Foreign Office man chosen to head JIC

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William Ehrman, a senior Foreign Office official, is expected to be named as the new chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), the body which assesses material gathered by the intelligence services.

William Ehrman, a senior Foreign Office official, is expected to be named as the new chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), the body which assesses material gathered by the intelligence services.

Mr Ehrman, the director general of defence and intelligence, is the front-runner to succeed John Scarlett, who as JIC chairman accepted ownership of the Government's September 2002 dossier on Iraqi weapons. Mr Scarlett is due to become head of MI6 on 1 August.

The planned appointment could provoke controversy since Mr Ehrman would not appear to meet the criteria for the post as recommended by the Butler report on the pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

In what was seen as a coded criticism of Mr Scarlett, the Butler committee said: "We see a strong case for the post of chairman of the JIC being held by someone with experience of dealing with ministers in a very senior role, and who is demonstrably beyond influence, and thus probably in his last post."

Mr Ehrman, has experience of dealing with senior ministers, is regarded as extremely capable and has access to Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Tony Blair. But, he is regarded as highly ambitious and, at 53, the JIC post is unlikely to be his last job. At one stage he was said to be in the running to replace Sir Richard Dearlove as "C" at MI6.

His proposed appointment poses a dilemma for Mr Blair, who immediately accepted the recommendations of the Butler inquiry. If it goes ahead, the Prime Minister could face criticism for ignoring the Butler committee's proposal to protect the impartiality of the JIC.

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