Commons committee poised to back Campbell in row with BBC

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Alastair Campbell is on the point of scoring a significant victory in his campaign to force the BBC to back down over allegations that he misused material from the intelligence services.

Members of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, who were saying a week ago that they were prepared to condemn Mr Campbell's involvement in events leading up to the Iraq war, now believe he is telling the truth.

Vindication by the committee would be an important psychological boost for Tony Blair's administration. Last week, Labour's standing in opinion polls fell below that of the Conservatives for only the second time since September 1992.

The committee is likely to reject a BBC allegation that intelligence reports were "sexed up" by Mr Campbell's Downing Street staff to strengthen the case for war.

The Government's case against Iraq, which later formed the justification for war, was set out in a document presented to Parliament by Mr Blair last September.

Mr Campbell stood by that document when he gave evidence to the select committee last week, but apologised for errors in a later Downing Street publication, known as the "dodgy dossier", produced in January.

During a closed session on Friday afternoon, committee members heard evidence from the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, which gave them a chance to compare the Government's September dossier with the secret intelligence reports on which it was based.

One committee member, who has criticised Mr Campbell before, said: "You either believe the Government or the BBC, and at the moment my view is that we go with the Government. The report will have to concentrate now on whether the intelligence that came to the Government was credible or whether the intelligence agencies themselves were misguided."

Another committee member said: "Jack Straw was pretty forthcoming, and what we heard supports what Alastair Campbell told us - though I'm not sure the BBC is ever in the business of apologising."

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