HL Deb 28 January 2004 vol 656 cc207-26

3.15 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall make a short Statement on the Hutton report and then repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister.

This morning I received formal delivery of the report from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, into the circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Dr Kelly. Perhaps I may first pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, for the exemplary way in which he and his team conducted this inquiry.

The inquiry was carried out in a meticulous and fair manner in little over six months. The report runs into 328 pages plus appendices and stands as a testament to the unstinting efforts of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton.

The report was laid before the House at 12.25 p.m. today. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, delivered a summary of his conclusions immediately afterwards, in the Royal Courts of Justice. At 2 p.m. the Prime Minister made a Statement in the other place outlining the Government's view in relation to the conclusions of the report.

With the leave of the House I would now like to repeat that Statement. "With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a Statement following Lord Hutton's report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.

"I am immensely grateful to Lord Hutton, his team and inquiry staff for the work they have carried out. The report itself is an extraordinarily thorough, detailed and clear document. It leaves no room for doubt or interpretation. We accept it in full.

"Lord Hutton has just finished reading the summary of his findings. Before coming to those, I want to echo one thing Lord Hutton said about Dr Kelly himself. Lord Hutton makes his findings about Dr Kelly's conduct in respect of the matters at issue here, but as he says, nothing should detract from Dr Kelly's fine record of public service to this country. He was respected here and abroad. I am sorry that as a result of the gravity of the allegations made it was necessary to have this inquiry and that the Kelly family have had to go through reliving this tragedy over the past months. I hope, now it is over, they will be allowed to grieve in peace.

"Lord Hutton has given a most comprehensive account of the facts. It is unnecessary for me to repeat them. But let me emphasise why I believed it right to establish such an inquiry. Over the past six or more months, allegations have been made that go to the heart of the integrity of government, our intelligence services and me, personally, as Prime Minister. There are issues, of course, as to how the case of Dr Kelly was handled in personnel terms; and I shall come to those.

"But these have not sustained the media, public and parliamentary interest over all this time. What has sustained and fuelled that interest has been, to put it bluntly, a claim of lying, of deceit, of duplicity on my part personally and that of the Government. That claim consists of two allegations: first, that I lied over the intelligence that formed part of the Government's case in respect of Iraq and WMD, published on 24 September 2002; the second, that I lied or was duplicitous in respect of the naming of Dr Kelly, leaking his name to the press when it should have remained confidential.

"Lord Hutton finds the following: first, contrary to the claim by the BBC that intelligence was put in the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services, the dossier of 24 September was published with the full approval of the Joint Intelligence Committee, including the intelligence about Saddam's readiness to use some WMD within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

"Secondly, that the allegation by the BBC that the Government deliberately inserted this 45 minute claim probably knowing it was wrong was 'unfounded'.

"Thirdly, that the allegation by the BBC that the reason for it not being in the original draft of the dossier was because the intelligence agencies did not believe it to be true, was also 'unfounded'.

"Fourthly, that no one, either in the JIC or Downing Street, acted improperly in relation to the dossier.

"Fifthly, that the BBC claim that it was 'sexed up' in the sense of being embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false was also 'unfounded'.

"Sixthly, that Mr Gilligan's key allegations repeated by the BBC were never in fact said, even by Dr Kelly himself.

"Seventhly, that there was, 'no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media'. "Eighthly, that on the contrary it was reasonable for the Government to conclude that there was no practical possibility of keeping his name secret and that the Government behaved properly in relation to naming him.

"Ninthly, that the suggestion that either I or Sir Kevin Tebbit in our evidence were in conflict with each other or that one of us was lying was, 'incorrect and not supported by the evidence'. "Tenthly, and for good measure, he also dismisses the allegations surrounding what I said on a plane to journalists in these terms:

'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 that was taken by the Prime Minister and his officials in 10 Downing Street on 8 July was confined to issuing a statement that an un-named 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'. "Let me now return to the two central allegations. On 29 May 2003, following the end of the conflict in Iraq, the BBC "Today" programme broadcast a story by its defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan. It dominated the morning bulletins and reverberates to this day. It alleged that part of the September 2002 dossier—that Saddam could use WMD within 45 minutes of an order to do so—had been inserted into it by Downing Street, contrary to the wishes of the intelligence services and that moreover we, 'probably knew it was wrong even before we decided to put it in'. There could not be a more serious charge. The source for this extraordinary allegation was said by the BBC to be, 'a senior official in charge of drawing up that dossier', and an, 'intelligence service source', implying a member of the JIC or assessments staff who would be in a position to know. If true, it would have meant that I had misled this House on 24 September and the country, that I had done so deliberately, and I had behaved wholly improperly in respect of the intelligence services.

