Inquiry accused Gilligan of misleading the public

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Indy Politics

The BBC journalist at the heart of the row over the Iraq weapons dossier was accused of "misleading" politicians and changing his evidence when he was questioned by MPs about his allegations, according to leaked documents.

Confidential transcripts of the cross-examination of Andrew Gilligan by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee are published in The Guardian today. Sir John Stanley, the former Tory defence minister, accused Mr Gilligan of "leading the public up the garden path in the most staggering way".

Mr Gilligan insisted he had not changed his story, but Sir John continued to accuse him of shifting his ground, warning: "I cannot tell you how serious it is to mislead a committee."

Copies of the transcript were handed by MPs to Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly. Mr Gilligan and the BBC were opposed to publicly disclosing the details, out of respect for Dr Kelly's family.

The questioning centred on whether Mr Gilligan had claimed that Alastair Campbell, Downing Street's communications director, amended a dossier last September to include claims that Iraq could attack with weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes.

According to the transcript, Mr Gilligan denied that either he or his source had suggested that Mr Campbell had insisted the claim should be included in the dossier.

Instead, Mr Gilligan claimed that his reports included allegations that Mr Campbell had been responsible for the inclusion of the 45-minute claim because he was overseeing the document.

Sir John said: "Mr Gilligan, listening very carefully to what you have been saying ... I have to say that it appears to me that you have completely transformed the nature of your evidence to this committee... If what you are saying is the case, I think you have led this whole committee and the wider public, up the garden path in a most staggering way... This is very, very serious Mr Gilligan."

After further questioning, Mr Gilligan responded: "I have never said in respect of the insertion of the 45-minute claim that Mr Campbell inserted it. I simply quoted the words of my source."

Eric Illsley then said: "It is fiction pursued by the press, by the BBC, you have allowed this fiction to stand and it is complete fiction, is that not the case?" Mr Gilligan replied: "Absolutely not. It is wrong to accuse me of misleading the committee."

Mr Illsley replied: "You have misled the whole world, let alone the committee."