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Streets Of London: Hutton Inq. Campbell And Hoon

From The Streets Of London With William Moloney

Hutton Inquiry Update - Day 20

Today at the Inquiry we see the newly sainted Alistair Campbell and the Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon being cross-examined.

New documents including extracts from Alistair Campbell’s personal diary were revealed to the Inquiry.

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Alistair Campbell- Former Director of Communication for the Prime Minster

Mr. Campbell was initially questioned by counsel for the govt., Jonathan Sumption QC.

Mr. Campbell was again asked whether it was appropriate the he and the Prime Minister should make comments on the dossier.

He replied that this was in essence the job that the Prime Minister expected him to do, help co-ordinate issues that crossed departments. He said that the Prime Minister had an intense interest in the dossier as he was to present it to Parliament and was responsible to Parliament for it’s contents.

He constantly referred to the fact that John Scarlett, Chairmen of the Joint Intelligence Committee, was in control of the dossier.

He added that he did not think comments that he and the Prime Minister made would affect John Scarlett or the JIC’s objectivity.

Mr. Campbell was taken through a memo from the 17th of September. The memo described 16 changes that he and the Prime Minister wanted changed. Many of these suggestions were to use stronger language, including claims about Iraq’s WMD.

Mr. Campbell said that Mr. Scarlett checked all these suggestions to ensure they matched the intelligence.

Mr. Campbell was asked why he did not forward this memo in a list of changes that he had forwarded to the FAC when it looked into the question of the dossier, especially as it related references to the controversial 45-minute claim, which was point 10 of 16.

"It was in relation to point 10 which pointed out an inconsistency between the executive summary and the text," he said. "I was not suggesting how the inconsistency should be addressed. I was not making a request for a change. This point about 45 minutes had never been a big issue in relation to the planning of the dossier."

He said that all the suggestions he made were in relation to presentational issues.

Under cross-examination by Counsel for the BBC, Andrew Caldecott QC, Mr Campbell admitted that the dossier was a "distillation of JIC assessments presented to the prime minister".

He also stated that he chaired a meeting about the dossier on the 9th of September. But again he said that Mr. Scarlett was superior to him in regards the dossier. No minutes were taken of the meeting.

Mr. Campbell was asked why he was the one to write the final draft of the dossier if Mr. Scarlett, his superior in regards the dossier, had volunteered to do it.

He replied that Mr. Scarlett and he “were very, very clear about the process that would follow."

Mr. Campbell was asked why one version of the dossier used the word “could” and the other used “intelligence indicated” in relation to Iraq’s ability to use the WMD within 45-minutes.

After a period of sparing with Mr. Caldecott over which dossier versions he was referring to Mr. Campbell said, “"I'm not sure the 45-minute point carried quite the weight that you think."

Mr. Campbell was then again asked about his wish, expressed in a series of memos, to strengthen the language of the dossier.

"I was keen, and this is the job the prime minister asked me to do, to make sure that the dossier as presented to Parliament was a strong consistent document that would allow him effectively to explain to the British public the reality of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction ... I think if you're saying strong equals "sexed up", I don't accept that at all.

"If you are saying strong equals a good, solid piece of work, does the job the prime minister wants it to do, I agree with that."

Mr. Campbell denied sexing up or even tightening up in relation to the 45-minute question when pushed. He said the Mr. Scarlett had adopted a change that he had initiated.

He said that the 45-claim was included at the behest of the Prime Minister.

When asked by Govt. counsel about his reaction to the BBC’s claims about his “sexing up the dossier,” Mr. Campbell replied

"I think the manner in which I said it at times left something to be desired. But I think it's important to understand the sense of anger and frustration is building when you have been accused of something very, very serious which you know you have not done, when your efforts to seek to resolve it properly are met with a mixture of disdain and indifference."

Mr. Campbell said that this feeling went throughout the govt., from the Prime Minister down.

Asked by Mr. Sumption and Lord Hutton about BBC claims that the Govt. did not complain specifically complain about the report till one month after it had aired Mr. Campbell said that he had trouble with a number of reports but

“The point was this was the report that did the damage, the report that went round the world. This was the report that the rest of the media picked up on. This story was the biggest story, not just in Britain but other parts of the world."