"From that day, 29 May onwards, that story in one form or another has been replayed many times in the UK, and all over the world. It dominated my press conference in Poland on 30 May and PMQs when I returned. It led that week to the Foreign Affairs Committee deciding to conduct an inquiry into the issue. In particular, on the Sunday following the story, Mr Gilligan wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday, not merely standing by the story but naming Alastair Campbell as the person responsible in Downing Street. The headline read:

'I asked my intelligence source why Blair misled us all over Saddam's weapons. His reply? One word … CAMPBELL'. This again, was completely untrue, and not merely stood up but further inflamed the original allegation of deceit.

"The BBC has never clearly and visibly withdrawn this allegation. This has allowed others to say repeatedly I lied and misled Parliament over the 24 September dossier.

"Let me make it plain: it is absolutely right that people can question whether the intelligence received was right and why we have not yet found WMD. There is an entirely legitimate argument about the wisdom of the conflict. I happen to believe now, as I did in March, that removing Saddam has made the world a safer and better place. But others are entirely entitled to disagree.

"However, all of this is of a completely different order from a charge of deception, of duplicity, of deceit, a charge that I or anyone else deliberately falsified intelligence.

"The truth about that charge is now found. No intelligence was inserted into the dossier by Downing Street; nothing was put in it against the wishes of the intelligence services; no-one, either in Downing Street or the JIC, put any intelligence into it, 'probably knowing it was wrong'; and no such claim to the BBC was made by anyone, 'in charge of drawing up the dossier'. Indeed, Lord Hutton's findings go further. The claim was not even made by Dr Kelly himself.

"The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on WMD is itself the real lie. And I simply ask that those who made it and those who have repeated it over all these months now withdraw it, fully, openly and clearly.

"Furthermore, Lord Hutton deals with the issue of the 45 minute claim. Instead of this being disputed by the intelligence services and inserted into the dossier at the behest of Alastair Campbell or Downing Street, the true position was that a concern about how it was phrased in the dossier was raised by a Dr Jones in Defence Intelligence Services, was rejected by the Head of Defence Intelligence and never actually came to the attention of the chairman of the JIC let alone Downing Street.

"In any event, Dr Jones did not say it should have been omitted from the dossier. On the contrary, Dr Jones thought it should be included as it was 'important intelligence'. Dr Jones told the inquiry that Dr Kelly thought the dossier was 'good' and Mr A, from the Counter Proliferation Arms Control Department, said of himself and Dr Kelly, Both of us believed that if you took the dossier as a whole it was a reasonable and accurate reflection of the intelligence that we had available to us at that time'. "Lord Hutton does fairly comment: 'However, I consider that the possibility cannot be completely ruled out that the desire of the Prime Minister to have a dossier which, whilst consistent with the available intelligence, was as strong as possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have sub-consciously influenced Mr Scarlett and other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment'. "However Lord Hutton goes on to say: 'although this possibility cannot be completely ruled out, I am satisfied that Mr Scarlett, the other members of the JIC, and the members of the assessments staff engaged in the drafting of the dossier were concerned to ensure that the contents of the dossier were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC'. "Lord Hutton also says, in terms, that Mr Scarlett, 'only accepted those suggestions which were consistent with the intelligence known to the JIC and he rejected those suggestions which were not consistent with such intelligence'. "I hope that from now on the wholly unjustified attacks on the chairman of the JIC, John Scarlett, and the JIC will cease. These people are people dedicated to this country and its well-being. The publication of intelligence by Government—which we did, let me remind the House, because of the clamour for it—was a unique exercise never done before, and difficult for all our agencies. But in the interests of openly sharing intelligence with people, they worked hard in good faith to release it properly. And let me also remind the House that when this dossier was published, it was routinely described at the time as 'low key' and by Mr Gilligan, no less, on 24 September 2002 as, 'sensibly cautious and measured', and actually moved public opinion hardly at all. Only in retrospect was it elevated into the single thing that conclusively persuaded a reluctant country to war.

"The dossier reflected independent reports such as that of the IISS on 9 September. It reflected precisely that evidence which led the UN Security Council unanimously in November 2002 to agree Saddam and his weapons posed a threat to the world. The 45 minute claim was in fact mentioned once by me in my Statement in this House on 24 September and not mentioned by me again in any debate, not even in the debate on 18 March or indeed by anyone else in that debate. Only again in retrospect has history been rewritten to establish it as the one crucial claim that marched the nation into conflict.

"Lord Hutton establishes clearly why the 45 minutes was put in the dossier, what its provenance was—and whether or not subsequently it turned out to be correct or not—finds it was put into the dossier entirely in good faith by the JIC.

"So much for the first charge of dishonesty over the dossier.

"The second charge was over the naming of Dr Kelly. Again throughout these past six months, the context in which this has been debated has largely been that Dr Kelly's name should not have been revealed, it should have remained confidential and therefore anyone, including myself, who discussed or acted upon the issue was acting improperly.

"In hindsight, of course, the name of Dr Kelly and his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee has taken on a different and altogether more tragic aspect. Rightly, Lord Hutton puts it back into its proper contemporary context.

