Hutton inquiry into scientist's death to start this week

Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly will begin on Friday after the weapons expert's widow agreed it could get under way before his funeral.

The preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice will see Lord Hutton set out his approach to the inquiry and hear applications from inter-ested parties such as the Government and the BBC.

As the date of the hearing was announced, former ministers stepped up their attack on the Government after claims by Clare Short that an "abuse of power" drove Dr Kelly to suicide.

Downing Street sought to dismiss Ms Short's accusation, made in an interview with The Independent yesterday that Tony Blair was a "neo-conservative" whose "obsession with spin" played a role in Dr Kelly's death but Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, accused No 10 of "conning" the public into going to war on Iraq.

Similarly, Glenda Jackson, a former transport minister and MP for Hampstead and High-gate, backed up the former international development secretary and told The Independent:"The reason this phoney war was created was to deflect attention away from the fact that they are finding it harder and harder to justify the war against Iraq.

"The people who are implicated in the death of Dr Kelly should resign, and I mean ministers. They are quick enough to take up office; they should admit responsibility."

Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee will meet formally today to discuss when it might release transcripts of evidence given in private by Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter at the centre of the affair. Some MPs on the committee believe they were pressured unfairly by the BBC into not publishing the transcripts in the wake of Dr Kelly's death and now want to release them as soon as possible. Mr Gilligan was denounced as an "unreliable" witness by the committee.

Lord Hutton decided to go ahead with a preliminary hearing after meeting Dr Kelly's widow, Janice, at her home in Southmoor, Oxfordshire, on Saturday.

After Friday's preliminary hearing, the inquiry will be adjourned until after Dr Kelly's funeral (expected to be some time next week) the Department for Constitutional Affairs said in a statement.

The department said that Lord Hutton had originally intended not to start Friday's sitting until after Dr Kelly's funeral. "However, as the funeral will not take place for some time, Mrs Kelly has told Lord Hutton that she would have no objection to a preliminary sitting of the inquiry before the funeral," the statement said.

The 59-year-old government scientist died after slitting his left wrist a few miles from his home, just over a week after being named as the source of a BBC report that Downing Street "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq's banned weapons.

Mr Cook intensified his criticism of the Government yesterday, saying its claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was believed "by nobody else in the world". He said: "I do think that the Government is digging itself deeper and deeper into a hole so long as it continues to persist in claiming that everything it said was right when plainly quite a lot of it was wrong. The central issue is that everyone can see that the information on which we were conned into going into war has turned out not to be correct.

"I don't see how Hutton can do the job he has been given without also looking into David Kelly's doubts about the September dossier and the threat posed by Saddam Hussein."

Doug Henderson, a former armed forces minister, said: "None of [the good the Government has done] is going to be understood if the Govern-ment is seen as being one which cannot tell the truth. The test of that is Iraq.

"To get the public's mind back to the real agenda there has to be clarity on Iraq, which means a judicial inquiry so the public has confidence in who is questioning what happened." Another former minister said: "Tony Blair has a few months to do two things: he has to establish a degree of peace with the party and he has to re-establish public trust in him."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Representative

£15500 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This international company deve...

Recruitment Genius: Field Service Engineer - Basingstoke / Reading Area

£16000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established name in IT Ser...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue