Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, was implicated for the first time yesterday in the naming of David Kelly in documents freshly released by the Hutton inquiry.
The documents also show Mr Straw playing a part in the "sexing up" of the September Iraq arms dossier, urging the strengthening of references to weapons of mass destruction and demanding a "killer paragraph". But it is the revelations about his department's role in the disclosure of Dr Kelly's identity which is potentially the most damaging for Mr Straw, who has so far been relatively untainted by the controversy surrounding the scientist's death.
In hitherto undisclosed internal memorandums, two of Mr Straw's most senior officials appear to be pushing for Dr Kelly's name to be disclosed to the media. One says he will "be happy" for the scientist to be named, while the other declares this will not cause a problem for the Foreign Office. It would be extraordinary if these comments were made without Mr Straw's knowledge, Whitehall sources said.
The Foreign Secretary did not give evidence before the inquiry during its first session. In the light of the new evidence Lord Hutton may call him to appear when the cross-examination phase begins next week.
In an e-mail copied to the most senior civil servants in the Government - including Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister's director of strategy and communications - Peter Ricketts, Mr Straw's political advisor, states: "I don't think there is a problem for us if the press name him [Dr Kelly].
"No need for us to be defensive; so I agree with John that if the name is presented to us, we should confirm. But let's do it in an organised way.
"I suggest we leave it to John W, and deflect attempts to get half a dozen of us to say different things!"
Mr Ricketts was responding to an e-mail from John Williams ("John W") the head of the Foreign Office news department. In his memorandum, also copied to Mr Campbell, Mr Williams wrote: " ... I am very happy for him to be named. Nothing personal.
"James [Blitz, a journalist with the Financial Times] is absolutely right that the BBC is behaving outrageously in defence of a story based on duff information. We'd all look tidier if we just confirmed."
The e-mail exchange took place on 9 July, the same day that Dr Kelly's name was confirmed to journalists by the Ministry of Defence press office.
Mr Ricketts was not called to give evidence before Lord Hutton. Mr Williams, a former Daily Mirror journalist, was called but did not mention the exchange of e-mails with Mr Ricketts. He told the inquiry that the issue of confirming Dr Kelly's name had been handled by the MoD press office. Asked, "Does the Foreign Office press office have any procedures for making names of civil servants known to the public?" He responded: "I am not aware of any, no."
During his appearance before the inquiry, Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, has said he had played no part in the process which led to the disclosure of Dr Kelly's identity. However, it emerged that his special adviser, Richard Taylor, had confirmed the scientist's name to Chris Adams, a colleague of Mr Blitz at the Financial Times.
Mr Taylor told Lord Hutton that Mr Hoon was present at a meeting in which the naming process was discussed. The Defence Secretary is expected to be recalled next week to be cross-examined at the inquiry.
If he is called, Mr Straw will have to explain if he had discussed the question of naming Dr Kelly with Mr Ricketts, or whether the political adviser had taken the extraordinary step of speaking on behalf of the Foreign Office without speaking to the Foreign Secretary.
In another e-mail Mark Sedwell, then Mr Straw's private secretary, disclosed the Foreign Secretary's role in "hardening up" the Iraq dossier. In a memorandum copied again to Mr Campbell, as well as John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Mr Sedwell said: "The Foreign Secretary has now had a chance to go through the draft dossier. He has endorsed the comments I made earlier on it ... and has the additional points.
The points endorsed by Mr Straw include "the first bullet of para 6 [The importance of weapons mass destruction] should be strengthened to explain the centrality of WMD to Saddam Hussein's role - the projection of power etc.
"... Crucially this section should explain the role of WMD in the political mythology which has sustained the regime."
Other suggestions include that Saddam's Special Republican Guards should be compared with the SS.
So far Mr Straw's only major discomfort at the inquiry has been when the scientist's widow, Janice Kelly, described how upset her husband was about being allegedly described as "junior" by Mr Straw.
- More about:
- Labour Party