MP tells of scientist’s closed-door denials




By Mark Huband

Financial Times, 28 August 2003

David Kelly denied in a closed meeting of MPs on July 16 that he had ever suggested to a BBC reporter that Downing Street had transformed the dossier detailing Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Ann Taylor, who chairs the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, told the Hutton inquiry the scientist had also denied discussing with Andrew Gilligan the claim made in the dossier published on September 26 that Iraq’s chemical weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes of an order being given.

Ms Taylor, a former Leader of the House, also criticised attempts by Downing Street officials to foist on the committee the task of exposing Mr Kelly by name.

Asked what she thought of the suggestion made by Sir David Omand, the Downing Street security and intelligence co-ordinator, that Mr Kelly’s name be provided to the committee in an open letter, Ms Taylor replied: “Not much . . . It didn’t seem appropriate.”

But while her criticisms of Downing Street were terse, her evidence is likely to fuel further doubts about the credibility of the BBC report that sparked the furore.

Reading from the committee’s as yet unpublished report of its inquiry into the use of intelligence material to justify the case against the regime of Saddam Hussein, Ms Taylor recounted that Mr Kelly had said of his meeting with Mr Gilligan: “‘I certainly did not use the word ‘transformed . . . [and] the 45 minutes issue I really did not discuss with him at all. I really didn’t talk to him about this at all’.”

According to Ms Taylor, Mr Kelly then went on to say: “The word ‘transformed’ is not something that would have occurred to me. I hadn’t seen the earlier drafts [of the dossier]. I wouldn’t know whether it had been transformed or not.”

Ms Taylor said Mr Kelly explained to the committee, which is appointed by the prime minister and has access to secret intelligence, that he had not discussed the Iraq dossier with intelligence officials. However, the BBC report that drew upon Mr Kelly’s information portrayed him as an intelligence source.

Mr Kelly appeared before the committee’s inquiry a day after being subject to tough questioning by the parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

Also giving evidence to the inquiry yesterday, Wing Commander John Clark, who worked with Mr Kelly at the Ministry of Defence and accompanied him to the foreign affairs committee’s meeting on July 15, spoke effusively of his former colleague. He related how Mr Kelly had told him that he was “not looking forward to being televised” at the committee session and that the pressure was worse than the interviews he had had when presenting his PhD thesis.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.