Secret evidence refutes charge against Hoon

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Indy Politics

The key charge against Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, over the David Kelly affair is refuted by confidential evidence placed before the Hutton inquiry, The Independent has learned.

Mr Hoon had been accused of misleading Lord Hutton by failing to disclose his presence at a crucial meeting in which the plan to name Dr Kelly was discussed.

He also faces serious accusations in last week's report by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) over the failure to reveal dissent within the Defence Intelligence Service at the September dossier.

The Defence Secretary had, in fact, given details to the inquiry about the meeting on 9 July in his office, attended by senior officials, the day the scientist's name was confirmed to journalists by the Ministry of Defence press office. The confirmation of his presence is in a written statement, which, like those by others giving evidence, is not being disclosed.

The development comes amid reports that Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, will make an unprecedented appearance before the inquiry today when it restarts.

Mr Hoon had told the inquiry that he was "aware" of the strategy for naming Dr Kelly, but he had played no part in drawing it up. His presence at the 9 July meeting was disclosed to the inquiry by his special advisor, Richard Taylor.

This was seen as contradicting Mr Hoon, who had not mentioned the meeting during his testimony, and added to speculation that the Defence Secretary would be among the first senior officials to depart over the Kelly affair. Mr Hoon said last week he would be prepared to be judged on the "entirety" of the evidence.

He faced new criticism yesterday as the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, the Very Rev John Moses, intervened to prevent a national service of remembrance for the Iraq war being billed as a thanksgiving for victory. Mr Hoon had told MPs the service would "give thanks for the role UK forces played in ending tyranny in Iraq".

Dr Moses said: "We made it quite plain that the service could only include remembrance of those who had died in battle, and prayers for the people of Iraq and for peace.

"Anything which gave the impression of a victory parade seemed to us to be totally inappropriate."