Gilligan e-mail was 'attempt to influence committee'

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Indy Politics

More evidence emerged yesterday that the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan tried to influence a Commons investigation to help him in his battle with Downing Street.

The Hutton inquiry published the second page of an e-mail Mr Gilligan sent to the Liberal Democrats suggesting questions that David Chidgey, a member of the foreign affairs committee, could ask David Kelly. In his e-mail, Mr Gilligan took the highly unusual step of disclosing what Dr Kelly had "told" Susan Watts, the science editor of BBC2's Newsnight programme. In effect, he disclosed the source of a colleague at a time when the BBC was refusing to confirm that Dr Kelly was the source of Mr Gilligan's claim that Number 10 "sexed up" a dossier on Iraqi weapons.

Mr Gilligan repeated the quotes attributed by Ms Watts to a "senior official intimately involved with the process of pulling together the dossier", who said the claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes "got out of all proportion". Mr Gilligan urged Mr Chidgey to ask Dr Kelly: "Does he still agree with this?".

At the same time as "outing" Ms Watts' source, Mr Gilligan refused to confirm that Dr Kelly was behind his broadcast on Radio 4's Today program-me. "We are not ruling anyone in or out as the source," he said.

Mr Gilligan also suggested the Liberal Democrat MP ask questions that went to the heart of his dispute with Number 10. They included: "Was everyone happy about the inclusion of the 45-minute point in the dossier in the light of what's been discovered since?" and "Were there any arguments between the intelligence services and No 10 over the dossier?".

The BBC journalist, who was also called as a witnesss by the foreign affairs committee, said Dr Kelly should be asked what kind of threat was posed in September 2002. "If he is able to answer frankly it should be devastating," he added.

Yesterday Donald Anderson, the chairman of the com-mittee, told the Hutton inquiry that he believed it was unpredecented for a witness in a select committee inquiry to seek to influence its proceedings. He said Mr Chidgey had told him that he had been briefed by Mr Gilligan.