The accusation by Jeremy Gompertz QC casts into greater doubt the defence secretary’s political future.
The dramatic final day confirmed the magnitude of the issues at stake for the government in the judge’s report which, it emerged on Thursday, may not see the light of day before December.
James Dingemans QC, counsel to the inquiry, expressed the hope that the 23-day inquiry would elicit the truth about the treatment that led to the death of David Kelly. “Somewhere along the way [during the inquiry] we lost a summer,” he said. “I hope we exchange it for understanding.”
Tony Blair could suffer serious damage if that understanding means Lord Hutton backs even some of the charges made by the lawyers for the Kelly family and the BBC.
Mr Dingemans implied that the conduct of the government in relation to its dossier on Iraq’s arms and its handling of Dr Kelly, were likely to be criticised even if the judge finds no substance to the most serious charge of conspiracy.
In highly-charged and potentially devastating closing addresses, lawyers for the family and the BBC made a series of accusations against ministers and senior officials. The speeches seemed to sound the death knell for the cabinet career of Mr Hoon.
Mr Gompertz QC, for the family, said Mr Hoon had lied when he assured the inquiry there had been no government plot to expose the scientist as the source for the allegations by Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter, and hence potentially discredit his story.
Mr Gompertz cited as evidence the press release announcing an official had come forward, allied to the clues to Mr Kelly’s identity in the press office briefing material and the lobby briefings, and the decision to confirm his name to journalists.
Alastair Campbell’s diary revealed the government’s true motivation and exposed Mr Hoon’s hypocrisy, Mr Gompertz said.