Dr David Kelly was blamed by a senior government official yesterday for bringing his own name into the public domain by talking to the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan.
Richard Hatfield, director of personnel at the MoD, also accused Dr Kelly of a "fundamental failing" in not reporting all contacts with journalists to the ministry, and likened his own experience as a witness to the inquiry to the ordeal faced by Dr Kelly.
Challenged by Jeremy Gompertz QC, counsel to the Kelly family, over "the public identification of an intensely private man", Mr Hatfield said: "The public identification followed from his own act in talking to Mr Gilligan."
Mr Hatfield defended the MoD's conduct, and said that if he could change the ministry's handling of the affair he would have suspended the former weapons inspector and launched a disciplinary inquiry into his conduct.
He insisted that there was no reason to tell Dr Kelly that the MoD was planning to confirm his name to journalists. "I did not think that I needed to tell Dr Kelly about it. I am not sure what you think I should have told him."
Mr Hatfield said he telephoned Dr Kelly shortly before the ministry released a statement confirming that an official had come forward as the possible source of Mr Gilligan's report that the Government "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
He revealed that the "Q&A" guide for press officers outlining how Dr Kelly's name would be confirmed may have been on his computer screen as he read the press statement to Dr Kelly over the telephone. But he said he did not tell the weapons expert that his employers were about to confirm his identity.
James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, asked: "What is wrong with telling him that we will confirm the name if it is given?"
Mr Hatfield said: "Had I known then that we were going to have this inquiry focusing on that point, I would have done so explicitly."
Mr Hatfield twice interviewed Dr Kelly about his contacts with Mr Gilligan, and decided against disciplinary action. But yesterday he said that "much more serious matters" had emerged during the inquiry. "With hindsight, I think we probably should have stopped the interview and initiated formal disciplinary proceedings. I would probably also have been forced to suspend Dr Kelly with no prejudice to the outcome."
Mr Hatfield also defended the MoD's description of Dr Kelly as a "middle-ranking" official. He said: "He is a tremendous expert, was a tremendous expert. But his rank is quite clearly middle-ranking."
In angry exchanges, Mr Hatfield was repeatedly challenged by Mr Gompertz over his claim that the MoD offered "outstanding" support to Dr Kelly. He said he was "surprised" by the evidence of Dr Kelly's widow, Janice, who said her husband felt "betrayed" by his treatment by the MoD.
Mr Hatfield insisted that the MoD had offered appropriate support for Dr Kelly's appearances before the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence and Security committees.
"Would you like to be treated like that, Mr Hatfield?", Mr Gompertz asked.
Mr Hatfield: "I have been treated like that."
Mr Gompertz: "In comparable circumstances?"
Mr Hatfield: "In very comparable circumstances. The media have made all sorts of statements about what I did and did not do. They have attempted to say that I am going to be moved at the end of my job. All this is, you know, deduction from the basis of nothing."Reuse content