Gilligan 'lied about warning MoD of dossier story'

Kate Wilson, Chief press officer at the Ministry of Defence
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Indy Politics

Andrew Gilligan's claim that he warned the Ministry of Defence about his report on the "sexing up" of its Iraq dossier was denied yesterday by its chief press officer.

Kate Wilson told the Hutton inquiry that the BBC journalist rang her on the evening of 28 May - the day before the broadcast - to request an interview with Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, about cluster bombs. She added: "At the end of the conversation, I asked him whether there was anything else running on the programme and he said he had something he was working on WMD and the dodgy dossier. He said it was not a matter for the MoD, so I did not pursue it."

She said that on 29 June, after Ben Bradshaw, a government minister, said in a radio interview that the story had not been checked with the MoD, Mr Gilligan made a "bizarre" call to the MoD press office.

She said: "Andrew Gilligan had rung to say he wanted to put on record that he had spoken to me and that is what he said. But he hung up at that point." Asked how clear she could be about her account of the conversation with Mr Gilligan, she said: "Very clear. I went back and checked all of my records and the thing that reassured me the most is, if I had known at the time what the allegation was, we would have flagged it up to No 10 but we did not do that. The only reason we cannot have done that is because we did not know about it."

Ms Wilson talked of her role in the preparation of the question and answer material that eventually led to the identification of David Kelly as Mr Gilligan's source. She said that the technique was routine practice in the MoD press office.

When told that Dr Kelly felt "betrayed" by the MoD, Ms Wilson replied: "We weren't in a position to stop journalists calling him direct. What we did not do was give clues to journalists, which is what has been suggested. We were sticking to legitimate facts and questions."

Jeremy Gompertz, counsel for the Kelly family, asked why she did not contact Dr Kelly as soon as the ministry disclosed his identity. Ms Wilson said that she had spoken to him the night before and felt it would have been better for the news to be broken by his line manager. Mr Gompertz said: "Did it not occur to you after that to inquire whether any contact had been made with Dr Kelly?"

Ms Wilson said she was arranging for a press officer to be ready to go to his house and was going to call him after that had been done. In the end, Dr Kelly rang her about two hours after his name was made public.