"The truth is that by early July the Foreign Affairs Committee was actively engaged in examining the truth of the Gilligan allegations and due to report on 7 July. The Intelligence and Security Committee was about to begin its deliberations the same week. Evidence had already been given by the Government to the Foreign Affairs Committee and all of us, myself included, were due to give evidence to the ISC, beginning with the chairman of the JIC, on 9 July.

"Suddenly in late June, Dr Kelly came forward and said to his managers he believed he may have been at least part of the source for the Gilligan story. That information was given to me personally on 3 July. By Monday 7 July it was apparent that: in all likelihood he was indeed the source of the Gilligan story.

"The dilemma we were in, therefore, as Lord Hutton accepts, was how we could possibly keep this information secret not just from the FAC, who had just taken evidence on this very point: but also from the ISC who were about to interview us all about the intelligence relating to Iraq, with the first session on the morning of Wednesday 9 July.

"The evidence, very frankly given, of both my right honourable friend, the Chairman of the FAC, and at least one of the Committee's members, was that if they had been told that the MoD knew the source and had interviewed him, the FAC would have wanted to do the same. As, of course, they did. Indeed, they told the inquiry that they would have liked to have been told sooner.

"The context therefore for the meetings on 7/8 July which I chaired was how to act properly in relation to these two committees where we were in possession of information plainly relevant to their inquiries and when one committee was on the point of publication and another about to begin proceedings.

"The evidence of Sir David Omand was that it would be 'improper' to keep this information secret and that we were under a duty to reveal it to Parliament. So as Lord Hutton accepts the whole basis of the claim that somehow Dr Kelly should never have been named or that his name was leaked in breach of a duty of confidentiality is based on a false premise. On the contrary our duty was to disclose his name to the committees and allow them to interview him if they so wished; and Lord Hutton finds that our concern, at being accused of misleading those committees was 'well-founded'.

"In any event, again as Lord Hutton finds, no one in fact 'leaked' his name. Not myself, not the Secretary of State, not the officials. As Lord Hutton finds, the decision by the MoD to confirm Dr Kelly's name, if the correct name was put to it by a journalist, was based on the view that in a matter of such intense public and media interest it would not be sensible to try to conceal it.

"There was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy to name Dr Kelly. He was named for the reason we gave. And again I ask that those that have repeatedly claimed that I lied over this issue or that Sir Kevin Tebbit did, now withdraw that allegation also, unequivocally and in full.

"Lord Hutton does however find that the MoD was at fault in not telling Dr Kelly clearly and immediately that his name would be confirmed to the press if it was put to the MoD. The MoD accepts these findings. However Lord Hutton goes on to say: 'However these criticisms are subject to the mitigating circumstances that (1) Dr Kelly's exposure to press attention and intrusion, whilst obviously very stressful, was only one of the factors placing him under greater stress; (2) individual officials in the MOD did try to help and support him in the ways which I have described in paragraphs 430 and 431; and (3) because of his intensely private nature, Dr Kelly was not an easy man to help or to whom to give advice'. "I believe that the civil servants concerned were acting in good faith doing their best in difficult and unusual circumstances. Lord Hutton has not criticised any individuals in the MoD. Some have been subject to trenchant media criticisms far beyond what they ever should have had to bear. Sir Kevin Tebbit has, as has my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. Both are cleared of any allegations of impropriety. My right honourable friend in particular has been subject to a constant barrage of such claims as parts of the media have alternated between wanting his scalp or mine.

"I hope that these attacks on him over this issue also cease.

"I come to the final issue: the cause of Dr Kelly's death; in effect, why he took his own life, since it is now beyond doubt that he did.

"Lord Hutton finds that no one could have foreseen that Dr Kelly would commit suicide. He finds further that in all probability, he did not decide to do so until the day of his death. He finds that the reason he did so was not for any reason of conspiracy or dark motives. The truth is that Dr Kelly did speak to Mr Gilligan and whatever the distortion, it was an unauthorised meeting, as was his conversation with Susan Watts, the 'Newsnight' journalist; and he was surprised to be asked about this at the FAC. Lord Hutton finds that the existence of a note of that conversation must have weighed heavily on his mind. Finally, on the day of his death he received notice of a series of parliamentary Questions about his contacts which he was going to have to answer.

"Dr Kelly was a decent man, whose very decency made him feel wretched about the situation in which he found himself.

"No one wished this tragedy to happen. All of us felt, and feel still, desperately sorry for Mrs Kelly and her family. None of us could have foreseen it because none of us, at that time, knew what Dr Kelly knew.

