkennedy tweets: Is Campbell just playing the "it was all GW's fault" card?

Margit11 tweets: Alastair Campbell really being shown up as the clueless provincial waffle-hack he is.

tweet
trobertc tweets: I think Campbell is doing very well. His job was probably different to other press secretaries because media changed.

1110 In March 2002 Christopher Meyer said he got new instructions to "say to the Americans, look if you want to do regime change and if this is going to require military action ... and you want your friends and partners to join you far better then you do it in an alliance" - such as the UN route. Was that not a change, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says it was consistent with what Mr Blair had argued previously.

1109 Was he not signalling to the American people that he supports regime change in Iraq with that speech, asks Sir Roderic. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair was saying the British government would support the US government if the diplomatic route failed. "In my view that was not a significant shift," he says. But did he repeat the line in the UK at the time, says Sir Roderic. With modern communications what they are - everyone would have been aware of it, says Mr Campbell. Sir Roderic asks again if that was "his line" in the UK. Mr Campbell says the "overall approach" was the same throughout - although there may have been moments where "emphasis changed". Had he used the line again in the UK after Crawford, Sir Roderic asks again. Mr Campbell says he had repeated that if the diplomatic route failed then the "military options was evident".

e-mail sent in by reader
I do not understand why there is a constant reference to Blair. Why are they not focusing on Campbell's role as advisor?
Andrea Robertson, Ilfracombe

1106 On whether Mr Blair had signed up to a policy of regime change after the Crawford meeting - Sir Roderic points out Mr Blair used the phrase in a speech shortly afterwards. "That language on regime change... You as a communications expert, would you not feel that that was a clear indication that the prime minister was giving to the American people of his support for regime change?" Mr Campbell says he doesn't remember what the US media did with it but he personally did not see it as a "significant shift". He goes through a previous speech Mr Blair made at speed and is asked to slow down for the stenographer.

1105 Mr Campbell says there were continuing discussions about the policy of "containing" Saddam Hussein - including with the French. Sir Roderic asks if Mr Blair was aware of the risks of a policy that might lead to military action. Mr Campbell says Mr Blair would always "candidly" weigh up the "upsides and downsides" of any particular action.

1102 Questioning is handed back to Sir Roderic, who asks about what strategic options were on the table after the meeting at George Bush's Crawford ranch.

1101 Mr Blair had not signed up to get rid of Saddam regardless of WMD, he says. "It was not like that."

1059 Mr Campbell jabs the desk with his finger as he repeats that while Mr Blair felt Saddam Hussein should be removed, he was not pursuing a policy of military action right from the start. Mr Blair had a "fundamental view" about weapons of mass destruction being a "real threat" - and the context changed after the September 11 2001 attacks. Containment was becoming "less successful" and the tolerance for Saddam Hussein's defiance of UN resolutions changed, he said.

1056 Why did weapons of mass destruction become so central to the arguments about Iraq? Because that was "what gave rise to the fear", says Mr Campbell - Mr Blair felt if nothing was done about WMD it was only a matter of time before it was "linked in with" terrorist groups.

1053 At the Camp David meeting in September 2002, did the president and PM discuss what would happen after military action? Yes, replies Mr Campbell - "they were already talking about aftermath" - it was "always on the agenda". But the British government still wanted to resolve it peacefully, he said. He agreed there was a feeling among the "neo con wing" that it would be "all right on the day" - but said others did not share that. The British had the sense there was planning for the aftermath of war "going on" in the US administration, he says.

e-mail sent in by reader
I think Alastair Campbell is coming off quite well so far. The questioners are trying to show their mettle by interrupting and speaking over him, but they haven't scored any scalps yet.
Ben, Coventry

1048 The UK was "very keen all the time" to emphasise the importance of the UN while the US attitude to the UN was "lukewarm", says Mr Campbell.

1047 A "key moment" in the history of the Iraq war - was when President Bush asked Mr Blair to persuade his own vice president to go down the United Nations route, says Mr Campbell - who adds that he believes ex-ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer had been "churlish" in his own evidence on that meeting.

Read coverage from opening of the session: Part 1



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 © 2014 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