HC Deb 28 January 2004 vol 417 cc337-58

2.1 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement following Lord Hutton's report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. David Kelly.

I am immensely grateful to Lord Hutton, his team and inquiry staff for the work that they have carried out. The report itself is an extraordinarily thorough, detailed and clear document. It leaves no room for doubt or interpretation. We accept it in full.

Lord Hutton has just finished reading the summary of his findings. Before coming to those, I want to echo one thing that Lord Hutton said about Dr. Kelly himself. Lord Hutton makes his findings about Dr. Kelly's conduct in respect of the matters at issue here, but as he says, nothing should detract from Dr. Kelly's fine record of public service to this country. He was respected here and abroad. I am sorry that as a result of the gravity of the allegations made it was necessary to have this inquiry and that the Kelly family have had to go through reliving this tragedy over the past months. I hope now that it is over, they will be allowed to grieve in peace.

Lord Hutton has given a most comprehensive account of the facts. It is unnecessary for me to repeat them. But let me emphasise why I believed it right to establish such an inquiry. Over the past six or more months, allegations have been made that go to the heart of the integrity of government, our intelligence services and me personally as Prime Minister. There are issues, of course, as to how the case of Dr. Kelly was handled in personnel terms, and I shall come to those.

But those have not sustained the media, public and parliamentary interest over all this time. What has sustained and fuelled that interest has been, to put it bluntly, a claim of lying, of deceit, of duplicity on my part personally and that of the Government. That claim consists of two allegations: first, that I lied over the intelligence that formed part of the Government's case in respect of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction published on 24 September 2002; and secondly, that I lied or was duplicitous in respect of the naming of Dr. Kelly, leaking his name to the press when it should have remained confidential.

In summary, Lord Hutton finds the following. First, contrary to the claim by the BBC that intelligence was put in the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services, the dossier of 24 September was published with the full approval of the Joint Intelligence Committee, including intelligence about Saddam's readiness to use some weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so. Secondly, the allegation by the BBC that the Government deliberately inserted this 45-minute claim probably knowing that it was wrong was, to quote Lord Hutton, "unfounded". Thirdly, the allegation by the BBC that the reason for it not being in the original draft of the dossier was that the intelligence agencies did not believe it to be true was also, to quote Lord Hutton, "unfounded". Fourthly, no one, either in the JIC or Downing street, acted improperly in relation to the dossier. Fifthly, the BBC claim that it was "sexed up" in the sense of being embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false was also, to quote Lord Hutton, "unfounded".

Sixthly, Mr. Gilligan's key allegations repeated by the BBC were never in fact said, even by Dr. Kelly himself. Seventhly, there was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media. Eighthly, on the contrary, it was reasonable for the Government to conclude that there was no practical possibility of keeping his name secret and that the Government behaved properly in relation to naming him. Ninthly, the suggestion that either I or Sir Kevin Tebbit in our evidence were in conflict with each other or that one of us was lying was, to quote Lord Hutton, incorrect and is not supported by the evidence. Tenthly, and for good measure, he also dismisses the allegations surrounding what I said on a plane to journalists in these terms: Some commentators have referred to answers by the Prime Minister to questions from members of the press travelling with him on an aeroplane to Hong Kong on 22 July and I have read the transcript of that press briefing. As I have stated, I am satisfied that there was not a dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy on the part of the Prime Minister and officials to leak Dr Kelly's name covertly, and I am further satisfied that the decision which was taken by the Prime Minister and his officials in 10 Downing Street on 8 July was confined to issuing a statement that an unnamed civil servant had come forward and that the Question and Answer material was prepared and approved in the MoD and not in 10 Downing Street. Let me now return to the two central allegations. On 29 May 2003, following the end of the conflict in Iraq, the BBC "Today" programme broadcast a story by its defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan. It dominated the morning bulletins and reverberates to this day. It alleged that part of the September 2002 dossier—that Saddam could use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to do so—had been inserted into the dossier by Downing Street, contrary to the wishes of the intelligence services, and that moreover we probably knew it was wrong even before we decided to put it in". There could not be a more serious charge. The source for this extraordinary allegation was said by the BBC to be a senior official in charge of drawing up that dossier and an "intelligence service source", implying a member of the JIC or assessments staff who would be in a position to know. If true, it would have meant that I had indeed misled the House on 24 September and the country, that I had done so deliberately, and that I had behaved wholly improperly in respect of the intelligence services.