"Lord Hutton puts it in this way at paragraph 15 of his report: 'I also consider it to be important to state in this early part of the report that I am satisfied that none of the persons whose decisions and actions I later describe ever contemplated that Dr Kelly might take his own life. I am further satisfied that none of those persons was at fault in not contemplating that Dr Kelly might take his own life. Whatever pressures and strains Dr Kelly was subject to by the decisions and actions taken in the weeks before his death, I am satisfied that no-one realised or should have realised that those pressures and strains might drive him to take his own life or contribute to his decision to do so'. "In conclusion, I repeat what Lord Hutton said in his summary, at page 322.

'The communication by the media of information (including information obtained by investigative reporters) on matters of public interest and importance is a vital part of life in a democratic society. However the right to communicate such information is subject to the qualification (which itself exists for the benefit of a democratic society) that false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others, including politicians, should not be made by the media'. "That is how this began: with an accusation that was false then and is false now.

"We can have the debate about the war; about WMD; about intelligence. But we do not need to conduct it by accusations of lies and deceit. We can respect each other's motives and integrity even when in disagreement.

"Let me repeat the words of Lord Hutton: 'False accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others …should not be made' "Let those who made them now withdraw them".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.37 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for repeating the Statement this afternoon. It is a long Statement and comes after the publication of an extremely long report. I hope that noble Lords will take time in examining it before the House debates it a week today.

We now know that the Prime Minister believes that everything he did was right; that the Government have nothing to apologise for and that he proposes no action to change the culture in his Government to avoid what happened to Dr Kelly ever happening again.

I wonder if I was alone in finding the Statement just a little self-righteous in what was said. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, says at paragraph 472, I have no doubt that…the Government will take note of the criticisms which I have made in this report". Sadly, the Prime Minister said nothing to justify that confidence. So perhaps the noble and learned Lord can make it clear in his response that the Government will take those criticisms seriously and will take action to implement the changes that are so clearly needed.

We on this side of the House accept the findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, in full. His report was in response to narrow terms of reference. The comments in his report as to matters that he was unable to investigate underline yet again how much there is that the public yet needs to know, and deserves to know, about the origins and planning of this war. The call for a wider public inquiry into this matter is not stilled by the Hutton report. Indeed, I believe that it is strengthened by the report and I hope that the noble and learned Lord will tell the House that such an inquiry will now be established.

Turning to the substance of the report, the fundamental truth remains stark and unavoidable. Last July, a distinguished public servant, whose record of service to the country was set out in the warmest terms by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton— he was hounded by the media about whose onset he had not been warned and let down in a number of respects by his employers, as the noble and learned Lord finds—in utter despair at his predicament, walked out on his loving family and in an isolated wood took his own life.

We must never forget the human dimension of this tragedy. Dr Kelly was caught up in a war of words of obsessive intensity and ferocity between No. 10 and the BBC. He was used as a pawn in that war by both sides, with little understanding, if any, of what the consequences would be for him. The consequences could not have been more dire. As the Kelly family has rightly said again today, no public servant should ever be put in such a position again.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, finds as unequivocal fact what has previously been a matter of some uncertainty. The decision to issue a press statement that led to the naming and hounding of Dr Kelly was taken by the Prime Minister on Tuesday, 8 July. He describes, and the evidence given to the inquiry described, the frenetic series of unminuted meetings, unrecorded telephone calls and conversations between the Prime Minister, Mr Hoon and Mr Campbell, not about whether to release Dr Kelly's name but about how and when to do so. It is clear that all concerned knew that the action taken would lead to the outing of Dr Kelly's name. I find it difficult to equate that finding with the Defence Secretary's statement on oath that he made, great efforts to ensure Dr Kelly's anonymity". Perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor can explain Mr Hoon's statement.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, acquits the Prime Minister of any dishonourable intention. He says that the Government were anxious only not to be accused of a cover up; if only the Government were always so free with their information. I accept the view that was taken by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. But is it not an inescapable fact that, intended or not, the events set in train on that day in No. 10 led to a terrible conclusion? A man who would have been alive today is dead. The result may never have been intended. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, may be right to say that the Government acted reasonably in issuing a press statement, but those close to Dr Kelly will find little comfort in the fact that the wrong thing was done for the right reason.

So will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor apologise fully and unreservedly to Dr Kelly and his family on behalf of the Government? When he replies, will he also say, without qualification, what the Prime Minister failed to say; "We are sorry that our actions led to Dr Kelly's death and we apologise unreservedly"?

Noble Lords


Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, noble Lords will have an opportunity in a few moments to ask questions of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concludes by saying that he does not make any recommendations because he is certain that both the BBC and the Government will take note of the criticisms made in his report. I trust that that will be done. He is right to say that the BBC has a very great deal to reflect on. No one in this House would for a moment question the serious criticisms levelled at the BBC. However, will the noble and learned Lord set out the actions that the Government will take in the light of this report? The evidence given to the inquiry throws light on the ugly and unappealing culture of life at the top of government—expletives deleted and all. It shows a Prime Minister spending hours and days not fretting about the health service or schools but about a war of spin with the BBC. I recognise that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, finds that Mr Campbell sexed up the dossier—

Noble Lords


Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, in paragraph 228(8)— in an acceptable way. However, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, certainly confirms that Mr Campbell was up to his neck in drafting and redrafting the document. It may be that the intelligence services on this occasion managed to restrain his enthusiasm just on the right side of what would have amounted to changing the evidence, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concludes. However, is it not the case that on matters of peace and war and intelligence of this kind, on which the lives of many thousands of people may depend, it is inherently undesirable that a political appointee should be involved in the drafting and redrafting of such a document? There is a risk of the intelligence services and indeed other civil servants being drawn too far into essentially political matters and public confidence in them being undermined. In matters so important, the public interest and public confidence and trust in government cannot be put at risk.

