Bahai News -- BBC - Blair's 'shameful' treatment of Kelly Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK

Blair's 'shameful' treatment of Kelly

Tony Blair returns to Downing Street

Tony Blair's evidence at the Hutton inquiry has failed to defuse criticism of the government's treatment of arms expert Dr David Kelly.

The Tories and Lib Dems criticised Mr Blair as it was announced by the Hutton inquiry that it would publish 130 new documents on Friday at 1400 BST.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith accused the prime minister of "underhand" and "shameful" treatment of Dr Kelly, who killed himself days after giving evidence to a government committee.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said he was not sure if "knowing what we know now" MPs would back war with Iraq.

Monday: Dr Kelly's widow Janice, members of his family and friends
Tuesday: Michael Page, assistant chief constable of Thames Valley Police and others involved in search for Dr Kelly; Dr Nicholas Hunt, who carried out the post-mortem examination; a psychiatrist
Wednesday: A member of the Baha'i faith, of which Dr Kelly was a member
Kelly inquiry 'not Blair's Watergate'
The prime minister was giving evidence to the inquiry into the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly, the source for the BBC report about intelligence in last September's dossier being exaggerated to make the case for war.

The Hutton inquiry has now adjourned for the weekend.

Mr Blair's performance in front of the inquiry was previewed by many commentators as likely to be the most significant moment in the inquiry and a key test of his credibility.

It was suggested that Mr Hoon's bullish performance on Wednesday and his shifting of the blame for the treatment of Dr Kelly had heaped pressure on the prime minister.

Giving a stark evaluation of the impact of the BBC's story, Mr Blair said if it was true it "would have merited my resignation".

But Mr Blair did tell the inquiry he took responsibility for the media strategy which led to Dr Kelly being publicly named as the suspected source of the BBC Today programme story.

Set up after apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly in July
Dr Kelly was government expert in Iraq weapons programmes
He was named as source of controversial BBC report
Report alleged government had 'sexed up' a dossier on Iraq's weapons capability
Government denies the allegations

Witnessing Blair's historic appearance
BBC chairman 'mounts robust defence'

Mr Duncan Smith said: "What the prime minister said begs a huge amount of questions - for example, he said they couldn't release the name of Dr Kelly publicly yet he was happy to see his name released in an underhand way and see his reputation destroyed by Downing Street officials both before and after his death.

"The prime minister knew about, and was satisfied with, the underhand treatment of Dr Kelly and the systematic attempt to destroy his reputation both before and after his death."

Mr Kennedy said the prime minister had contradicted himself.

'Raging storm'

"He said he took responsibility for identifying Dr Kelly to the press, yet, shortly after Dr Kelly died, he told journalists travelling with him that 'emphatically... I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly'.

"When was he telling the truth?"

In his evidence, Mr Blair described a "raging storm" which erupted in the wake of BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's report and argued the inclusion of Mr Campbell's name later in the story meant it was "no longer a small item".

Mr Blair said that although Joint Intelligence Committee head John Scarlett was in charge of the dossier's drafting, he had had "no doubt" that Number 10 press chief Alastair Campbell would help with the presentation of the document.

Of the release of Dr Kelly's identity, he said: "The basic view would have been not to offer the name but on the other hand not to mislead people."

He continued: "The trouble was it was fairly obvious the name was going to come out. The most that you were doing with the public statement was a getting a short breathing space."

Nothing in the discussions had suggested the scientist was "anything other than someone of a certain robustness who was used to dealing with the interchange between politics and the media".

©Copyright 2003, BBC (UK)

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