EVIDENCE: Although he authorised the September dossier and the press statement about David Kelly, Tony Blair was not linked directly to any of the more controversial elements of either.
The Prime Minister told the inquiry that he took "full responsibility" for the actions of his ministers and officials in the affair. Alastair Campbell, the former director of communications at No 10, and Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief of staff, had licence to act on his behalf. Although there was concern within the Ministry of Defence's Defence Intelligence Staff about some parts of the dossier, Mr Blair maintained that he had never known about such dissent.
The issue of naming Dr Kelly was always going to be riskier for the Prime Minister. Last summer, Downing Street said it had left the MoD to take "the lead" in the handling of the former United Nations weapons inspector, who had admitted meeting the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan. But the inquiry revealed that although Mr Blair had originally handed the matter to Sir Kevin Tebbit, the permanent secretary at the MoD, he soon seized control of the issue.
It was Mr Blair who chaired a meeting in his "den" in Downing Street on 8 July which concluded that a press statement should be put out revealing that an anonymous official had met Mr Gilligan. He said that such a move was vital to avoid allegations of a cover-up, given that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee had just completed a report on the affair and the role played by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Yet Mr Blair denied that he had been aware of the notorious "Q&A" used by the MoD press office to confirm Dr Kelly's name to journalists. This confirmation strategy was drawn up after the Downing Street meeting ended.
VERDICT: Cleared of all charges against him. He did not lie over the intelligence in the Iraq dossier. He did not lie and was not duplicitous in respect of the naming of Dr Kelly because he had not known of the "Q&A". His evidence did not conflict with that of Sir Kevin.
FUTURE: He no longer has anything to prove over his role in the Kelly affair and his position has been strengthened by the report. His more difficult domestic political problems will stem from the narrow victory on top-up fees and reliance on Gordon Brown's support. When the Iraq Survey Group finally reports, he will have to admit that intelligence was flawed on WMD.
EVIDENCE: On the orders of Mr Blair, Alastair Campbell chaired a meeting on 5 September. He asked John Scarlett for 15 changes. The draft said Iraq "may be able" to deploy chemical or biological weapons "within 45 minutes". Mr Campbell complained the phrasing was weak and it was changed to "are able to deploy".
He also told Mr Scarlett he was worried about the dossier's failure to spell out the shortest time it would take Saddam Hussein to produce a nuclear weapon. The dossier was changed to say it could happen within one to two years.
Mr Campbell's diaries also show that he wanted Dr Kelly's name made public. "The biggest thing needed was the source out," he wrote. The fact that an MoD official had admitted meeting Gilligan, but denied key parts of his broadcast, would "fuck Gilligan". In one of the more revealing parts of his evidence, his diaries also state that GH [Geoff Hoon] was interested in a "plea bargain".
Mr Campbell wanted to leak to a friendly newspaper the fact that an official had come forward but was overruled by Mr Blair after objections from Tom Kelly and Godric Smith.
It appears that Mr Campbell was informed of the Q&A strategy on the morning it was deployed.
VERDICT: Cleared of any suggestion that he pressurised John Scarlett to insert intelligence into the dossier "knowing it was wrong". He at all times told Mr Scarlett not to make any changes that he was unhappy with or fell beyond the bounds of existing intelligence.
FUTURE: Mr Campbell's return to Downing Street this week must have given him a tempting taste of his former life, and he will certainly be used to the full by Mr Blair in any general election campaign. However, as shown by his on-screen statement yesterday demanding the resignation of senior BBC figures, his anger over the Kelly affair would make it impossible for him to return to a job with any close contact with the media. He could make a fortune from his diaries but will not publish until Mr Blair has left office.
On the battle with the BBC, Mr Campbell did raise the temperature with his wider complaints about the corporation's alleged anti-war bias, but on the substance of his complaint about the Gilligan report he was right to demand an apology. Mr Gilligan's allegation was such a "grave charge" it could not go unanswered. Mr Campbell had no central role in the Q&A naming strategy.
- More about:
- Labour Party