4 February 2004

Hutton Report

411. 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 which was taken by the Prime Minister and his officials in 10 Downing Street on 8 July was confined to issuing a statement that an unnamed 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. The series of events and considerations which led to the decision in 10 Downing Street on 8 July to issue a statement was a complex one for the reasons which I have previously set out and I consider that the answers given by the Prime Minister to members of the press in the aeroplane cast no light on the issues about which I have heard a large volume of evidence.

Refusing to look at Blair's 22 July statement is the strangest of all the Hutton conclusions. If you read what Tony Blair said on the aeroplane you find:

Speaking to reporters on the plane en route from Shanghai to Hong Kong, the prime minister stated categorically: "I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly."

Mr Blair said he "emphatically" did not authorise the leak, but he said the confirmation of Dr Kelly's name was a different matter, adding that the judicial inquiry he had set up would look at all the facts.

Questioned on why the government confirmed Dr Kelly's identity, he replied: "That's a completely different matter once the name is out there. The inquiry can look at these things."

Boldface mine. It defies all logic to say those words: 'I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly.' 'cast no light on the issues'. Hutton examines the contrast between Blair's evidence and that of the Ministry of Defence permanent under-secretary at some length.

Broadly, a series of officials (including people present at the 8 July meeting where Blair approved issuing a statement) say it was inevitable that David Kelly's name would come out once the government released a statement saying that a civil servant had come forward. Yet Hutton exonerates the government of leaking the name and instead finds it released materials which made finding the name inevitable. Hutton also does not address why the government might not have refused to confirm or deny the name while making David kelly available to private sessions of the ISC and FAC.

A reasonable inquiry would have questioned Blair on how he had not authorised the leaking of David Kelly's name when he approved both release of the 8 July statement and the confirmation of Kelly's name if any journalist identified him. Far from doing that, Hutton merely blandly declares, without explanation, that Blair's 22 July statement casts no light. That is not the mark of fearless inquiry or rigorous logic.

No comments: