MP says Kelly prevaricated and misled committee

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The MP who led the aggressive questioning of David Kelly in the Commons said yesterday that getting information from the weapons expert was like "extracting teeth from a whale".

Defending the controversial cross-examination by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Andrew Mackinlay told the Hutton inquiry that Dr Kelly had been trying to dodge straightforward queries.

The scientist apparently killed himself two days after his appearance before the committee on 15 July.

Mr Mackinlay said he had received "lots of hate e-mail and letters" after footage of him accusing Dr Kelly of being a "fall guy" and "chaff" was repeatedly replayed on television. He said he had been angry that the scientist had sidestepped his questions.

"I thought it was a prevarication, unnecessary, inappropriate, not only unfair and unreasonable, it was a challenge to the whole business of parliamentary scrutiny. Other people answer questions candidly," he said.

Mr Mackinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock, said: "The conclusion I have, I regret to say, is that Dr Kelly dug deeper each time. He prevaricated with his employers and with the committee."

He said the scientist had put on a "powerful, persuasive performance" that led members to believe he had not inspired Andrew Gilligan's report that the Government "sexed up" its September dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "He convinced me he was not Gilligan's source very impressively indeed. By this stage I'm absolutely convinced that he is not the source. I feel very angry for him and for Parliament," Mr Mackinlay said.

Asked why he told Dr Kelly he was being used by the Government as "chaff", he replied: "Chaff is what is thrown out by destroyers at fighter aircraft to deflect incoming [attacks]. In the context of this, it did not seem to be inappropriate. No offence was meant."

Mr Mackinlay said: "He was softly spoken, I thought very controlled, except for two people who accompanied him and sat immediately behind him ... I immediately started to imagine that he had been briefed, programmed, that these were his two minders."

Mr Mackinlay told the inquiry he was suspicious of the Government's suggestions that Dr Kelly had appeared before the committee of his own choosing. "I do not buy this business of him coming forward voluntarily. I think by this time the heat was on," he said.

He also took issue with Sir Kevin Tebbit, permanent under secretary at the Ministry of Defence, who opposed Dr Kelly's appearance, but was overruled by Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary. "Sir Kevin is wrong. We are entitled to scrutinise. He is also badly lacking in political antennae. There is no way the press would have allowed, once he was known, for him not to be scrutinised in public."

Mr Mackinlay, a member of the select committee for six years, was asked if he thought the Government had co- operated with it. He replied: "Absolutely not."

He denounced Mr Hoon's attempt to restrict the scope and length of Dr Kelly's appearance as "monumental cheek". The MP also attacked Mr Gilligan's attempt to supply a Liberal Democrat MP with questions to put to Dr Kelly as "absolutely outrageous".