The BBC’s barrister says in a confidential briefing document taking to task key findings by the Ulster judge reveals that executives throughout the BBC believe that the inquiry report was blatantly one-sided and took little account of the corporation’s evidence. The report says that Hutton’s statement that ‘accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others should not be made by the media’ is ‘wrong in law’.
‘As a general and unqualified proposition, this extract is wrong as a matter of law,’ the report says. ‘That is not to say that the BBC defends those parts of its reports in which it inaccurately reported Dr Kelly.
‘However insofar as Dr Kelly was accurately reported – which in large measure he was – the BBC was entitled to broadcast them whether or not the BBC had itself managed conclusively to verify what he had said.
‘Andrew Gilligan did repeatedly make clear that his story was derived from what his source said. BBC coverage throughout carried balancing government denials.’
The submission will anger Downing Street, which has said it wants to draw a line under the issue. Much of the document raises issues the Government says have been dealt with by Hutton.
The document says ‘the language of the [September 2002] dossier did go or may well have gone too far’. It also asks why Hutton ‘excludes from his remit’ whether the infamous ’45-minutes claim’ was referring to battlefield weapons or missiles.
‘The BBC believes this issue is fundamental to any full examination of both Dr Kelly’s concerns and the public interest issues,’ it says.
As Tony Blair prepares to ‘give some ground’ on the issue of weapons of mass destruction at an appearance before a parliamentary committee of inquiry on Tuesday, the fresh evidence reveals that far from letting it drop, many senior executives want to continue the battle.
A second leaked document prepared by the BBC for Hutton also reveals crucial details of why executives stood by its controversial Today report, detailing a lunch between the head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, and Kevin Marsh, the editor of the Today programme.
In a witness statement prepared by Marsh and BBC legal representatives, it is claimed that Dearlove suggested that ‘hard evidence of WMD in Iraq would never be found’.
Blair is likely to admit that although he believed the intelligence at the time, he agrees that there is a ‘growing need’ for ‘an explanation’ of why WMD have not been found.
The BBC briefing document once again backs large parts of the controversial reports by Andrew Gilligan, claiming that the Government ‘sexed up’ intelligence to make a stronger case for war against Saddam Hussein.
The report goes on to question Alastair Campbell’s evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. It says that his evidence on amendments to the September 2002 Iraq weapons dossier was ‘inconsistent’ with what he told the inquiry.