Campbell and Hoon to return as Hutton nears end

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Indy Politics

The Hutton inquiry will reach its finale this week with Tony Blair's inner circle during the Iraq war coming under critical scrutiny.

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary; Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of communications and strategy; Tom Kelly, Mr Blair's official spokesman; Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent secretary at the MoD; and John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, are due to face questions over the death of Dr David Kelly and their roles in compiling last September's Iraq weapons dossier.

Serious discrepancies will be highlighted between Mr Campbell's evidence and documents released by the inquiry, as well as testimony that came later, by counsel for the inquiry, the BBC and the family of Dr Kelly.

Mr Campbell assured the inquiry he had "no input, output, no involvement'' in drawing up the September dossier. But official papers posted on the inquiry's website showed he asked Mr Scarlett, who was in charge of compiling the dossier, for 15 changes to the draft just a week before its publication on 24 September. These included one concerning the key claim that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical and biological attacks within 45 minutes.

Mr Campbell had also claimed that he played no part in the naming of Dr Kelly. But this was disproved by one of his own deputies, Godric Smith, and Geoff Hoon. They told the inquiry how Mr Campbell had wanted to leak Dr Kelly's name to a "friendly'' newspaper, and had to be dissuaded.

Mr Kelly faces tough questioning over his lobby briefing that gave journalists crucial clues to Dr Kelly's identity, and he will be asked why he described the scientist as a "Walter Mitty figure". Mr Kelly may be asked why he phoned James Blitz of the Financial Times to give further information on Dr Kelly, off the record. MoD officials told the inquiry such a briefing was "totally improper".

Mr Hoon, in his first appearance, pointed the finger at Downing Street as the driving force behind the strategy that led to the scientist's identity being disclosed. ButMr Hoon was present at a meeting in his own office at which the naming strategy was discussed.The Independent has learnt, though, that Mr Hoon had disclosed his attendance at the meeting in his written evidence to Lord Hutton.

Mr Scarlett insisted at his first appearance that there was no dissent in the intelligence community over the dossier. But Lord Hutton has heard of three letters of complaint sent by senior officials in the defence intelligence staff over the language used in the document.