From that day, 29 May, onwards, that story in one form or another has been replayed many times in the UK, and around the world. It dominated my press conference the next day in Poland, and Prime Minister's questions when I returned. It led that week to the Foreign Affairs Committee deciding to conduct an inquiry into the issue. In particular, on the Sunday following the story, Mr. Gilligan wrote an article in The Mail on Sunday, not merely standing by the story but naming Alistair Campbell as the person responsible in Downing street. The headline read: I asked my intelligence source why Blair misled us all over Saddam's weapons. His reply? One word…CAMPBELL". That, again, was completely untrue, and not merely stood up but further inflamed the original allegation of deceit.

The BBC has never clearly and visibly withdrawn this allegation. This has allowed others to say repeatedly that I lied and misled Parliament over the 24 September dossier. Let me make one thing plain: it is absolutely right that people can question whether the intelligence received was right, and why we have not yet found weapons of mass destruction. There is an entirely legitimate argument about the wisdom of the conflict. I happen to believe now, as I did in March, that removing Saddam has made the world a safer and better place. But others are entirely entitled to disagree.

However, all of this is of a completely different order from a charge of deception, of duplicity, of deceit—a charge that I or anyone else deliberately falsified intelligence. The truth about that charge is now found. No intelligence was inserted into the dossier by Downing street; nothing was put in it against the wishes of the intelligence services; no one, either in Downing street or in the Joint Intelligence Committee, put any intelligence into it, probably knowing it was wrong"; and no such claim to the BBC was made by anyone in charge of drawing up the dossier". Indeed, Lord Hutton's findings go further. He finds that the claim was not even made by Dr. Kelly himself.

The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on WMD is itself the real lie. I simply ask that those who have made it and repeated it over all these months now withdraw it fully, openly and clearly. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let the Prime Minister speak.

The Prime Minister

Furthermore, Lord Hutton deals with the issue of the 45 minutes claim. Instead of this, as has been claimed, being disputed by the intelligence services and inserted in the dossier at the behest of Alastair Campbell or Downing street, the true position was that a concern about it and how it was phrased in the dossier was raised by Dr. Jones in the defence intelligence staff, was rejected by the head of defence intelligence and never actually came to the attention of the chairman of the JIC, let alone anyone in Downing street.

In any event, Dr. Jones—again contrary to reports—did not say it should have been omitted from the dossier. On the contrary, Dr. Jones thought it should be included as it was "important intelligence". Dr. Jones told the inquiry that Dr. Kelly thought the dossier was, and I quote, "good" and Mr. A, from the counter-proliferation arms control department, said of himself and Dr. Kelly: Both of us believed that if you took the dossier as a whole it was a reasonable and accurate reflection of the intelligence that we had available to us at that time. Lord Hutton does fairly comment: However I consider that the possibility cannot be completely ruled out that the desire of the Prime Minister to have a dossier which, whilst consistent with the available intelligence, was as strong as possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have sub-consciously influenced Mr Scarlett and other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment". However, he then goes on to say: Although this possibility cannot be completely ruled out, I am satisfied that Mr Scarlett, the other members of the JIC, and the members of the assessment staff engaged in the drafting of the dossier were concerned to ensure that the contents of the dossier were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC. Lord Hutton also says, in terms, that John Scarlett only accepted those suggestions which were consistent with the intelligence known to the JIC and he rejected those suggestions which were not consistent with such intelligence. I hope that from now on the wholly unjustified attacks on the chairman of the JIC, John Scarlett, and the JIC will cease. Those people are people dedicated to this country and its well-being. The publication of intelligence by the Government—which we did, let me remind the House, because of the clamour for it—was a unique exercise never done before, and difficult for all our agencies. But in the interests of openly sharing intelligence with people, they worked hard in good faith to release it properly.