Does the noble and learned Lord therefore agree that these events underlie the need for four measures? First, an end to the system whereby any political appointee inside government is enabled to issue instructions to civil servants; secondly, a reinforcement of the ministerial and Civil Service codes such that factual documents of the kind represented by the dossier, and certainly those relating to intelligence, should be drafted by civil servants and civil servants only; thirdly, a reinforcement of the ministerial and Civil Service codes such that no civil servant can again be treated as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, finds Dr Kelly was, left without the support that he was entitled to expect from his line managers in a position of such pressure; and, fourthly, as a matter of urgency in this Session of Parliament, a Civil Service Bill on the lines recommended by the Public Administration Select Committee in another place. Will he set in hand all those measures, in order to restore a proper separation between the political and official arms of government?

Dr Kelly's death was an avoidable tragedy. The consequence was unintended. But consequence it was of a culture of government and a loss of any sense of proportion at the top of government obsessed with the media. Only a real will to change the culture of government can go some small way towards atoning for Dr Kelly's tragic death—that and the renewed commitment to the wish to be open and avoid any suspicion of cover up. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, finds that avoiding any charge of cover up was the motivating force of government in taking the action that led to Dr Kelly's name becoming known. If that truly was the Prime Minister's motivation in those dark and difficult days, a wider inquiry into the origins of the war must inevitably now follow, with terms of reference cast far wider than the restricted ones given to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. Announce such an inquiry today, and the whole country will see that the Government have nothing to cover up in relation to the origins of the Iraq war and no wish to hide it from the British people.

3.47 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for repeating the Statement made in another place. I add my regrets and those of these Benches for the very sad death of Dr Kelly, who, whatever the later arguments swirling around his name, was clearly a very considerable and remarkable public servant who dedicated most of his life to the pursuit of the legitimate aims of a country such as ours to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We extend to his family our deep sympathy.

It is important to start where the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, started. In paragraph 9 of his report, he specifically states that he does not regard himself as having the right to go into the detailed material concerning the issues of weapons of mass destruction or the origins of and arguments for the war. He also said in so many terms that he believed that it would be right and proper to consider the issue of whether or not the evidence provided was "sexed up" in an unacceptable way. The noble and learned Lord said: The term 'sexed-up' is a slang expression … It is capable of two different meanings. It could mean that the dossier was embellished with items of intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable … or it could mean that whilst the intelligence contained in the dossier was believed to be reliable, the dossier was drafted in such a way as to make the case against Saddam Hussein as strong as the intelligence contained in it permitted. If the term is used in this latter sense, then because of the drafting suggestions made by 10 Downing Street for the purpose of making a strong case against Saddam Hussein, it could be said that the Government 'sexed-up' the dossier". The next question is: did they?

Noble Lords


Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I have quoted from this whole section. I now turn to the ways in which that happened. In the original draft dossier, Iraq was said to be able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes. That language was queried by Mr Campbell. He then received a reply from Mr Scarlett saying, the language you queried … has been tightened". The dossier was finally published to read, the Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within forty five minutes". I repeat: "able to deploy", instead of "may be able to deploy".

Under delegated authority, Mr Scarlett removed the following phrase from the original document: Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat". That was what the Joint Intelligence Committee said. The crucial phrase, if he believes his regime is under threat", was removed by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the direct prompting of Jonathan Powell, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff.

I could go on, but it is clear that the final dossier was different in certain critical respects from the original dossier. As, indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, points out in paragraphs 210 to 218, which I suggest the House should read carefully, that follows from the fact that Mr Alastair Campbell made no less than 16 proposals for altering and strengthening the dossier.

I draw several conclusions from that. It is incredibly dangerous to run together political servants in the employ of a Prime Minister with the absolute necessity for independence and integrity in the intelligence services. While I in no way wish to suggest that it would be wrong to do so or that the Prime Minister lied, the truth is that the appearance of that intervention has, in the eyes of our public, done grave damage to the integrity of the intelligence services.

Because of time restraints, I shall turn quickly to one other comment. I believe that the Ministry of Defence was rightly criticised for failing to inform a fragile and vulnerable figure—Dr Kelly—that he was about to be revealed as the source of the intelligence on both 8 and 9 July. I also believe that the BBC—the BBC is a jewel of integrity in this country in the reporting of information—must now address the weaknesses in its senior management that allowed its conduct of this case to fall below the standards to which it normally and, thank goodness for this country, usually adheres.

