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

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

Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - London, £60k

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - Central London, £60,000...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Agent / QA Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an est...

Recruitment Genius: C# / XAML Developer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for a talented...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: Calling black people 'coloured' removes part of their humanity

Yemisi Adegoke
 

Dippy the Diplodocus: The great exotic beast was the stuff of a childhood fantasy story

Charlie Cooper
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness