UK PM Tony Blair's statement on Hutton report
PM statement on Hutton report
Prime Minister Tony Blair has made a statement following the publication of Lord Hutton's report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.
With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement following Lord Hutton's report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.
I am immensely grateful to Lord Hutton, his team and inquiry staff for the work they have carried out. The report itself is an extraordinarily thorough, detailed and clear document. It leaves no room for doubt or interpretation. We accept it in full.
Lord Hutton has just finished reading the summary of his findings. Before coming to those I want to echo one thing Lord Hutton said about Dr Kelly himself. Lord Hutton makes his findings about Dr Kelly's conduct in respect of the matters at issue here, but as he says, nothing should detract from Dr Kelly's fine record of public service to this country. He was respected here and abroad. I am sorry that as a result of the gravity of the allegations made it was necessary to have this inquiry and that the Kelly family have had to go through reliving this tragedy over the past months. I hope now it is over, they will be allowed to grieve in peace.
Lord Hutton has given a most comprehensive account of the facts. It is unnecessary for me to repeat them. But let me emphasise why I believed it right to establish such an inquiry. Over the past six or more months, allegations have been made that go to the heart of the integrity of government, our intelligence services and me personally as Prime Minister. There are issues, of course, as to how the case of Dr Kelly was handled in personnel terms; and I shall come to those.
But these have not sustained the media, public and parliamentary interest over all this time. What has sustained and fuelled that interest has been, to put it bluntly, a claim of lying, of deceit, of duplicity on my part personally and that of the Government. That claim consists of two allegations: first that I lied over the intelligence that formed part of the Government's case in respect of Iraq and WMD published on 24 September 2002; the second that I lied or was duplicitous in respect of the naming of Dr Kelly, leaking his name to the press when it should have remained confidential.
Lord Hutton finds the following:
1. Contrary to the claim by the BBC that intelligence was put in the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services; the dossier of 24 September was published with the full approval of the JIC, including the intelligence about Saddam's readiness to use some WMD within 45 minutes of an order to do so.
2. That the allegation by the BBC that the Government deliberately inserted this 45 minute claim probably knowing it was wrong was "unfounded".
3. That the allegation by the BBC that the reason for it not being in the original draft of the dossier was because the intelligence agencies didn't believe it to be true, was also "unfounded".
4. That no-one, either in the JIC or Downing Street acted improperly in relation to the dossier.
5. That the BBC claim that it was "sexed up" in the sense of being embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false was also "unfounded".
6. That Mr Gilligan's key allegations repeated by the BBC were never in fact said even by Dr Kelly himself.
7. That there was "no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media".
8. That on the contrary it was reasonable for the Government to conclude that there was no practical possibility of keeping his name secret and that the Government behaved properly in relation to naming him.
9. That the suggestion that either I or Sir Kevin Tebbit in our evidence were in conflict with each other or that one of us was lying was "incorrect and not supported by the evidence".
10. And for good measure, he also dismisses the allegations surrounding what I said on a plane to journalists in these terms.
"Some commentators have referred to answers by the Prime Minister to questions from members of the press travelling with him on an aeroplane to Hong Kong on 22 July and I have read the transcript of that press briefing. As I have stated, I am satisfied that there was not a dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy on the part of the Prime Minister and officials to leak Dr Kelly's name covertly, and I am further satisfied that the decision that was taken by the Prime Minister and his officials in 10 Downing Street on 8 July was confined to issuing a statement that an un-named civil servant had come forward and that the Question and Answer material was prepared and approved in the MOD and not in 10 Downing Street."
Let me now return to the two central allegations.
On 29 May 2003, following the end of the conflict in Iraq, the BBC Today programme broadcast a story by its Defence Correspondent, Andrew Gilligan. It dominated the morning bulletins and reverberates to this day. It alleged that part of the September 2002 dossier - that Saddam could use WMD within 45 minutes of an order to do so - had been inserted into it by Downing Street, contrary to the wishes of the intelligence services and that moreover we "probably knew it was wrong even before we decided to put it in". There could not be a more serious charge. The source for this extraordinary allegation was said by the BBC to be "a senior official in charge of drawing up that dossier" and an "intelligence service source" implying a member of the JIC or assessments staff who would be in a position to know. If true, it would have meant that I had misled this House on 24 September and the country; that I had done so deliberately; and I had behaved wholly improperly in respect of the intelligence services.
From that day, 29 May onwards, that story in one form or another has been replayed many times in the UK, and all over the world.
It dominated my Press Conference in Poland on 30 May; and PMQs when I returned. It led that week to the Foreign Affairs Committee deciding to conduct an Inquiry into the issue. In particular, on the Sunday following the story, Mr Gilligan wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday, not merely standing by the story but naming Alastair Campbell as the person responsible in Downing Street. The headline read:
"I asked my intelligence source why Blair misled us all over Saddam's weapons. His reply? One word.....CAMPBELL"
This again, was completely untrue; and not merely stood up but further inflamed the original allegation of deceit.