Finally, I want to say that the great issues still lie, as the Leader of the Opposition said, unplumbed. However, perhaps I should also add that, in my view, it is not for the Conservatives to raise questions when they themselves accepted, without query, the case for a war against Iraq.

However, profound questions arise about the intelligence that was used to support that war and about the reasons that were given for conducting and carrying it out. I remind the House that on this very day in the United States Congress, evidence is being given by the leader of the Iraq Security Group to the effect that, in his opinion, no weapons of mass destruction are stockpiled and have not been since shortly after the first Gulf War. He said that he did not believe that they would or could have been used. Even the Secretary of State said that, in his view, the question was now open. It is therefore of critical importance to the integrity of this Government and this country that these issues are explored in great detail by a further and far wider inquiry.

3.54 p.m.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I fully appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has had only a few hours to read the report. As he will know from the Statement made by my right honourable friend in another place, we accept the criticisms in relation to not telling Dr Kelly that his name would be confirmed if stated and in relation to not telling him immediately—it took about an hour and a half—that his name had in fact been confirmed. We utterly accept those criticisms.

What was disappointing and worrying about the noble Lord's response was that he did not appear to have gathered the full import of the report. The crucial finding of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, was that a very grave allegation had been made against the Government; namely, that they had deliberately put into a report false information and that they had done so against the wishes of the intelligence services. As soon as that statement had been made, the Government denied it emphatically. In fact, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has now inquired into the situation and has discovered, first, that Dr Kelly never made such an allegation. Therefore, there was no basis for Mr Gilligan to make that finding. Secondly, he found that it was perfectly legitimate for the Government to protest, and to continue protesting, and to seek to have that put right.

Two parliamentary committees set up investigations into whether or not the allegation was true. If someone had come forward, as someone did, saying that he could be the source of Mr Gilligan's allegation, how could it have been legitimate to keep that information from the two committees investigating the matter? Surely any government would have had to bring that forward and surely it was inevitable that the name would come out. That is what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, found.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is popular in this House and is regarded as a decent person. However, I found what he said distressing and disappointing.

Every single person in this House will appreciate the sensitivities of those who have been investigated and will realise that people might wrongly say that they had contributed to the death of that fine public servant. The remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde—albeit because he did not have enough time to read the report—were not helpful and, in my view, were irresponsible.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams—again, I am sure that it was because she did not have enough time to prepare properly for her comments—read half the quotation in relation to the sexing-up of the dossier and gave an entirely misleading impression of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, found. She read one part but then did not read the next part, which states: However in the context of the broadcasts in which the 'sexing-up' allegation was reported and having regard to the other allegations reported in those broadcasts I consider that the allegation"— that is, the allegation that the dossier was sexed up— was unfounded as it would have been understood by those who heard the broadcasts to mean that the dossier had been embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false or unreliable, which was not the case Therefore, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, makes an explicit finding rejecting the allegation of sexing up.

As to the other parts of the noble Baroness's intervention, she said that it was wrong for people in 10 Downing Street to play a part in commenting on the dossier. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, explicitly finds the reverse. He finds that it was perfectly appropriate for No. 10 to comment because this was a document for which the Prime Minister would take responsibility in Parliament. I quote the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton: As the dossier was one to be presented to, and read by, Parliament and the public, and was not an intelligence assessment to be considered only by the Government, I do not consider that it was improper for Mr Scarlett and the JIC to take into account suggestions as to drafting made by 10 Downing Street' Therefore, I believe that both the allegations that the noble Baroness made were misleading and wrong, but I am sure that that was not deliberate.

3.59 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, does my noble and learned friend not agree that over recent months fine government servants, as well as members of the Government, have been subjected to the most scurrilous allegations about their professional and personal integrity, all of which the excellent report from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, finds to be unfounded? Does he agree that those who made those allegations should now apologise and withdraw them?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I strongly agree. What is so distressing about the view of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams—which I am sure is because they have not had time to read the report—is that they will not accept that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has acquitted all those public servants, whether political or official, of the wrongdoing that has so often been misalleged against them.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor can help on a matter that is puzzling me. Why, when the Government were so anxious to correct the statements made by Mr Gilligan, were they not equally anxious to correct the false impression given in the Prime Minister's foreword to the September dossier? I remind your Lordships of the foreword, which states that Saddam Hussein's, military planning allows for some of the weapons of mass destruction to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them". The Prime Minister said that without differentiating between battlefield weapons and strategic weapons. Why, therefore, when the Sun newspaper ran the headline, "45 Minutes to Doom", did not the Prime Minister say at once, as was the case, that the statement in the foreword that some weapons of mass destruction could be ready within 45 minutes was a reference to battlefield weapons only, and that there was no question of strategic weapons being ready within 45 minutes or of a threat to this country? The Prime Minister seems to have been happy for the public to remain misled when it suited him for them to be so.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, it is rather unrealistic to suggest that the Prime Minister should correct every false statement in a newspaper. If the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, reads the report—I certainly do not criticise him for not having done so— he will see that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, concludes that the report to which the foreword refers represented an entirely legitimate account of the intelligence then available.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I join in gratitude that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, undertook the task, and in compassion and sympathy for the pain and suffering of the Kelly family, which has been made sharp again today.

