23 September 2003

Hoon failed to correct WMD headlines

The [UK] defence secretary, Geoff Hoon, today admitted that he did nothing to correct newspaper headlines about the 45-minute 'threat' from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, despite knowing they were misleading and untrue.

Under cross-examination by QCs for the BBC and David Kelly's family, Mr Hoon confessed that while he knew the 45-minute claim in the dossier referred to chemical shells, he did nothing to correct the mistake when the Evening Standard and other newspapers splashed the claim across their front pages on the publication of the Government's September dossier.

In a damning and unexpected line of questioning from the BBC's QC, Andrew Caldecott, Mr Hoon said he did not think he had any duty to correct the public misconception and that in his experience getting newspapers to print corrections was 'time consuming and fruitless'.

He defended himself by saying the chief of the joint intelligence committee (JIC), John Scarlett, had already explained to the Hutton inquiry that such claims related to battlefield munitions. However, Mr Hoon admitted that the dossier itself was ambiguous on this point.

It is a grave pity that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Howard will never have to face the same damning and unexpected line of questioning for their claims about the Iraq war.

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