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Hutton Report Leaked: Blair cleared


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leak: Blair in the clear

Sun: our source is 'impartial'

Lisa O'Carroll and Claire Cozens
Wednesday January 28, 2004

How the Sun reported its 'leak' of the Hutton report

Conservative leader Michael Howard has demanded a "full inquiry" into what he has branded a "quite disgraceful" leak of the conclusions of the Hutton report to the Sun newspaper.

Today's paper said Tony Blair has been cleared of any "dishonourable or underhand" conduct leading to the suicide of David Kelly, but said the BBC is criticised for the way it handled the report.

It said BBC bosses are condemned for failing to check the notes of Andrew Gilligan, who claimed the government had "sexed up" the Iraq intelligence dossier and that the BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, and the board of governors are implicitly blamed for dereliction of duty to licence-payers.

However, the favourable picture it paints of Tony Blair's role in the "naming strategy" that led to the outing of Dr Kelly as the BBC's secret source has immediately raised suspicions that it was leaked by a government source.

Last night both Downing Street and the BBC strenuously denied it had leaked the report and the Sun political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, said his source had "no axe to grind and did not stand to gain financially or politically".

Quizzed by John Humphrys on this morning's Radio 4 Today programme, Kavanagh confirmed he had not seen the report but had part of the conclusions read over the phone to him.

Speculation that the Sun had obtained a copy of the report from the printers has been rife for several days although Kavanagh today suggested it was an old source that handed him his scoop.

He said the leak had come from someone he trusted and whom he believed to be completely impartial.

And he insisted the newspaper, famous for its anti-BBC stance, had "no agenda" about Lord Hutton's report into the death of weapons expert Dr Kelly, details of which emerged in the Sun ahead of its publication at lunchtime today.

"We had no agenda about the blame. If it had blamed the prime minister we would have used that just as strongly," he told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme.

Kavanagh said he had specifically asked for more details about criticism of the government to balance out his report, which indicated that the BBC will bear much of the blame for the affair.

"This is a fair and accurate assessment of Lord Hutton's report. I expressly asked for any other information [indicating] that others were to be castigated," he said, adding that no such information had been forthcoming.

Kavanagh said he believed the paper's coverage to be a "fair and accurate assessment" of Lord Hutton's conclusions.

He said he would have "splashed" that Tony Blair had lied, or Geoff Hoon had lied over the Iraq intelligence dossier if the report had said so.

Suspicions that the Sun had been handed the report's executive summary by a Labour source were immediately raised by commentators because of the paper's allegiance to the government during the war and the Hutton inquiry.

It launched a personal attack on reporter Andrew Gilligan and has always maintained that the BBC had cocked up and should have apologised when Alastair Campbell made its original complaints about the Today programme last June.

It called for Gilligan to be sacked and branded him a "second-rate journalist who cannot be trusted".

The Sun political editor admitted he had not seen a copy of the report, but said he had sections of its conclusion read out to him in a telephone conversation with a source he trusted "implicitly".

"I've seen nothing of the report and I've handled nothing of the report. I gather Michael Howard has called for a police inquiry so the fewer clues I give the better," he said.

"It was a telephone conversation with someone I trust implicitly, with nothing to gain financially or politically and with no axe to grind," he added.

Kavanagh also denied his report had been timed to coincide with the Commons vote on tuition fees to give maximum help to the government.

"It had nothing to do with the timing of the debate as the report I think was only published not long before we gained access to it," he said, adding that the timing was "entirely coincidental".

"Unless we are proved wrong, the fact this is good for government is entirely inadvertent... All I can tell you again and again is that this was an impartial source with nothing to gain politically or financial," he added.

Lord Hutton's office declined to comment on the leak, which he was determined to prevent. He had asked all of the interested parties who had received embargoed copies of the report to sign confidentiality agreements. And the Tories, who received the report at 6am this morning, this morning, have been locked into a room while reading it and have also been ordered not to make contact with the outside world through email or telephones.

As he arrived at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall this morning, Mr Howard said: "I think that the leak last night was quite disgraceful.

"I shall be calling on the prime minister later today to ask the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to conduct a full inquiry into the circumstances."