There is a tendency in this country that is sometimes encouraged by the media and politicians—or, indeed, by the Church and faith communities—to rush to judgment. The danger of wanting things to be absolutely in black and white was perhaps the trait that the inquiry has highlighted. We should be wary of repeating that now. The humility implicit in not rushing to judgment has a wider resonance. Power and influence exist to be exercised, but with a humility that makes us pause before seeing our fellow human beings, whoever or whatever they are, as mere instruments or tools for others.

Does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor agree that whatever the long-term lessons to be learnt from this tragedy, it already highlights a deep lack of trust within our society? The building, or rebuilding of trust, be it in the media, politics, or in the Church and faith communities, takes effort, time and patience. There are no quick fixes.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate that trust is at the heart of the issue. I also agree that rebuilding trust will take a considerable time. One aspect of trust, and a point that was emphasised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, time and again, was not to make false allegations against people's integrity. There still appears to be no apology or withdrawal now that there is a definitive account of what happened. We know that neither Sir Kevin Tebbit nor my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was telling an untruth, as Mr Michael Howard alleged in the House of Commons. Yet, there has been not a sound of a withdrawal now that the position is plain. I cannot understand that.

Lord Howe of Aberavon

My Lords, I join those who have paid tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, for the competence, speed and comprehensive quality of his report, and for the skill with which he has conducted the inquiry.

I also express unqualified relief that the Prime Minister has been acquitted of dishonesty. Relieved though I may be in that respect, one cannot be at all reassured at the circumstances which gave rise to the allegation and to the need to refute it.

On one aspect, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor acknowledges fault. Dr Kelly is the victim whose death gave rise to the inquiry. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, demonstrated that there was a curious lack of consistency in the Government's handling of the disclosure of his name. On the one hand there was an endeavour to prevent it leaking out, but on the other there was a determination that it should leak out. It is clear that it was not published, but it was left to a kind of journalistic Russian roulette.

It is equally clear that Dr Kelly had no idea when his name would leak out, and for a considerable time, had no idea that it had leaked out. He was handled with what I might call casual ruthlessness. What worries us so much about the conduct of this matter is the sustained tenacity to achieve calculated ambiguity in the handling of information. Now that I have expressed my relief at the acquittal of the Prime Minister and others—there is nothing worse than being accused of dishonesty when there is no foundation for it—I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will acknowledge that there is something unsatisfactory about the conduct of the Government in the respects that I have tried to identify. Something is embedded in the culture of government, and I should love to see it removed.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I do not blame the noble and learned Lord, but he gave a thoroughly inaccurate account of the findings of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, on the way in which government works. The noble and learned Lord said that the name came to the Ministry of Defence at or about the end of June or the beginning of July, and it took considerable trouble to ensure that Dr Kelly was the single source as it was not 100 per cent sure. The MoD was rightly criticised for not warning Dr Kelly in advance that his name would be confirmed—there being an hour or two before telling him that it was confirmed.

