Naming Kelly 'would have been a good thing, but I did nothing to bring it about'

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Dr David Kelly's name was not leaked to the press by Alastair Campbell, but the Prime Minister's director of communications admitted yesterday he had wanted the scientist's identity to be made public. Mr Campbell believed this would prove Andrew Gilligan "exaggerated" his story of the Government "sexing up" the Iraq weapons dossier.

Asked how he felt at the prospect of Dr Kelly giving evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) and Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), Mr Campbell said: "I felt that at that time, if we were going to bottom out this story and have it established beyond doubt that the allegations were false, I felt Dr Kelly appearing before a committee probably was the only way that was going to happen."

Lord Hutton asked: "What was your view about the desirability of the name of the source [Dr Kelly] coming out into the public domain?"

Mr Campbell: "I felt at that stage it was inevitable and as I have said earlier, possibly the only way we were going to be able to establish in the public and parliamentary mind that the Today allegations were false. From my perspective, it will have been a good thing but I emphasise that I did not do anything to bring it about."

Richard Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, asked: "So you were keen by 9 July that Dr Kelly's name should be out?" Mr Campbell said: "We all felt that was going to happen."

Mr Campbell said that although he had not met Dr Kelly, he had heard much about him. He was assured he was a "strong and resolute character" with experience in stressful and difficult circumstances.

But Tony Blair's chief spin doctor seemed unaware of the extent of Dr Kelly's expertise in the field of weapons of mass destruction and the part he had played in compiling last Sep-tember's Iraq dossier. Asked if he had known the scientist had reviewed the 5 September draft of the dossier, Mr Campbell replied: "No." He also admitted not knowing Dr Kelly was present at a meeting of the Defence Intelligence Service on 19 September.

Mr Campbell was asked if, with his new-found knowledge that Dr Kelly was privy to this intelligence material, he wanted to rethink his attack on the BBC and Mr Gilligan. Mr Campbell said: "To run a story that was run on 29 May on the Today programme on a single source, that source would have to be one of the top half-dozen intelligence officials in the country to justify that."

Mr Dingemans asked Mr Campbell why he felt he needed vindication in his battle with the BBC since the FAC had already cleared him of the "sexing up" charge. Mr Campbell said this had been on party lines, with Conservative MPs refusing to back the exoneration. "It's absolutely true I would have preferred that the FAC had been clear about me and about the Government in relation to the most serious accusations that were made."

Lord Hutton continued to press Mr Campbell to justify why Dr Kelly's name was exposed to the media. He pointed out that Dr Kelly was a civil servant who had never been in the "full glare of the media" and he asked why the Government did not "batten down the hatches" and ride through the storm.

After a long pause, Mr Campbell insisted the identity of Dr Kelly would have always emerged. He continued: "I think we could have done [what you suggested] but I think it would still have come out with all the media pressure and other pressures you referred to. It would have come out because these things do."

Mr Campbell maintained the Government would have been accused of a cover-up if they had not named the weapons inspector. But he conceded under questioning from Lord Hutton that the Government was not under any obligation to reveal the fact to the committee.

Repeatedly, Mr Campbell mentioned Dr Kelly in the context of his struggle with the BBC. He said he had sent an e-mail to Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, about the need to impress on the BBC that its refusal to confirm Dr Kelly's identity as the prime source for the Today report was no longer a question of source protection because the weapons expert had already indicated he was willing to be named.

Lord Hutton asked Mr Campbell for his view on the decision to identify Dr Kelly if journalists put the correct name to the MoD press office. Mr Campbell said: "In some cases, it was possible to 'batten down the hatches' and refuse to comment." But he added: "I think in these situations where they involve people ... that it is always better to have clarity and have some sort of control over the process. I could see why that strategy was put together."