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MoD denies it tried to burn documents
Martin Bright and Kamal Ahmed
Sunday August 3, 2003
The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night that a document at the centre of a security breach three days after the suicide of government weapons adviser David Kelly had been passed to police investigating the death of the scientist.
But the MoD fiercely denied allegations that it had attempted to burn or shred a 'media plan' relating to Kelly at their Whitehall headquarters.
The Daily Telegraph reported that officials were preparing to incinerate a media strategy dealing with the fallout from the Kelly affair when they were spotted by security guards.
The incident revolves around the troubled department of Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, whose officials have been accused of releasing Kelly's name to the media.
The MoD confirmed there had been a security breach on 20 July when guards discovered that a document referring to Kelly had been mistakenly placed in a 'burn bag' to be taken for incineration. The incident would normally have been dealt with internally, but the guards took the unusual step of alerting the Ministry of Defence Police.
Sources said the guards' reaction was 'a little over-zealous', but that it was understandable given the sensitivity surrounding the Kelly affair. Thames Valley Police confirmed they had taken documents from a number of sources in relation to the suicide, while the Metropolitan Police confirmed that the incident was being dealt with by the Kelly team.
An MoD Police spokesman confirmed that they had been alerted to the incident by security staff on Sunday 20 July and the matter was passed to Thames Valley police.
The MoD also later confirmed last night that a 'confidential waste sack' due for incineration was left in an unsecured area, sparking a security alert. The document was sent to Thames Valley Police, the force which is in overall charge of the investigation into Kelly's suicide.
MoD officials said that the document was a "news summary annex', a list of news stories relating to the department which had appeared on the week of Kelly's death. The document was dominated by reaction to the suicide.
The document, drawn up by the press department, also contained a forecast of stories likely to appear in the next few days. Sources said it was unlikely that the annex was actually classified but had become mixed up in another bundle of confidential documents not related to the Government scientist.
Rumours that the MoD was using the incident on 20 July to deflect attention from a more serious incident on the previous Thursday, the night of Kelly's disappearance, were categorically denied. An MoD spokeswoman said there had been no other security breaches relating to material concerning Kelly.
The incident led to calls for Lord Hutton to make the security breach part of his inquiry into the events leading to Kelly's death.
Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: 'The obvious person to get to the bottom of these allegations is Lord Hutton. If the reports are true, they would provide an embarrassing insight into the collective mind of the MoD.'