Let me also remind the House that when this dossier was published, it was routinely described at the time as "low key" and by Mr. Gilligan, no less, on 24 September 2002 as "sensibly cautious and measured"; and actually moved public opinion hardly at all. Only in retrospect has it been elevated into the single thing that conclusively persuaded a reluctant country to war.

The dossier itself reflected independent reports such as that of the International Institute of Strategic Studies published on 9 September. It reflected precisely that evidence which led the UN Security Council unanimously in November 2002 to agree Saddam and his weapons posed a threat to the world. The 45 minutes claim, for the record, was in fact mentioned once by me in my statement in this House on 24 September and not mentioned by me again in any debate, not even in the debate on 18 March or indeed by anyone else in that debate. Again, only in retrospect has history been rewritten to establish it as the one crucial claim that marched the nation into conflict. Lord Hutton establishes clearly why the 45 minutes was put in the dossier, what its provenance was▀×and whether or not subsequently it turned out to be correct. It finds it was put into the dossier entirely in good faith by the JIC. So much for the first charge of dishonesty over the dossier.

The second charge was over the naming of Dr. Kelly. Again, throughout these past six months, the context in which this has been debated has largely been that Dr. Kelly's name should not have been revealed, it should have remained confidential and therefore anyone, including myself, who discussed or acted upon the issue was acting improperly.

In hindsight, of course, the name of Dr. Kelly and his evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee has taken on a different and altogether more tragic aspect. Rightly, Lord Hutton puts it back into its proper contemporary context. The truth is that, by early July, the FAC was actively engaged in examining the truth of the Gilligan allegations and due to report on 7 July. The Intelligence and Security Committee was about to begin its deliberations the same week. The Government had already given evidence to the FAC and all of us, myself included, were due to give evidence to the ISC, beginning with the chairman of the JIC on 9 July.

Suddenly in late June, Dr. Kelly came forward and said to his managers that he believed he might have been at least part of the source for the Gilligan story. That information was given to me personally on 3 July. By Monday 7 July, it was apparent that in all likelihood he was indeed the source of the Gilligan story. The dilemma we were in, therefore, as Lord Hutton accepts, was how we could possibly keep that information secret not just from the FAC, which had just taken evidence on that very point, but also from the ISC, who were about to interview us all about the intelligence relating to Iraq, with the first session on the morning of 9 July.

The evidence, very frankly given, of both my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the FAC, and at least one of the Committee's members, was that if they had been told that the MOD knew the source and had interviewed him, the FAC would have wanted to do the same—as, of course, they did. Indeed, they told the Hutton inquiry that they would have liked to have been told sooner.

The context therefore for the meetings on 7 and 8 July, which I chaired, was how to act properly in relation to those two Committees when we were in possession of information plainly relevant to their inquiries and when one Committee was on the point of publication and another was about to begin proceedings.

The evidence of Sir David Omand to Lord Hutton was that it would be "improper" to keep this information secret and that moreover we were under a duty to reveal it to Parliament. So, as Lord Hutton accepts, the whole basis of the claim that somehow Dr. Kelly should never have been named or that his name was leaked in breach of a duty of confidentiality is based on a false premise. On the contrary, our duty was to disclose his name to the Committees and to allow them to interview him if they so wished; and Lord Hutton finds expressly that our concern at being accused of misleading those Committees was "well-founded".

In any event, again as Lord Hutton finds, no one in fact "leaked" his name—not myself, not the Secretary of State, not the officials. As Lord Hutton finds, the decision by the Ministry of Defence to confirm Dr. Kelly's name, if the correct name was put to it by a journalist, was based on the view that in a matter of such intense public and media interest it would not be sensible to try to conceal it.

So, there was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy to name Dr. Kelly. He was named for the reason we gave. And again I ask that those who have repeatedly claimed that I lied over this issue or that Sir Kevin Tebbit lied, now withdraw that allegation also—unequivocally and in full.

