Lord Hutton, the senior law lord who will head an inquiry into the death the scientist David Kelly, said yesterday that he and not the Government would decide which matters he would investigate.
Lord Hutton said he intended to conduct his inquiry "mostly in public", and would carry it out as quickly as possible but would not begin it until after Dr Kelly's funeral.
He read out a prepared statement to television cameras but no reporters were allowed into the room to ask him questions about the scope of his inquiry.
He was speaking at the Department of Constitutional Affairs rather than the Ministry of Defence, which jointly announced the inquiry with Downing Street last Friday after Dr Kelly was found dead. The department will provide the secretariat for Lord Hutton because the MoD, for whom Dr Kelly worked, will become a major focus of the investigation.
Lord Hutton said: "I make it clear that it will be for me to decide as I think right within my terms of reference the matters which will be the subject of my investigation."
The terms of reference are "urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly". He added: "The Government has further stated that it will provide me with the fullest co-operation and that it expects all other authorities and parties to do the same." The BBC has promised to make a "full and frank submission" to the inquiry.
The Government does not believe it needs to be set up under the 1921 Tribunals of Inquiry Act, which would allow Lord Hutton to order witnesses to appear and evidence would be given on oath.
Lord Hutton described Dr Kelly's death as "tragic", saying that it had "brought such great sorrow to his wife and children".
The law lord said he would announce in the near future how he intended to conduct the inquiry and to consider the extent to which interested parties and bodies should be legally represented.
"After that preliminary sitting I intend to conduct the inquiry with expedition and to report as soon as possible," Lord Hutton said.
No timescale has been set for the inquiry. Ministers hope it will take between six and eight weeks, but it could last longer.
Lord Hutton, 72, who is regarded as a conservative in legal circles, cut his teeth in Northern Ireland during the height of the troubles. One of his most high profile cases as a law lord was Spain's failed attempt to extradite General Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator. He was also on the bench that decided David Shayler, the former MI5 agent, was not acting in the public interest when he disclosed secrets about the security services.
Lord Hutton was born in Belfast but educated in a traditional boys' boarding school in Shrewsbury and Balliol College, Oxford, where he took a first in jurisprudence.
He then studied at Queen's University, Belfast, before being called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1954. He was made junior counsel to the province's attorney-general in 1969, when the sectarian troubles erupted, and at one time he was thought to be a top IRA target.
He was made a QC (Northern Ireland) in 1970 and was a senior Crown Counsel from 1973 to 1979. He was called to the English Bar in 1972 and knighted in 1988.
In 1978 he was a member of the British defence team in the European Court of Human Rights when Britain was found guilty of having ill treated internees in 1971.
Married with two daughters, he is one of 12 judges in the UK's highest court, the House of Lords, and will become a supreme court judge under the Government's plans to reform the judicial system.
LORD HUTTON'S STATEMENT
Tis is the full text of Lord Hutton's statement on the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.
"The Government has invited me to conduct an investigation into the tragic death of Dr David Kelly, which has brought such great sorrow to his wife and children. My terms of reference are these:
"Urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr Kelly.
"The Government has further stated that it will provide me with the fullest co-operation and that it expects all other authorities and parties to do the same.
"I make it clear that it will be for me to decide as I think right within my terms of reference the matters which will be the subject of my investigation.
"I intend to sit in public in the near future to state how I intend to conduct the inquiry and to consider the extent to which interested parties and bodies should be represented by counsel or solicitors. In deciding on the date when I will sit I will obviously wish to take into account the date of Dr Kelly's funeral and the timing of the inquest into his death.
"After that preliminary sitting I intend to conduct the inquiry with expedition and to report as soon as possible. It is also my intention to conduct the inquiry mostly in public.
"I have appointed Mr James Dingemans QC to act as counsel to the inquiry and Mr Lee Hughes of the Department of Constitutional Affairs will be [its] secretary."Reuse content