Andrew Gilligan may have told the Liberal Democrats that Dr David Kelly was the source for Newsnight science editor Susan Watts’ report, the Hutton Inquiry heard this week.
Gilligan is alleged to have tried to influence proceedings at the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, by suggesting questions to ask Dr Kelly. On 14 July Gilligan sent an e-mail to LibDem aide Greg Simpson urging him to pass it on to committee member David Chidgey MP.
In the e-mail Gilligan said Kelly “also told my colleague Susan Watts, â€¦ (who described him as ‘a senior official intimately involved with the process of pulling together the dossier’)”. Calling Dr Kelly “an extremely interesting witness in his own right”, Gilligan listed questions that Chidgey ought to ask Kelly. They included: “What is the current state of the Iraq Survey Groups’ knowledge about Iraq’s BW [biological weapons] programme? Have you found anything? Do you believe in September 2002 that Iraq was an immediate danger? Was everyone happy about the inclusion of the 45-minute point in the dossier in the light of what’s been discovered since? Did you know the 45minute point was a single source? “Above all he should be asked to say what kind of a threat Iraq was in September 2002. If he is able to answer frankly it should be devastating.”
Senior counsel James Dingemans QC revealed Gilligan’s e-mail towards the end of the appearance at the inquiry of Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s director of communications. Referring to the “game of chicken” characterised by the PM’s official spokesman, Tom Kelly, in a previously disclosed e-mail, Dingemans said: “It rather looks like Mr Gilligan is using the FAC as a chance to get at the Government and those are issues I certainly put to Mr Gilligan.
“But was not the situation also, from the Government’s point of view, that you were using the FAC to get at the BBC and that the game of chicken was being played by two great big institutions with Dr Kelly in the middle?” After the session, the BBC seemed to be caught on the hop by the e-mail’s disclosure.
As Press Gazette went to press, the corporation responded that it “was looking at this e-mail and will deal with it in the context of the Hutton Inquiry”.
The revelation raises the likelihood of Gilligan being called back to face the inquiry at a later date, according to senior MPs.
By Wale Azeez