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Streets Of London: Hutton Inquiry Day 18

From The Streets Of London With William Moloney

Hutton Inquiry Day 18

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The Witness' called today were Andrew Gilligan, The Today Program’s defence correspondent that started the affair, Richard Sambrook, Director of News at the BBC and Richard Hatfield; Personnel Director at the MOD began giving evidence.

One of the mysteries of the Inquiry, How was it so many Govt. documents were released to the Inquiry, may have been answered. The story doing the rounds at the moment is that the Hutton Inquiry requested the documents from the Govt. when the majority of senior Civil Servants were enjoying their holidays in Tuscany. Having lead a junior official in charge, she thought that the best way to decide what was to go and what not to go to the Inquiry was to send everything. This decision came as quite a surprise to her seniors when they returned.


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Andrew Gilligan.

Andrew Gilligan was being re-examined by the inquiry. His Counsel, Heather Rogers QC, put the first questions to him.

Mr. Gilligan began his evidence by saying that he had produced a long manuscript note from his meeting with Dr. Kelly, and he had searched for it, but was unable to find it.

Mr. Gilligan said Dr. Kelly had not stated that the Govt. knew that the intelligence surrounding the 45-claim was wrong or unreliable but Dr. Kelly had said it was "unreliable, that it was wrong, and that it was included against our wishes, and it was a logical conclusion to draw from this that those wishes had been made known, as we now indeed know to have been the case"

“The error I made here was in expressing the understanding I had that the views had been conveyed to the government as something, which Dr Kelly had told me directly. It was not intentional; it was the kind of slip of the tongue that does happen often during live broadcasts. It is an occupational hazard which is why it would have been better to have scripted this one."

Dr. Kelly had said that Alistair Campbell was the one responsible for the transformation of the dossier, Mr. Gilligan said.

In response to yesterdays evidence from Kate Wilson, Chief Press Officer at the MOD, he said, I gave her the "gist of the allegations" about the dossier.

He had rung a month later to remind the MOD and Ms. Wilson that he had “checked” the story with them, so they could not try to deny it.

He then apologized to the Inquiry for contacting a member of the FAC committee to say that Dr. Kelly was the source of fellow BBC reporter Susan Watts’ story.

Counsel for the Govt. Jonathan Sumption QC then examined Mr. Gilligan.

Mr. Sumption asked whether Mr. Gilligan was accusing the Govt. of being dishonest in his Today program report.

His reply stated that he had intended to make the charge of “spin” not dishonesty and that his words were “imperfect”, and he had tried to correct this imperfection in later broadcasts.

Mr. Gilligan was questioned over the description of the source of his story. Mr. Gilligan said that he had agreed with Dr. Kelly his description as “one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up the dossier”. Mr. Gilligan said, “Dr. Kelly was not the kind of man that you can put words into his mouth”.

Of his original and the numerous subsequent BBC descriptions of Dr. Kelly as an Intelligence Source, Mr. Gilligan said it was originally a slip of the tongue during a live broadcast, which he was unable to correct. He suggested he probably should have scripted the broadcast.

Again he was asked why he had not contacted Number 10 over his original allegations and Mr. Gilligan replied that he had warned the MOD, in his call to Kate Wilson. He did not use the specific term “the govt. probably knew it was wrong” though.

Mr. Gilligan was then asked whether he thought the BBC denial that Dr. Kelly worked for the MOD had made the infamous lobby briefing necessary. He denied the charge, as he said The Times were being given all the details necessary to indentify Dr. Kelly at the time the statement was released, prior to the lobby briefing.

Mr. Gompertz, acting for the Kelly Family, said that he would be brief as the ground had been covered but more importantly "the Kelly family do not want you or anybody else to be subjected at their hands to an ordeal comparable to that endured by Dr Kelly".

Mr. Gompertz confirmed that Mr. Gilligan had lost the notes from the meeting and that no one else had ever viewed these notes.

Mr. Gompertz suggested that it was Mr. Gilligan that put the name of Alistair Campbell to Dr. Kelly, not the other way as Mr. Gilligan was suggesting.

"Only one name was mentioned. I did not introduce a number of names or indeed any name. Alistair Campbell's name... was brought up spontaneously by Dr Kelly just as he brought it up spontaneously to Susan Watts".

Mr. Gompertz asked why Mr. Gilligan had not taken a tape recorder to the meeting. Mr. Gilligan said he had taken a mini-disc recorder, but due to the large and intimidating size of the microphone, he did not use it.

Mr. Dingemans, Senior Counsel for the Inquiry then asked whether Mr. Gilligan agreed that he made an allegation of conscious wrong doing against the govt.

Mr. Gilligan replied that he had made "an allegation less serious than that, that it was part of a political debate". He also stated that he had tried to correct an impression stronger than that in later broadcasts. He then told Lord Hutton on later broadcasts on the 29th of May, he had said that the claim was based on real intelligence and that he was not accusing the govt. of lying.

Mr. Dingemans then pointed to a letter dated a month later from Richard Sambrook to Alistair Campbell, which said, “Andrew Gilligan accurately reported the source telling him the govt. “probably knew the 45-minuted figure was wrong.

“This is simply untrue!” Mr. Dingemans said.

“Yes that is incorrect. It was clearly wrong to say that”.

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Richard Sambrook, Director of News BBC

Mr. Sambrook said that the BBC would learn from this affair.

He admitted to a catalogue of errors commited by the BBC:

That the allegations should have been put to Number 10 before the broadcast
That the reply to Alistair Campbell’s complaint contained inaccuracies
That Andrew Gilligan should never had written to a FAC member “outing” Dr. Kelly as Susan Watts’ source.
That there was a general perception in the BBC, uncorrected by Mr. Gilligan, that his source was in the intelligence services.
That the BBC should have paused and looked at “great length” at the allegations.

He did say "I think if I had been able to go through Andrew Gilligan's notes in some detail ... we might have got to a point where we realized those were not comments that were directly attributable to Dr Kelly and clearly I regret that,"

Mr. Sambrook said that the letter he sent to Alistair Campbell in reply to his complaint, containing the inaccuracies mentioned earlier, had been reviewed and agreed to by Mr. Gilligan at time of sending.

***********

Richard Hatfield, Personnel Director MOD

He said that the support given to Dr. Kelly during his quizzing over his press contacts was “outstanding”.

That he had informed Dr. Kelly that his name would come out.

That Dr. Kelly’s pension, or threat to it, was never mentioned.

ENDS

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