The BBC has never clearly and visibly withdrawn this allegation. This has allowed others to say repeatedly I lied and misled Parliament over the
24 September dossier.
Let me make it plain: it is absolutely right that people can question whether the intelligence received was right; and why we have not yet found WMD. There is an entirely legitimate argument about the wisdom of the conflict. I happen to believe now as I did in March that removing Saddam has made the world a safer and better place. But others are entirely entitled to disagree.
However, all of this is of a completely different order from a charge of deception, of duplicity, of deceit, a charge that I or anyone else deliberately falsified intelligence.
The truth about that charge is now found. No intelligence was inserted into the dossier by Downing Street; nothing was put in it against the wishes of the intelligence services; no-one, either in Downing Street or the JIC, put any intelligence into it, "probably knowing it was wrong"; and no such claim to the BBC was made by anyone "in charge of drawing up the dossier". Indeed, Lord Hutton's findings go further. The claim was not even made by Dr Kelly himself.
The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on WMD is itself the real lie. And I simply ask that those that made it and those who have repeated it over all these months, now withdraw it, fully, openly and clearly.
Furthermore, Lord Hutton deals with the issue of the 45 minute claim. Instead of this being disputed by the intelligence services and inserted into the dossier at the behest of Alastair Campbell or Downing Street; the true position was that a concern about how it was phrased in the dossier was raised by a
Dr Jones in DIS, was rejected by the Head of Defence Intelligence and never actually came to the attention of the Chairman of the JIC let alone Downing Street.
In any event, Dr Jones did not say it should have been omitted from the dossier. On the contrary Dr Jones thought it should be included as it was "important intelligence". Dr Jones told the Inquiry that Dr Kelly thought the dossier was "good" and Mr A, from the Counter Proliferation Arms Control Department said of himself and Dr Kelly "Both of us believed that if you took the dossier as a whole it was a reasonable and accurate reflection of the intelligence that we had available to us at that time."
Lord Hutton does fairly comment: "However I consider that the possibility cannot be completely ruled out that the desire of the Prime Minister to have a dossier which, whilst consistent with the available intelligence, was as strong as possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have sub-consciously influenced Mr Scarlett and other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment.". However he goes on to say: "although this possibility cannot be completely ruled out, I am satisfied that Mr Scarlett, the other members of the JIC, and the members of the Assessments Staff engaged in the drafting of the dossier were concerned to ensure that the contents of the dossier were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC."
Lord Hutton also says, in terms, that Mr Scarlett "only accepted those suggestions which were consistent with the intelligence known to the JIC and he rejected those suggestions which were not consistent with such intelligence."
I hope that from now on the wholly unjustified attacks on the Chairman of the JIC John Scarlett and the JIC will cease. These people are people dedicated to this country and its wellbeing. The publication of intelligence by Government - which we did, let me remind the House, because of the clamour for it - was a unique exercise never done before, and difficult for all our Agencies. But in the interests of openly sharing intelligence with people, they worked hard in good faith to release it properly. And let me also remind the House that when this dossier was published it was routinely described at the time as "low key" and by Mr Gilligan, no less, on 24 September 2002 as "sensibly cautious and measured"; and actually moved public opinion hardly at all. Only in retrospect was it elevated into the single thing that conclusively persuaded a reluctant country to war.
The dossier reflected independent reports such as that of the IISS on 9 September. It reflected precisely that evidence which led the UN Security Council unanimously in November 2002 to agree Saddam and his weapons posed a threat to the world. The 45 minute claim was in fact mentioned once by me in my statement in this House on 24 September and not mentioned by me again in any debate, not even in the debate on 18 March or indeed by anyone else in that debate. Only again in retrospect, has history been rewritten to establish it as the one crucial claim that marched the nation into conflict.
Lord Hutton establishes clearly why the 45 minutes was put in the dossier, what its provenance was - and whether or not subsequently it turned out to be correct or not - finds it was put into the dossier entirely in good faith by the JIC.
So much for the first charge of dishonesty over the dossier. The second charge was over the naming of Dr Kelly. Again throughout these past six months, the context in which this has been debated has largely been that Dr Kelly's name should not have been revealed, it should have remained confidential and therefore anyone, including myself, who discussed or acted upon the issue was acting improperly.
In hindsight, of course, the name of Dr Kelly and his evidence to the FAC has taken on a different and altogether more tragic aspect. Rightly Lord Hutton puts it back into its proper contemporary context.
The truth is that by early July the FAC was actively engaged in examining the truth of the Gilligan allegations and due to report on 7 July. The ISC was about to begin its deliberations the same week. Evidence had already been given by the Government to the FAC and all of us, myself included were due to give evidence to the ISC beginning with the Chairman of the JIC on 9 July.
Suddenly in late June, Dr Kelly came forward and said to his managers he believed he may have been at least part of the source for the Gilligan story. That information was given to me personally on 3 July. By Monday 7 July it was apparent that in all likelihood he was indeed the source of the Gilligan story.
