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July 21, 2003
Judge will determine Kelly inquiry scope
by pa news
The inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert, could be more wide-ranging than expected after the judge who will conduct the probe stressed that he would be responsible for determining its emphasis.
Lord Hutton said today: "I make it clear that it will be for me to decide as I think right within my terms of reference the matters which will be the subject of my investigation."
He said that his terms of reference were to "urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly".
He added: "The Government has further stated that it will provide me with the fullest co-operation and that it expects all other authorities and parties to do the same."
The inquiry, which will be held mostly in public, is expected to call a number of high profile figures including the Prime Minister. Greg Dyke, the Director-General of the BBC and Gavyn Davies, the corporation's chairman, may also give evidence.
Mr Blair said today he would do whatever Lord Hutton wanted him to - including breaking his summer holiday in Barbados if needed. Mr Blair, speaking in Beijing, said: "I will do what the judge in charge of the inquiry wants me to. I shall co-operate fully."
Lord Hutton, a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, said that he would report as soon as possible, and that he would take into account the date of Dr Kelly's funeral and the timing of the inquest into his death, dates which have not yet been announced.
There have already been calls for Lord Hutton to extend his inquiry beyond the immediate pressures that might have prompted the weapons expert to take his life and to look into the question of the Government's handling of intelligence information on Iraq.
Asked why there should be a judicial inquiry into Dr Kelly's death, but not into the war in Iraq itself, Mr Blair said: "This is a very special situation which is why we decided to hold a judicial inquiry, because of the concern that there was.
"Of course, there will be continuing debate as to whether the war was justified or not. I happen to believe it was."
But the investigation will not be the full-scale judicial inquiry into the intelligence row surrounding the Iraq war which has been demanded by the Opposition.
The ad hoc inquiry, similar to the one set up to look at the mad cow disease outbreak, will not have the powers of an inquiry set up under the 1921 Tribunals of Enquiry (Evidence) Act.
It will not have the power to force witnesses to attend or to order them to answer questions under oath.
Downing Street said today it would be a matter for Lord Hutton whether Mr Blair, other ministers and Mr Blair's Director of Communications, Alastair Campbell, should give evidence in public and whether they should be legally represented.
The Prime Minister's spokesman said that it seemed unlikely that Lord Hutton would need to be granted the power to order witnesses to attend as most of the key players had already indicated their willingness to co-operate.
Oliver Letwin, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: "While there certainly does need to be an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly's death, there are very large numbers of questions which all centre on the issue of whether the public can trust what the Government tells it and which relate to the information given to Parliament and the public during the lead-up to war in Iraq.
"We don't think the Government should be using this inquiry to limit the scope of inquiry into the Government's actions."
Mr Letwin said he regretted Mr Blair's decision not to recall Parliament.
Lord Hutton, 72, spent all his legal career in his native Northern Ireland before becoming a law lord in 1997. He was a junior counsel to the Province's Attorney-General in 1969 when the Troubles erupted.
In 1978 he was a member of the British defence team in the European Court of Human Rights when Britain was found guilty of ill-treating internees in 1971. Observers in Northern Ireland consider him a conservative and a safe pair of hands.