Paul Waugh: A very tricky area for the model of a modern mandarin

Share
Related Topics

Bryan Wells' official title may well be Director of Counter-Proliferation and Arms Control for Her Majesty's Government. He may well have a postdoctorate in research science from Oxford. He may well have worked for the MoD for 15 years.

But yesterday, as he gave his evidence to the Hutton Inquiry, Mr Wells looked for all the world like Penfold, Dangermouse's bumbling sidekick. The resemblance with the cartoon superhero's assistant was uncanny. The gap in the front teeth, the piggy eyes blinking behind the spectacles, those hamster-like cheeks ... even the chirrupy laugh.

As his testimony unfolded, it became obvious Mr Wells was indeed Penfold to Dr David Kelly's Dangermouse. One was a superspy, tackling evil leaders. The other carried his bags and tried to stop him bumping into walls.

Of course, Mr Wells was, in theory, Dr Kelly's "line manager". But, in reality, it was clear he had little idea where his colleague was half the time, and to whom he was speaking. While Dr Kelly spoke to journalists with confidence and ease, Mr Wells busied himself back in his office at the MoD in Whitehall.

As soon as he took the witness box, he appeared the very model of a modern minor mandarin. From his pin-striped shirt to his Sir Humphreyish language, Mr Wells could only be a civil servant. He insisted right at the start that he had something important to tell the inquiry. As the ranks of lawyers poised themselves for his revelation, he said ... he wanted to point out that inquiry documents had spelled his name with an i and not a y.

James Dingemans QC, counsel to the inquiry, raised an eyebrow.

As his evidence went on, Mr Wells clearly wanted to do nothing to upset his bosses at the MoD, while trying to remain faithful to Dr Kelly. Unfortunately, he found it impossible and ultimately made plain he had been a witness to repeated stressful questioning of the scientist. Penfold, it turned out, had not been the trusty sidekick after all. It became clear Whitehall's management structure couldn't cope with Dr Kelly. Mr Wells was his line manager but someone else appraised his performance. The MoD worked with him but the Foreign Office paid him. Or as Mr Wells put it: "David Kelly had a range of contacts across Whitehall, within the MoD and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office." When asked about Dr Kelly's complaints that he was not being paid enough or recognised for his achievements, Mr Wells said he wasn't aware of it .

Throughout the grillings that Dr Kelly had at the hands of MoD personnel director Richard Hatfield, Mr Wells was simply the note-taker.

At several points in yesterday's questioning, Mr Wells repeated "I have no recollection of that". However, Whitehallspeak was not going to get in the way of Mr Dingemans.

The QC seized on a note written by Mr Wells of one interrogation. The words "tricky areas" was written, listing issues the Government felt uncomfortable with. Mr Wells at first said he had "no recollection" of the words. When it was pointed out a secretary had also written the words down, he maintained they may not have been said.

But when, Mr Dingemans found another written memo bearing the words, he was wonderfully caustic as only a QC can be. "As a betting man, I would guess that says 'tricky areas'..." he said.

Mr Wells had to admit defeat. "Ah, hah, er ... As I said earlier, to the best of my recollection, they weren't used. I believe now that was the case." A titter went round the court.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon and her former boss Alex Salmond  

I voted Yes in the referendum – but that doesn't mean I'm going to vote for the Tory-esque SNP

Alasdair Clark
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid

Marina Warner
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power