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Hutton summons BBC journalists
Saturday August 9, 2003
BBC journalists and Ministry of Defence officials at the centre of the Kelly affair will be among the first witnesses summoned to give evidence to Lord Hutton's inquiry next week, it was revealed yesterday.
Among them will be Andrew Gilligan, the BBC defence correspondent whose claim that the government's dossier on Iraq's banned weapons programme was "sexed up" by Downing Street provoked a furious response from Tony Blair and his close advisers, particularly, Alastair Campbell, his communications director.
Mr Gilligan made the claim following a meeting with the MoD scientist, David Kelly.
Also appearing before the inquiry next week will be Susan Watts, the BBC's science correspondent, and Gavin Hewitt, its special correspondent. They reported concerns that the dossier had been hardened up. Unlike Mr Gilligan, they did not say that the dossier's claim that the Iraqis could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes was inserted into the dossier by Mr Campbell against the wishes of the intelligence agencies.
Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, will be questioned about the corporation's editorial policy and whether it gave the government sufficient opportunity to put its side of the case.
Four senior MoD officials will give evidence next week. They include Richard Hatfield, the ministry's director of personnel, who wrote to Dr Kelly after the government's scientific adviser on biological and chemical weapons admitted he might have been one of Mr Gilligan's sources.
Mr Hatfield wrote to Dr Kelly saying he would not start formal disciplinary proceedings but that the scientist's behaviour fell "well short of the standard that he would have expected from a civil servant of his standing and experience".
Strictly speaking, Dr Kelly, an adviser to both the MoD and Foreign Office who had frequently spoken at public gatherings, was not an established civil servant.
Dr Kelly's experience and reputation as a pre-eminent expert on chemical and biological warfare will be described to the judge by Terence Taylor, a fellow UN weapons inspector in Iraq in the 1990s.
Colonel Taylor, a senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, will be the first witness to give evidence to the Hutton inquiry which begins its hearings on Monday.
The inquiry next week will also hear evidence from Martin Howard, the deputy chief of defence intelligence and a former press secretary at the MoD. Others summoned to the inquiry include Julian Miller, a senior official in the Cabinet Office and formerly head of the private office of the defence secretary, Geoff Hoon.
John Williams, press secretary to the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, will also give evidence next week.
Lord Hutton hopes to finish gathering evidence by the beginning of October, inquiry officials say. Other observers say this is too optimistic, particularly since he has agreed to allow cross-examination by witnesses' lawyers in a second stage of his inquiry.
It is unlikely, however, that the Hutton inquiry will be completed before a new dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme is published. The US-led Iraq Survey Group - on which, ironically, Dr Kelly would have been Britain's senior adviser - is expected next month to report fresh evidence which the government hopes will back up most of what was in last year's September dossier.
Intelligence sources yesterday dismissed reports that the government is planning to issue a new dossier of its own. They are putting their faith in the Iraq Survey Group.