Lord Hutton does, however, find that the Ministry of Defence was at fault in not telling Dr. Kelly clearly and immediately that his name would be confirmed to the press if it were put to the MOD. The MOD accepts these findings. However, Lord Hutton goes on to say: However these criticisms are subject to the mitigating circumstances that (1) Dr Kelly's exposure to press attention and intrusion, whilst obviously very stressful, was only one of the factors placing him under greater stress; (2) individual officials in the MOD did try to help and support him in the ways which I have described in paragraphs 430 and 431; and (3) because of his intensely private nature, Dr Kelly was not an easy man to help or to whom to give advice. I believe that the civil servants concerned were acting in good faith, doing their best in difficult and unusual circumstances. Lord Hutton indeed has not criticised any individuals in the MOD. Some have been subject to trenchant media criticisms far beyond anything that they should ever have had to bear. So has Sir Kevin Tebbit and so has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Both are cleared of any allegations of impropriety. My right hon. Friend in particular has been subject to a constant barrage of such claims as parts of the media have alternated between wanting his scalp or mine. I hope that these attacks on him also over this issue now cease.

I come to the final issue: the cause of Dr. Kelly's death; in effect, why he took his own life, since it is now beyond doubt that he did.

Lord Hutton finds that no one could have foreseen that Dr. Kelly would commit suicide. He finds further that, in all probability, he did not decide to do so until the day of his death. He finds that the reason he did so was not for any reason of conspiracy or dark motives. The truth is that Dr. Kelly did speak to Mr Gilligan, and, whatever the distortion, it was an unauthorised meeting, as was his conversation with Susan Watts, the "Newsnight" journalist; and he was surprised to be asked about this at the Foreign Affairs Committee. Lord Hutton finds that the existence of a note of that conversation must have weighed heavily on his mind. Finally, on the day of his death he received notice of a series of parliamentary questions about his contacts, which he was going to have to answer.

Dr. Kelly was a decent man, whose very decency made him feel wretched about the situation in which he found himself.

No one wished this tragedy to happen. All of us felt, and feel still, desperately sorry for Mrs. Kelly and her family. None of us could have foreseen it, because none of us, at that time, knew what Dr. Kelly knew.

Lord Hutton puts it in this way at paragraph 15 of his report: I also consider it to be important to state in this early part of the report that I am satisfied that none of the persons whose decisions and actions I later describe ever contemplated that Dr Kelly might take his own life. I am further satisfied that none of those persons was at fault in not contemplating that Dr Kelly might take his own life. Whatever pressures and strains Dr Kelly was subjected to by the decisions and actions taken in the weeks before his death, I am satisfied that no one realised or should have realised that those pressures and strains might drive him to take his own life or contribute to his decision to do so. In conclusion, I repeat what Lord Hutton said in his summary, at page 322 of his report: The communication by the media of information (including information obtained by investigative reporters) on matters of public interest and importance is a vital part of life in a democratic society. However the right to communicate such information is subject to the qualification (which itself exists for the benefit of a democratic society) that false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others, including politicians, should not be made by the media. That is how this began: with an accusation that was false then and is false now.

We can have the debate about the war, about weapons of mass destruction, and about intelligence. But we do not need to conduct it by accusations of lies and deceit. We can respect each other's motives and integrity, even when in disagreement.

Let me repeat the words of Lord Hutton: false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others…should not be made". Let those who made them now withdraw them.

Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con)

rose—

Hon. Members

Withdraw!

Mr. Speaker

Order. I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Howard

David Kelly was a fine public servant, who did an immense amount of public good for this country, and I am sure would have done so again in the future. I pay tribute to his memory. I pay tribute, too, to Mrs. Kelly and her family, who have behaved with great dignity throughout the events of the last six months.

I also thank Lord Hutton for his report. We accept his conclusions. The report is about the chain of events which started with the publication of a dossier, led to a feud between the Government and the BBC, and then finally to the death of a distinguished scientist in the Oxfordshire countryside.

The report's findings about the BBC speak for themselves. We have long argued that the board of governors cannot both run and regulate the BBC. Does the Prime Minister agree that the case for independent regulation of the BBC has never been stronger?

At the beginning of his report Lord Hutton refers to the controversy and debate about weapons of mass destruction—whether they exist, and what the Government told the country in the run-up to the war. Lord Hutton is quite clear that these issues are beyond his remit. Will the Prime Minister therefore now undertake to establish—

Hon. Members

Oh.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Prime Minister was heard. It is only right and proper that the Leader of the Opposition be heard.

