No 10 and Ministry of Defence at odds over terms of inquiry

Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence were at loggerheads last night over the terms of reference of the inquiry into the death of military arms expert David Kelly.

Officials from No 10 are understood to be concerned about limiting the focus of the inquiry, while senior staff at the MoD do not want to be made scapegoats for the affair.

Under a compromise arrangement, the law lord chosen to head the investigation will have a brief to consider the events surrounding the death but not the political issues of the use made of the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. It is expected that Lord Hutton, a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, will be asked to head the inquiry.

The move follows pressure from opposition parties for a wide-ranging inquiry into the affair that began with a report by Andrew Gilligan, the defence correspondent for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, which claimed that Downing Street had "sexed up" one of the intelligence dossiers on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability.

Last night Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, said the inquiry should be as wide-ranging as possible and established under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921.

The arrangements announced yesterday do not constitute a full-blown judicial inquiry. Under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, judges sitting on statutory inquiries have the same powers as they do when they are sitting in the High Court. Judges have far-reaching powers to subpoena witnesses and call for new evidence. All witnesses have to answer questions from senior counsel under threat of contempt of court.