What was decided at the meetings set off the chain of events that was to lead to the public exposure of Dr Kelly to an intense media spotlight, to his appearance before two parliamentary committees and to his death.
Mr Blair told the inquiry that he had been guided by senior civil servants over the affair. But he added:The responsibility is mine, at the end of the day. I take the decision as Prime Minister, but I wanted to be able to say that we had played it by the book.
Just over five weeks ago, on learning of Dr Kelly's apparent suicide during an official flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, the Prime Minister had 'categorically' and 'emphatically' denied he had played a part in revealing the scientist's name.
Mr Blair, his ministers and spokesmen had subsequently declared that the Ministry of Defence had been left to handle Dr Kelly after he volunteered the fact that he had discussed last September's Iraq dossier with Mr Gilligan.
Four days after Dr Kelly was discovered dead in an Oxfordshire wood, the Prime Minister's official spokesman was still insisting that the MoD was the 'lead department' in working out the strategy over Dr Kelly and that this had been done under 'normal MoD procedure'.
The fundamental hurdle to calling John Howard to account in the same way is that his formulation would be:
The responsibility is not mine, at the end of the day. I take the decision as Prime Minister, but I wanted to be able to say that we had played it by the book which no-one told me about and I certainly did not read.