Scarlett, author of the Iraq war dossier, is knighted

John Scarlett, who took responsibility for the error-ridden dossier that justified the war in Iraq, is knighted in today's New Year's Honours list. The award will enrage peace campaigners, who have accused the veteran spymaster of saving Tony Blair's skin over the flawed case for the invasion.

The news came as a British soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra yesterday, the 127th to die since the invasion in 2003.

Sir John, the head of MI6, played a key role in the Hutton Inquiry hearings into the death of the weapons expert David Kelly, three years ago. He steadfastly defended the dossier, which contained the notorious claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. And he dismissed accusations he had bowed to pressure to "sex up" the document's conclusions.

As chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, he told the inquiry he had "overall charge and responsibility" for the dossier.

Sir John allowed last-minute changes that had the effect of strengthening its conclusions, leading Lord Hutton to suggest that he could have been "subconsciously influenced" by his political masters.

One crucial alteration was to cut the observation that Saddam Hussein was more likely to use chemical and biological weapons defensively than offensively - a change was made after Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff, said the passage could pose "a problem" that could be seized on by anti-war critics.

Sir John insisted the amendment "was not as a result of the intervention from Downing Street".

The soldier killed in Iraq was in charge of a patrol of the 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment when their Warrior armoured car was hit by the bomb on Thursday evening. He was airlifted to the Shaibah base near Basra, where he died from his injuries.

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