Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 28 January 2004

The Hutton Inquiry is published today

I have been watching live coverage of this important event for about the past three hours. First, we had 90 minutes during which Lord Hutton read out to an almost totally hushed audience a summary of his conclusions, together with some final observations.

Broadly-speaking Lord Hutton concludes that the major factors which culminated in the death by suicide of David Kelly, a civil servant and weapons expert who had been part of the team investigating the presence, or not, of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, are attributable to errors and faults made within the BBC by individuals and by weaknesses in its editorial and managerial procedures. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is exonerated of wrong-doing, specifically 'lying', in any of the statements he made prior to or during the inquiry relevant to this matter. Within the government, criticism is restricted to failings attributed to the Ministry of Defence, but the overall nature of this criticism is much milder than that levelled at the BBC.

The full report is available here.

Following Lord Hutton's live report, we returned to the Chamber of the House of Commons to see a statement from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, followed by a statement from the Leader of the Oppostion, Conservative leader Michael Howard. As could be expected Mr Blair was very happy (and no doubt relieved) to have his probity affirmed by Lord Hutton - I was very impressed by his speech, even though I don't much care for him and like even less the government he leads. Some of the gloss, however, was rubbed off my initial reaction by the coruscating analysis by Michael Howard who quoted numerous paragraphs from the Hutton Report which shone, he contended, a fuller light on the substance of Lord Hutton's findings. Undoubtedly the text of this exchange will be up on the House of Commons website in the next few days (it usually takes, in my experience, at least one day for this to happen as the words actually spoken must be transcribed and checked first).

The debate about the merits of the case for going to war (I personally remain very comfortable about this matter) to unseat Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq will undoubtedly continue as will an analysis of the detail within Lord Hutton's report. What is very clear, however, is that Lord Hutton has done his job with extreme care and that his report carries enormous authority.

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