Mr. Howard

rose—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will not tolerate anyone shouting, including Ministers.

Mr. Howard

Will the Prime Minister now undertake to establish an independent inquiry into these wider questions? That kind of inquiry took place after the Falklands War. Is not the case for holding such an inquiry now overwhelming?

Lord Hutton finds, in paragraph 228(8) of his report, that on one level the September dossier was indeed sexed up. In paragraph 228(7) he says that he cannot rule out the possibility that the Prime Minister's attitude may have subconsciously influenced Mr. Scarlett"—[Interruption.] That is what he says: and the other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment. Is that not a very serious finding indeed? Does it not go to the heart of the reliance which can be placed on any published intelligence material in future—at least while the right hon. Gentleman remains Prime Minister? And does the right hon. Gentleman now agree with the evidence of the head of the Secret Intelligence Service that, with the benefit of hindsight, the 45-minute claim was given undue prominence in the September dossier?

Lord Hutton chooses his words very carefully—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I say again that I will not allow shouting. If I see an hon. Member shouting, I will ask that person to leave the Chamber. The leader of the Opposition must be heard.

Mr. Howard

Lord Hutton expressly finds, at paragraphs 402 and 403 of his report, that there was no conflict between what Sir Kevin Tebitt said to the inquiry and what the Prime Minister said to the inquiry. As the Prime Minister well knows, the questions I have put to him are about what he said on the plane to Hong Kong and eventually repeated in this House. On that, Lord Hutton merely says, in very carefully worded language, at paragraph 411: the answers given by the Prime Minister to members of the press in the aeroplane cast no light on the issues about which I have heard a large volume of evidence. Of course they do not. Lord Hutton never heard evidence about what was said on the aeroplane. The Prime Minister never sent him a transcript of what he said on the aeroplane. If he had not been sent it by one of my right hon. Friends, Lord Hutton might never have even seen that transcript. Lord Hutton says, at paragraph 416 of his report, I am satisfied that the decision to issue the statement which said that a civil servant. who was not named, had come forward was taken by the Prime Minister at a meeting in 10 Downing Street on 8 July". So the Prime Minister chaired the meeting that decided to issue that press release. That press release led inevitably to the naming of David Kelly. David Kelly knew that, and it says so in the report, at paragraph 439. The Ministry of Defence knew that. It says so in the report, at paragraph 409. Alastair Campbell knew that. That is why he wrote in his diary, "That meant do it as a press release." Anyone with any sense would know that if one issues a press release like that, the name will come out. That is why the press got David Kelly's name the very next day.

Is the Prime Minister the only person who thought that issuing that press release would not lead to the naming of David Kelly? Is that what he is asking us to believe? Is he really that naive? Is it not clear to everyone that the release of the statement, authorised by the Prime Minister, led inevitably to the naming of David Kelly? Is the Prime Minister really telling the House that he had no idea that that would happen?

Listen to what Lord Hutton said at paragraph 407. He said: The issuing of the statement authorised by the Prime Minister did give rise to the questions by the press as to the identity of the civil servant and these questions led on to the MoD confirming Dr Kelly's name". It is no wonder that Lord Hutton says that there was no plan or strategy to do this covertly. There did not need to be. It was all going to happen anyway, as night follows day, all because of the decision made by the Prime Minister. The best that can be said about the answer that the Prime Minister gave on the plane, and repeated in this House, is that it is at odds with what Lord Hutton concludes.

When all is said and done, I suspect that what will remain in people's minds is the blinding light that this inquiry has shed on the innermost workings of the Prime Minister and his Government. Is not the picture painted in that evidence an extraordinarily vivid one? Vital meetings are unminuted, crucial telephone calls are unrecorded. In Lord Hutton's words in a letter to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), the notes made by private secretaries were very sparse and of no relevance. Whatever happened to the recommendations made by the Hammond inquiry into the Hinduja passports affair? [Interruption.] Oh, yes—just listen. That report, given to the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order.