When asked about his suggestion to Prime Ministers two official spokesman and Geoff Hoon that they should name Dr. Kelly he said

"I hesitate even to call it a proposal. It was a thought, which was very quickly rejected by the defense secretary, and Godric and Tom Kelly [other official spokesman for the prime minister] both thought it was a bad idea. More importantly, I raised it with the prime minister. He thought it was a bad idea and nothing came of it."

James Dingemans, Counsel for the Inquiry then questioned Mr. Campbell. He concentrated on the naming of Dr. Kelly.

Entries from Alistair’s Campbell’s dairy relating to the naming of Dr. Kelly and a source coming forward where shown to Inquiry.

The diaries stated that it would “fuck Gilligan” if Dr. Kelly was named as he was not a senior intelligence figure as Mr. Gilligan had claimed.

Another entry reads, "GH (Geoff Hoon), like me, wanted to get it out that the source had broken cover to say that Andrew Gilligan misrepresented him."

Another entry read’s “GH and I both wanted to get the source up but TB was anxious about it."

Mr. Dingmans asked whether it was a common feeling in govt. circles that to have Dr. Kelly named would help their case.

Mr. Campbell replied: "That's correct. It was my view ... This has become the nub of the issue. It wasn't Dr Kelly's fault. He didn't know that when he met Mr. Gilligan. It was just reality."

Mr. Campbell admitted that he was aware of the MOD’s policy of confirming Dr. Kelly’s name if put to them by journalists.

Mr. Campbell was then asked about a Diary entry that read’s " ...looking forward to Kelly giving evidence but GS, CR and I all predicted it would be a disaster and so it proved" and goes onto to say "despite MOD assurances he was well-schooled",

He said that a FAC appearance takes a lot of preparation, and that he had been concerned about the MOD preparing Dr. Kelly. He said the Prime Minister was clear that he and others at Number 10 should not be involved in that preparation.

***************

Geoff Hoon – Secretary of State for Defense.

The govt. counsel, David Lloyd QC, initially questioned Geoff Hoon.

He was asked about the naming of Dr. Kelly.

Mr. Hoon said that he had seen and approved the statement of 8 July that confirmed that an MOD had come forward to say they had meet Mr. Gilligan.

He thought it was important to do:
1) To ensure that govt. was not seen to be covering this up
2) To ensure that others about to be questioned by the JIC and FAC where not questioned about the issue
3) And that Dr. Kelly had something relevant to say to the two committees

He said in hindsight it was the right decision.

He also said that he had not seen the Q and A for naming Dr. Kelly but had had a conversation with Sir Kevin Tebbit about it’s content and agreed in principle to the actions.

He said that he thought it was important to do this as:
1) The MOD could not be seen to be lying to journalists
2) He did not want wrong officials being contacted by journalists.
3) That this was the “most straightforward” course of action.

He said that he thought Dr. Kelly’s name would come out sooner rather than later.

Mr. Hoon was asked why he had restricted the FAC to asking Dr. Kelly questions regarding his contact with Andrew Gilligan before agreeing to allow Dr. Kelly to testify.

He said that this was as this was the issue facing the committee. He said he was also conscious that Dr. Kelly would have to testify before two committees on the one day and each would be harrowing.

Mr. Hoon was then cross-examined by Counsel for the Kelly Family, Jeremy Gompertz QC.

Mr. Gompertz asked Mr. Hoon whether he thought that the govt. was wrong in of its actions in front of this inquiry.

“…No I do not believe so” was Mr. Hoon’s reply.

When further questioned, Mr. Hoon said, “…In any given situation, people exercise their judgment as reasonably as they could…. There was a possibility that people, with the benefit of hindsight, might have taken judgment decisions "slightly differently",

Mr. Gompertz referred Mr. Hoon to the eight times he stated in his previous evidence before the Inquiry, that he thought it was wrong to name Dr. Kelly before they were certain he was Mr. Gilligan’s sole source.

"I believe, and I do still believe, that it would have been wrong to volunteer his name without having that confidence," said Mr. Hoon.

Mr. Hoon said that the MOD had followed procedures and protected Dr. Kelly’s identity.

Mr. Gompertz asked whether naming Dr. Kelly in a letter to the BBC Chairman was protecting Dr. Kelly’s anonymity?

"I think writing a letter in confidence to the chairman of the BBC, having taken some trouble to ensure that it was only seen by Mr. Davies, was protecting his anonymity, yes."

