Tuesday 26 August 2003

Blair damned by avalanche of evidence

Tony Blair was personally responsible for the decision to subject Dr David Kelly to the public grilling his family have blamed for his death, Scotland on Sunday has learned.

As the Prime Minister prepares to give court evidence on the circumstances of the scientist’s suicide, a damning declassified government document has revealed that it was he, and not defence minister Geoff Hoon, who ordered the move.

The evidence destroys Downing Street claims that Blair let the MoD decide how to deal with Kelly after it emerged he was the source for BBC claims that the government ‘sexed-up’ the case for war in Iraq.

The disclosure came as the Hutton Inquiry released an avalanche of government papers which threaten to further tarnish the Prime Minister’s already battered reputation.

Documents and e-mails point to the full extent to which Downing Street was involved in the handling of the Kelly affair, including leaking his name to the media on the evening of July 9; a move which also placed him under enormous pressure.

But it is the revelation that Blair, and not the Cabinet colleague he tried to blame, who was responsible for Kelly’s public humiliation which caused most anger last night.

Last week Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, stressed that the Prime Minister had regarded Kelly’s treatment as an operational matter for Hoon’s department.

That line is destroyed by a devastating document written by Blair’s intelligence coordinator Sir David Omand after a crisis meeting with the Premier on July 8, five days after the Prime Minister learned Kelly was the likely source for the damaging BBC claims.

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