The idea that there was deliberate ambiguity, or that there was ruthlessness is not the flavour of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, finds. He specifically draws attention to three mitigating circumstances, which are referred to in the Statement made by my right honourable friend. First, there were other factors pressing on Dr Kelly at the time. Secondly, people in the MoD did try to support him. And, thirdly, he was a difficult man to help. With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and without impugning his motives for a moment, he did not convey accurately what the report says.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor agree with me that this has been a bad day for the Opposition, and a bad day for Parliament? Would it not be much more dignified if, both here and in another place, it was recognised that the report underlines the total exoneration of the Prime Minister? The Opposition have indulged repeatedly in allegations of deceit and duplicity. It would be much more fitting if the Opposition in both Houses threw in the towel.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, it is for others to judge how bad or good a day it has been for the Opposition. My noble friend's account of the report is accurate. I share the concern expressed by my noble friend Lady Ramsay that nobody in this House should encourage the sense that honourable public servants, whether officials or politicians, are to blame for events, when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, has made it absolutely clear that they are not. That is especially true in such an area of sensitivity as we are discussing.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor confirm that Dr Kelly, who was a distinguished scientific civil servant, was authorised to speak to journalists about matters concerning his work? Is it not right to say that occasionally journalists were referred to Dr Kelly as an expert on Iraq and that that could be the possible source of the great tragedy that befell him? He was a scientist doing scientific work, but if he was authorised to speak to the press—journalists will press their interviewees for the best result that they can obtain for their particular viewpoint—that could be the source of the trouble. Should not the rules in regard to this matter be looked at anew?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that in certain specified circumstances Dr Kelly was authorised to speak to the press; he is right to say that Dr Kelly was a distinguished scientist; and he is right to say that from time to time journalists were referred to Dr Kelly to deal with particular issues. However, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, also finds unequivocally that he was not authorised to speak to Mr Gilligan on 22 May, which was the conversation that led to the broadcast on 29 May. I do not believe that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, commented in his report on whether overall the rules of authority need to be tightened.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that today two people have said that they agree entirely with the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton? The Prime Minister said it and the noble Lord, Lord Srathclyde, said it. Does my noble and learned friend believe that the ensuing comments of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, were compatible with complete acceptance of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, in particular, when having said that he accepted the report in full, he went on to imply that the Secretary of State for Defence had some culpability in the death of Dr Kelly, a death that we all regret and in which we find sorrow? Does he also find incompatible with full acceptance the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, tries to quote a paragraph, but misquotes it, and goes on to imply that there were government responsibilities for Dr Kelly's death? When the Leader of the Opposition sees fit to apologise for his statements, would it not be appropriate for the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to apologise equally for exaggerating the claims even further this afternoon?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I heard the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, say that he accepted all the findings of the report. It was perfectly plain from what the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, then said that he had not read the report—he obviously had not read the whole report. What he said clearly was not consistent with the report that I read.

Lord King of Bridgwater

My Lords, is it not clear that there is great public interest in the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, partly because the public was under the impression that it would cover much wider terms of reference than the noble and learned Lord was asked to discharge? while the House accepts that the Government have been exonerated from knowingly using false intelligence, the issue will arise of great public concern about the fact that intelligence has apparently proved to be quite incorrect. I reinforce the point that following the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, there will be public disappointment that he did not deal with the wider issues and that, in the interests of the intelligence services as regards their integrity and reputation, it will be necessary for the Government to address those matters.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I do not agree with the initial premise of the noble Lord. He said that the reason why there was great public interest in the report related to whether the intelligence was reliable, ignoring issues about what untruths were said. As my right honourable friend said in another place, the reason for the great interest is that people have persistently said that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had lied and behaved duplicitously in relation to this matter. That kept the interest alive. On whether there should be an inquiry into the reliability of intelligence, no, I do not believe that that would be appropriate.

Lord Davies of Coity

My Lords, today we are debating an independent and very lengthy report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton. I am distressed and disappointed that, although the leaders of the opposition parties clearly welcome and indeed accept the findings of the Hutton report, they go on to cherry-pick certain paragraphs, sometimes quoting and qualifying their statements and sometimes misquoting. That is a great disappointment. We have been at war with Iraq and many members of our armed services have been killed as a result of that war. Dr Kelly has committed suicide and his family is extremely distressed. It seems to me that the approach taken by the opposition parties in respect of the report today is rather shameful and somewhat shallow. I hope that in the future they will cease that behaviour. Does my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor agree with me that they have been shameful and shallow in their responses?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I have made completely clear what I think about the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I withdraw completely the word "learned" in relation to the noble Lord—some would regard it as an insult. His remarks were irresponsible and I hope that he will withdraw them.

Lord Hunt of Wirral

My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor accept that in various parts of the report the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, confesses that his narrow terms of reference do not cover a number of very key issues? I do not believe that the Lord Chancellor has yet responded positively to the call for a wider inquiry. Does he accept that what unites this House is a feeling of deep sadness for the friends and family of the late David Kelly? Does he also accept that many noble Lords have not had the opportunity of reading every word in the report? I have spent several hours doing so and as my noble friend Lord Strathclyde pointed out, in paragraph 472 the noble and learned Lord states: I have decided that it is unnecessary for me to make any express recommendations because I have no doubt that the BBC and the Government will take note of the criticisms which I have made in this report Will the noble and learned Lord accept from me that there are not just the two narrow points that he mentioned, but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, also refers to a number of disquieting elements? I know that the Lord Chancellor received the report only yesterday, but when we debate the issue I hope that he will be able to come forward with some constructive points in answer to my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, who made four points. In this country we are proud of the independence, impartiality and integrity of our civil servants. I believe that the family and friends of David Kelly want to be reassured that the circumstances in which he endured the agony through which he was put can never occur again to one of our civil servants.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Lord has said about our feelings towards Dr Kelly and his family. As far as I could see the four points made by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, did not come from the report; they were more general points and were not based on the report. I dealt explicitly with whether there should be a wider inquiry when it was put by the noble Lord, Lord King, and I said that I did not believe that that would be appropriate.

On the terms of reference of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, being restricted, at no stage was there any suggestion that he should inquire into the reliability or otherwise of the intelligence. He was to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly and there was never any allusion to the intelligence.