The dilemma we were in, therefore, as Lord Hutton accepts, was how we could possibly keep this information secret not just from the FAC, who had just taken evidence on this very point; but also from the ISC who were about to interview us all about the intelligence relating to Iraq, with the first session on the morning of Wednesday 9 July.
The evidence, very frankly given, of both my RHF, the Chairman of the FAC, and at least one of the Committee's members, was that if they had been told that the MOD knew the source and had interviewed him, the FAC would have wanted to do the same. As, of course, they did. Indeed, they told the Inquiry that they would have liked to have been told sooner.
The context therefore for the meetings on 7/8 July which I chaired was how to act properly in relation to these two committees where we were in possession of information plainly relevant to their inquiries and when one committee was on the point of publication and another about to begin proceedings.
The evidence of Sir David Omand was that it would be "improper" to keep this information secret and that we were under a duty to reveal it to Parliament. So as Lord Hutton accepts the whole basis of the claim that somehow Dr Kelly should never been been named or that his name was leaked in breach of a duty of confidentiality, is based on a false premise. On the contrary our duty was to disclose his name to the Committees and allow them to interview him if they so wished; and Lord Hutton finds that our concern, at being accused of misleading those Committees was "well-founded".
In any event, again as Lord Hutton finds, no-one in fact "leaked" his name. Not myself, not the Secretary of State, not the officials. As Lord Hutton finds, the decision by the MOD to confirm Dr Kelly's name, if the correct name was put to it by a journalist, was based on the view that in a matter of such intense public and media interest it would not be sensible to try to conceal it.
There was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy to name Dr Kelly. He was named for the reason we gave. And again I ask that those that have repeatedly claimed that I lied over this issue or that Sir Kevin Tebbit did, now withdraw that allegation also, unequivocally and in full.
Lord Hutton does however find that the MOD were at fault in not telling Dr Kelly clearly and immediately that his name would be confirmed to the press if it was put to the MOD. The MOD accepts these findings. However Lord Hutton goes on to say:
" However these criticisms are subject to the mitigating circumstances that (1) Dr Kelly's exposure to press attention and intrusion, whilst obviously very stressful, was only one of the factors placing him under greater stress; (2) individual officials in the MOD did try to help and support him in the ways which I have described in paragraphs 430 and 431; and (3) because of his intensely private nature, Dr Kelly was not an easy man to help or to whom to give advice."
I believe that the civil servants concerned were acting in good faith doing their best in difficult and unusual circumstances. Lord Hutton has not criticised any individuals in the MOD. Some have been subject to trenchant media criticisms far beyond what they ever should have had to bear. Sir Kevin Tebbit has, as has my RHF the Secretary of State. Both are cleared of any allegations of impropriety. My RHF in particular has been subject to a constant barrage of such claims as parts of the media have alternated between wanting his scalp or mine.
I hope that these attacks on him over this issue also cease.
I come to the final issue: the cause of Dr Kelly's death; in effect, why he took his own life, since it is now beyond doubt that he did.
Lord Hutton finds that no-one could have foreseen that Dr Kelly would commit suicide. He finds further that in all probability, he did not decide to do so until the day of his death. He finds that the reason he did so was not for any reason of conspiracy or dark motives. The truth is that Dr Kelly did speak to Mr Gilligan and whatever the distortion, it was an unauthorised meeting, as was his conversation with Susan Watts, the Newsnight journalist; and he was surprised to be asked about this at the FAC. Lord Hutton finds that the existence of a note of that conversation must have weighed heavily on his mind. Finally, on the day of his death he received notice of a series of Parliamentary Questions about his contacts which he was going to have to answer.
Dr Kelly was a decent man, whose very decency made him feel wretched about the situation in which he found himself.
No-one wished this tragedy to happen. All of us felt, and feel still, desperately sorry for Mrs Kelly and her family. None of us could have foreseen it because none of us, at that time, knew what Dr Kelly knew.
Lord Hutton puts it in this way at paragraph 15 of his report:
"I also consider it to be important to state in this early part of the report that I am satisfied that none of the persons whose decisions and actions I later describe ever contemplated that Dr Kelly might take his own life. I am further satisfied that none of those persons was at fault in not contemplating that Dr Kelly might take his own life. Whatever pressures and strains Dr Kelly was subject to by the decisions and actions taken in the weeks before his death, I am satisfied that no-one realised or should have realised that those pressures and strains might drive him to take his own life or contribute to his decision to do so."
In conclusion I repeat what Lord Hutton said in his Summary, at page 322.
"The communication by the media of information (including information obtained by investigative reporters) on matters of public interest and importance is a vital part of life in a democratic society. However the right to communicate such information is subject to the qualification (which itself exists for the benefit of a democratic society) that false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others, including politicians, should not be made by the media."
That is how this began: with an accusation that was false then and is false now.
We can have the debate about the war; about WMD; about intelligence. But we do not need to conduct it by accusations of lies and deceit. We can respect each other's motives and integrity even when in disagreement.
Let me repeat the words of Lord Hutton:
"False accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others ... should not be made".
Let those that made them now withdraw them.