Mr. Howard

That report, given to the Prime Minister five years ago, recommended that proper records were taken of meetings and telephone conversations between Ministers and their advisers. Why has nothing been done to implement those recommendations? What a picture the evidence to the Hutton inquiry portrayed of the state of mind of the Prime Minister's closest advisers and confidantes.

Alastair Campbell wrote in his diary: The biggest thing needed was the source out. And what was the reason for this? The reason, as he agreed with the Secretary of State for Defence, was that that would stuff Gilligan. "Stuff", of course, was not the word that he used. I cannot repeat in the House the language used by the man hand-picked by the Prime Minister to be his director of communications.

The Secretary of State for Defence said that he had made great efforts to ensure Dr. Kelly's anonymity, yet he agreed to a course of action that he knew would lead to the naming of Dr. Kelly, he did not bother to tell David Kelly what he was going to do, he did not tell David Kelly that he would be named, and he did not give David Kelly the support that he needed as he was thrown into the media frenzy. Is not the Hutton report quite clear on this point? Paragraph 432 says: the MoD was at fault in the procedure which it adopted in relation to Dr Kelly after the decision had been taken to release the statement. The Secretary of State for Defence then went to great lengths to deny what he had done. He denied it on television immediately afterwards and he denied it to the inquiry. He said that he had made great efforts to ensure Dr. Kelly's anonymity.

Is not there the starkest contrast between David Kelly, the dedicated scientist and weapons inspector who had done so much for our country, and the cabal of Ministers and advisers, including the Prime Minister himself, which was so obsessed with its war with the BBC that it gave scant attention to his welfare? Is not there the starkest contrast between the hours and days that it spent working out different ways of releasing his name to the media, and the two and half minutes that it spent informing him of the consequences of its actions?

No one in Government can look back on this episode with pride. The nation will in due course deliver its verdict. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. If this conduct continues, there is a danger that I will have to suspend the House, and I do not want to have to do that. Nor do I want hissing throughout the Chamber. I can tell some hon. Ladies that they are close to being asked to withdraw from the Chamber. The behaviour of this gathering is important, particularly to the Kelly family.

The Prime Minister

Let me first deal with one or two points of detail. First, as the right hon. and learned Member knows, there will be a thorough review of the BBC's charter and all these issues should be considered in the course of that.

Secondly, I have nothing to add to what I said to the right hon. and learned Gentleman earlier in the day on the inquiry, other than to say also that the Iraq survey group should be able to complete its work.

Thirdly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the subconscious of the chairman of the JIC, which was mentioned in paragraph 228(8). The report goes on to say that Lord Hutton finds specifically that there was no improper interference, nor was any intelligence put in the dossier that should not have been.

As for the 45-minute claim, Lord Hutton finds specifically, as he was bound to do from the evidence, that any doubt that occurred in one part of the Defence Intelligence Staff was never actually put to the JIC chairman, never mind to myself as Prime Minister.

In relation to the plane and the naming of Dr. Kelly, let me read the rather fuller version of what Lord Hutton says. On page 323, he says: On the issue whether the Government behaved in a way which was dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous in revealing Dr Kelly's name to the media my conclusions are as follows: (i) There was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that he agrees with the report's conclusions, how on earth could he make the allegations that he does?

Lord Hutton goes on to say: I consider that in the midst of a major controversy relating to Mr Gilligan's broadcasts which had contained very grave allegations against the integrity of the Government and fearing that Dr Kelly's name as the source for those broadcasts would be disclosed by the media at any time, the Government's main concern was that it would be charged with a serious cover up if it did not reveal that a civil servant had come forward. He concludes by saying: It was reasonable for the Government to take the view that, even if it sought to keep confidential the fact that Dr Kelly had come forward, the controversy surrounding Mr. Gilligan's broadcasts was so great and the level of media interest was so intense that Dr. Kelly's name as Mr Gilligan's source was bound to become known to the public and that it was not a practical possibility to keep his name secret. I was going to say that I expected, but actually I did not expect, the right hon. and learned Gentleman to respond to this in a measured and sensible way. It is a severe lack of judgment that he did not. As he knows perfectly well, the allegations of impropriety or dishonesty have been found not to be true. That is absolutely clear from Lord Hutton's findings. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might therefore have had the decency to come to the Dispatch Box and withdraw the allegation about lying to the House over weapons of mass destruction which he made last August, and his statement that I or Sir Kevin Tebbit lied, which he made when he questioned me in the House a few weeks ago.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman had really wanted to respond to this in a sensible way, he would have done so. I simply say to him that yesterday was test of policy for him, and he failed it, and today is a test of character, and he has failed that too. What he should understand is that being nasty is not the same as being effective, and opportunism is not the same as leadership.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West) (LD)

