Hutton to quiz MoD mandarin again

Sir Kevin Tebbit, the most senior civil servant in the Ministry of Defence, may face questioning regarding the "coaching" of MoD officials who appeared at the Hutton inquiry when he gives further evidence tomorrow.

Several MoD staff, recalled in the second phase of the inquiry into the death of the weapons expert Dr David Kelly, are understood to have had preparation sessions beforehand with a team of government information officers at the Civil Service College in Sunningdale, Berkshire. A source said the inquiry was aware of the allegation, although it has been denied by the MoD.

The inquiry adjourned on 25 September after hearing from more than 70 witnesses. It will, however, reconvene tomorrow to re-examine and cross-question Sir Kevin, who underwent emergency eye surgery after his first appearance in August. Several of his statements may then be revisited in cross-examination by Jeremy Gompertz QC, counsel for the Kelly family, and James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry.

In August Sir Kevin said he had warned that Dr Kelly might give "uncomfortable" evidence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction if he appeared before the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. The scientist's name became public after he admitted meeting the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, whose report that Alastair Campbell, then Tony Blair's director of communications, had personally intervened to "sex up" the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's WMD sparked a bitter row between Downing Street and the BBC.

Sir Kevin is also likely to be questioned closely about the role of Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, in the process by which Dr Kelly was "outed". Mr Hoon had already left the witness stand when extracts from Mr Campbell's diary were published, claiming the Defence Secretary had agreed that revealing the scientist's identity "would fuck Gilligan if that was his source". A late-surfacing email also appeared to show that Mr Hoon ultimately took the decision to make Dr Kelly's name public.

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