ON THIS DAY    28 August      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
2003: Blair gives evidence to Hutton

Prime Minister Tony Blair has told the inquiry into the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly he would have had to resign if claims in a BBC report that the government "sexed up" an Iraq weapons dossier were true.

Mr Blair was giving evidence on the 11th day of the Hutton inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the apparent suicide of Dr Kelly.

The government scientist was found dead near his Oxfordshire home last month, days after it was revealed he had admitted to meeting the BBC reporter whose broadcast sparked the row.

During more than two hours of questioning, Mr Blair described the "raging storm" which erupted in the wake of the BBC story.

He called the allegations made in the report, broadcast by BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan on Radio 4's Today programme on 29 May, "extraordinarily serious".


"I think the basic view would have been not to offer the name but on the other hand not to mislead people."

Tony Blair, Prime Minister

He singled out Mr Gilligan's statement that the government "probably knew" its claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes was wrong.

Mr Blair said, "This was an absolutely fundamental charge... which if it were true would mean we had behaved in the most disgraceful way, and I would have to resign as prime minister."

He also said Mr Gilligan's later assertion that the prime minister's communications director, Alastair Campbell, had changed the dossier was an "attack" that "went to the heart of the office of prime minister."

Mr Blair spoke of his uncertainty over the right way to handle the issue after the Ministry of Defence press office let it be known that an unnamed official had come forward.

When asked about the later "question and answer" sheet which told MoD press officers they could confirm Dr Kelly's name if it was put to them by journalists, Mr Blair said, "I think the basic view would have been not to offer the name but on the other hand not to mislead people."

The prime minister was asked whether any concern was expressed about the pressure being placed on Dr Kelly.

"Obviously one looks back on this with a different perspective," he said, "but the best I can say is there was nothing that struck me that 'there is a problem here'".

In Context
The day after the prime minister gave his evidence, his communications chief, Alastair Campbell, announced he would carry out his long-stated intention to resign.

Lord Hutton published his report on 28 January 2004. It was highly critical of the BBC, and said the key allegations reported by Andrew Gilligan were "unfounded".

Lord Hutton absolved the government of any kind of "dishonourable, underhand or duplicitous strategy" over its treatment of Dr Kelly.

But he said the MoD was "at fault" for failing to tell Dr Kelly that his identity as the suspected source would be confirmed to journalists who suggested it.

Shortly after the report was published, BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, the corporation's Director General, Greg Dyke, and journalist Andrew Gilligan resigned.

The BBC apologised unreservedly for any errors in its story, to which Tony Blair replied that it was "all I ever wanted".

In July 2004, Mr Blair came under further pressure over Iraq as the Butler Report criticised the "thinness" of the intelligence used to justify the war, saying it was presented in such a way as to seem "firmer and fuller" than it was.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |