Clearing Tony Blair

A Guardian special report: In a scathing indictment of the BBC, Lord Hutton clears Tony Blair of any wrongdoing in the David Kelly affair.

By Simon Jeffery
January 28, 2004 8:15PM (UTC)
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Lord Hutton today gave full backing to the government's conduct in the David Kelly affair, but accused the BBC of "defective" editorial management.

In a one and three-quarter hour summary of his findings, delivered at the high court, the judge ran through the sequence of events that began with the writing of the September 2002 dossier and ended with the suicide of Dr Kelly.


On the key issue of the naming of Kelly as the source of BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan's story, Lord Hutton said that the government had operated "no dishonest, underhand or duplicitous strategy."

Instead, it had sought to avoid allegations of a cover-up once the weapons scientist had come forward, and had a well-founded view that his name would not stay secret due to the high level of media interest, he said.

By contrast, the BBC came in for heavy criticism. The law lord said that the corporation's management had failed to appreciate that Gilligan's notes did not support the most serious of his allegations, and that governors should have recognised and inspected the differences between them.


Alastair Campbell was accused of "raising the temperature" of the government's dispute with the BBC by the tone of his complaints.

But Lord Hutton said that the corporation's governors should have recognised that their legitimate desire to protect its independence was not incompatible with investigating Campbell's criticisms.

Lord Hutton said that the central 45-minute claim contained in Gilligan's report could be proved to be wrong in future, but his allegation that the government knew it was wrong when the dossier was published was "unfounded" because intelligence chiefs did believe the source from which it came was reliable.


He described Gilligan's report as a "grave allegation" and a slur on the government's integrity.

Blair arrived in the Commons chamber soon afterwards, to a roar of support from his own backbenchers. He was cheered again as he rose to speak.

"The report itself is an extraordinary thorough, detailed and clear document. It leaves no room for doubts or interpretation. We accept it in full," he said.


Judge considering legal action against Sun
Lord Hutton concluded his statement by saying that he "deplored" the Sun's publication of leaked extracts of his report this morning "where it was known that, in the public interest, I sought to ensure that the contents of my report would remain confidential until it was published".

The judge said he was giving "urgent consideration" to "what investigative and legal action I should take against the newspaper and its source."



The full text of the Hutton report can be found here.

Simon Jeffery

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