Mr. Hoon was asked who suggested this action.

After a series of ambiguous answers regarding a series of meetings he had and had not attended, Mr. Hoon said

He then received a message from Jonathan Powell, Downing Street's chief of staff, "which I took to be from the prime minister, saying that it was now appropriate” to name Dr Kelly in a letter to Mr. Davies.

Mr. Gompertz asked Mr. Hoon about the MOD procedures followed. Mr. Hoon reply was in regards the personnel procedures and the two interviews conducted with Dr. Kelly.

Mr. Gompertz asked: "There are no procedures for naming civil servants, are there?"

Mr. Hoon said: "I did not name Dr Kelly other than in a private letter."

Mr. Gompertz intervened: "That's not the question I asked you. I am sorry to interrupt ... there are no procedures for naming civil servants."

Mr. Hoon replied: "I think that's not the fairest way of putting this issue. The issue is whether the procedures were followed. Since I didn't name Dr Kelly other than in a letter to Gavyn Davies, I am not sure where your question takes us."

Mr. Gompertz the letter, briefings, the Q and A and other leaks where all part's of a strategy and operation to name Dr. Kelly.

Mr. Hoon replied: "You have put that point to a number of witnesses. They have all denied it and I deny it."

Mr. Gompertz stressed: "His name was leaked, was it not?"

Mr. Hoon replied: "Not by me."

Mr. Gompertz asked: "No?"

Mr. Hoon replied: "No."

Mr. Gompertz then asked what steps the MOD had taken to protect Dr. Kelly’s identity. Mr. Hoon replied, amongst other steps, that his name was not used in the Press Statement.

Mr. Gompertz, rather sarcastically, listed facts from the Press Statement about the source (that they had; worked within the MOD, an expert in WMD, had provided information for the dossier and had provided information of historical UN inspections) and asked

“"That is a pretty limited class of persons?"

The defense secretary commented: "It is obviously a limited class, whether 'pretty limited' depends on how much information you have at the time about Dr Kelly."

Mr. Gompertz asked: "In your desire to protect Dr Kelly at all times, did you consider this press statement might alert journalists?"

Mr. Hoon replied, "I did not consider it would alert journalists in the sense you are suggesting,"

Mr. Hoon was then shown information given out at a lobby briefing, regarding the source within the MOD.

Mr. Hoon replied to the information that “"I'm absolutely clear that I had no contact with anyone who was responsible for giving that briefing before it took place."

Mr. Gompertz said: "The government as a whole had decided on a strategy which would leak Dr Kelly's name into the public arena before he gave evidence to the FAC - is that a strategy that you recognize or not?"

Mr. Hoon replied, "No, it is not. I don't believe there is the slightest shred of evidence for that assertion .… Learned counsel is suggesting that there was some sort of conspiracy right across government for all these people to be involved in giving out small parts of information which, he had concluded, provided a picture. But there is just no evidence of that, my Lord. Certainly, as far as I'm concerned, there was no such conspiracy."

Lord Hutton intervened by asking “It is being put to you there was a conspiracy on the part of the government as a whole. Have you said you were not aware of that?"

Mr. Hoon said: "Not only was I not aware, but I think I would be extremely surprised... if that is a possible argument that any reasonable person could make."
Mr. Hoon was later asked if he had overruled Sir Kevin's advice that it would be too much for Dr Kelly to appear before both the FAC and the ISC.

Mr. Hoon replied: "I think that is a rather simplistic view of a rather detailed process that took place."

Mr. Gompertz asked Mr. Hoon whether the limitations that he placed on Mr. Kelly’s evidence before the FAC was out of political rather than concern for Dr. Kelly’s welfare.

Mr. Hoon replied that he rejected this and Dr. Kelly’s welfare was in the forefront of his mind.

Mr. Gompertz asked: "Were you fearful that Dr Kelly might put some unpalatable views on some topics?"

Mr. Hoon replied: "I knew from the outset that Dr Kelly had some distinctive views about whether Saddam Hussein's regime was still manufacturing weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Gompertz hounded him: "That was the reason you wanted the questioning limited to the topics set out in your letter?"

"On the contrary,” Mr. Hoon said. Dr Kelly was free to speak his mind.

*******ENDS*******

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