Last night the Conservative chairman, Dr Liam Fox, said: "We must find out who is behind it, because it has all the fingerprints of a government which is willing to say or do anything to save its own skin."

"And the British public will feel that they now have a morally bankrupt government which is as corrupt as it is corrupting."

But Downing Street insisted: "We categorically deny that anyone who was authorised by government to see this document has either shown it to, or spoken about it to, anyone else."

If The Sun's account of Lord Hutton's conclusions is reflected by the full report on its publication, it would be a major blow for the BBC, which had hoped to pre-empt a crisis by showing it was getting its house in order with a series of moves including a shake-up of its complaints system.

Donald Anderson, the chairman of the commons foreign affairs select committee, said he would support an inquiry into the leak.

"I am amazed it has happened because of the extraordinary measures taken to preserve the secrecy of the report," the Labour MP told PA News

"It is clear that Lord Hutton was trying his best to ensure there were no leaks, but a chain is only as strong as the weakest link."

Mr Anderson said although he gave evidence to the inquiry he would not see the report until it was published later today.

He said there had to be a "grudging admiration" for the Sun's ingenuity in obtaining the information.

A spokeswoman for the Hutton inquiry said: "The Hutton inquiry are not commenting on the alleged leak."
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


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BBC chairman quits after Hutton clears Blair

· Governors and Gilligan criticised
· Kelly 'took his own life'
· Blair demands apology

Staff and agencies
Wednesday January 28, 2004

The BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, today resigned after Lord Hutton's report into the events surrounding the suicide of weapons expert Dr David Kelly excoriated the broadcaster for its "defective management".
However, Lord Hutton gave full backing to the government's conduct in the affair, and cleared the prime minister, Tony Blair, of any wrongdoing.

In a one and three-quarter hour summary of his findings, delivered at the high court, the judge ran through the sequence of events that began with the writing of the September 2002 dossier on Iraq's weapons and ended with the suicide of weapons inspector Dr Kelly.

Mr Blair has called for those who had impugned his integrity and that of the government to withdraw their allegations.


BBC really took it up the rear on this one...
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I think its a smart move by Lord Hutton, however in the aftermath of the Hutton report, there is a fear that journalists will be marginalised and not be able to do their jobs properly due to management wanting to cover their asses. Obviously Blair didnt have a direct hand in bringing about David Kelly's suicide, but the principle that has been pushed into the shadows here is that a civil servant should not have to face prosecution by the press and public without the involvement of a minister, which is what appears to have happened. David Kelly shoul never have had to deal with the kind of pressures that he did, and the fact is that the government basically cut him out of the loop.


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BBC director-general resigns

BBC director general Greg Dyke today dramatically resigned as the corporation struggles to deal with the biggest crisis in its 82-year history.

He is the second senior figure at the corporation to quit in the past 24 hours in the wake of Lord Hutton's devastating critique of the way the corporation handled the Kelly affair.

And in a dramatic sequence of events, the acting chairman Lord Ryder issued an "unreserved apology" for the "errors" of the past six months.

Mr Dyke's departure has come as a body blow to the corporation that he had led for the last four years. Staff caught on camera in the scrum that engulfed Mr Dyke as he left Broadcasting House at lunchtime today were seen wiping away tears as he read his statement.



some people on this side of the pond may not realize how hugely damaging this is for the bbc... it comes at a time when the bbc has been locked in a quiet yet public 5 year battle with the labour government that has been escalating steadily since blair took office... blair's perpetual use of "spin" to deal with the media and the bbc's refusal to play ball (instead attacking blair's government even harder) has led to them butting heads over numerous issues...

at the same time the bbc has been fending off attacks from corporate moguls, i.e. rupert murdock, that want to see the end of the publicly funded network, and the model they operate under... the reality is that the bbc is very venerable to public opinion as british tv owners must pay a yearly tv license of approximately $200 a year - which goes directly to funding the bbc...

public resentment of the tv tax has been growing steadily over the years, being spurred on by capitalist interests looking to take a greater share of the british television market... while the situation has not yet reached a crisis point for the bbc, it very well may be fighting for it's life before long as enemies of the bbc will undoubtedly take full advantage of this opportunity to kick them while they're down...