Gilligan admits mistakes but still stands by his story

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Indy Politics

Andrew Gilligan admitted yesterday that he had made mistakes in his reports on the Iraq arms dossier.

But the BBC reporter stood by his claim that the weapons scientist Dr David Kelly had accused the Government of "sexing up" the document.

In cross-examination by Jonathan Sumption, counsel for the Government, at the Hutton inquiry, Mr Gilligan admitted he had made a serious error in his initial report for the Today programme.

He accepted he was mistaken to state, in a broadcast at 6.07am on 29 May, that the Government had inserted the claim that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes despite knowing it was "probably wrong".

But Mr Gilligan maintained that Dr Kelly, found dead in July, had told him there was widespread disquiet within the intelligence community about inserting the claim, which had come from a single source and was "unreliable".

The inquiry, into the circumstances of Dr Kelly's apparent suicide, has heard extensive testimony from intelligence officials who suggested there was unhappiness about evidence used in the September dossier, including the 45-minute claim.

Formal letters of complaint were sent by Dr Brian Jones, the head of the Scientific wing of the Defence Intelligence Analysis Staff, and an unnamed official described as the country's foremost expert on chemical warfare, and there was disquiet across the membership of the Defence Intelligence Service. Mr Gilligan said: "The error I made here was in expressing the understanding I had that the views had been conveyed to the Government as something Dr Kelly had told me. It was not intentional, a kind of slip of the tongue. It is something that does happen in live broadcasts."

Questioned by Heather Rogers, his counsel, Mr Gilligan also apologised for sending an e-mail to the Intelligence and Security Committee appearing to name Dr Kelly as a source of his fellow BBC journalist Susan Watts, of Newsnight. He said: "I was quite wrong to send it. Quite wrong. I did not even know Dr Kelly was Susan Watts' source. I was under an enormous amount of pressure at the time and I simply was not thinking straight."

In a twist towards the close of the proceedings, Richard Hatfield, the Ministry of Defence's director of personnel, told Lord Hutton that he had not sought Dr Kelly's consent in making his name public, and declared the scientist did not have a "veto" on the matter.

The Government has previously steadfastly maintained that Dr Kelly had been made aware that his identity might become public.

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