We express our gratitude to Lord Hutton and his colleagues for their very thorough work, and we extend our sympathy to the family of the late Dr. David Kelly.

The Prime Minister has acknowledged that several constructive lessons emerge from the inquiry's completion, and it is surely sensible, therefore, to reflect on the need for the actions that need to flow from those lessons. Lord Hutton's report, without doubt, sheds considerable light on the key workings at the top of this Government. Lord Hutton acknowledges in paragraph 9 the tightness of the remit set for him by the Government which excludes, for example, specific consideration of matters ranging from the reliability of the intelligence material to the 45-minute assertion. Lord Hutton is therefore explicit, at the beginning of the report, about the fact that it necessarily leaves unanswered the most fundamental question of all, which is of course the basis on which this country went to that war in Iraq.

Incidentally, listening to what has just been said, I have to reflect and remark on the fact that, if I may put this in the terms used by Lord Hutton in a different context, the leader of the Conservative party almost seems to have subconsciously forgotten the support that he expressed for that war at the time.

The question for the House, surely, is whether there was adequate justification for the Government to seek the endorsement of the House of Commons on the basis that they did for our forces to go to war in Iraq without the express approval of the United Nations. In the absence of the discovery of weapons of mass destruction, surely as things stand today the decision and judgment on that question would have to be no. The Prime Minister, as he himself said in his statement, cannot therefore dodge or escape profound questions about the basis on which his judgment was made.

The Prime Minister referred to the relationship between the intelligence services and Downing street, and he read those carefully crafted words of Lord Hutton about that. Surely the way in which business has been done on this issue between the intelligence services and No. 10 will have to lead to some reassessment as a result of what has been learned through the inquiry. A prime lesson in the middle of all this has to be that the independence of the Joint Intelligence Committee has to remain sacrosanct and must not be seen to be compromised, and the JIC must not become embroiled in the presentation of a policy of the Government of the day, as opposed to informing the intelligence basis on which that policy is arrived at. That is a most important principle.

There are also big questions over the way in which Downing street is now seen to operate, as a result of what has come out. In the report, the role of the Cabinet Secretary as all these vital decisions are arrived at seems almost to have been supplanted by the role of Alastair Campbell. Is that something that the House can be sanguine about? Is that something that should ever be allowed to happen again?

The Prime Minister has acknowledged the fair criticisms of the role of the Ministry of Defence in paragraph 432 of the report. He used the word "mitigation" of the description of the MOD's role. Let us remind ourselves specifically of what Lord Hutton said. He said three things. First, it would have been better to name Dr. Kelly with his consent. Secondly, it would have been better to tell him to his face that it was the intention of the MOD and the Government generally to do so. Thirdly, that decision, having been conveyed to Dr. Kelly, should have been delayed for 24 hours to give time to advise him about the intense press interest that was likely to arise, and to allow to him to consider whether he wished to move house or wanted a press officer sent to his home. Does the Prime Minister really think that sufficient duty of care was extended to Dr. Kelly on that basis?

On the position of the BBC, Lord Hutton confirms serious management failures at senior levels within the corporation. The BBC is a globally respected organisation, and many of us would argue, deservedly so. However, trust must be an essential element of its trade, and on this issue it is clear that senior personnel failed in that respect. Does the Prime Minister therefore agree that as a result of the report we require reassurance that BBC management are putting in place mechanisms to ensure that the editorial shortcomings to which the report refers are not repeated? In the light of what he said a moment ago, can he also reassure all of us who value the integrity of the BBC that this matter should not be used by those who seek to undermine the integrity or independence of the BBC when it comes to licence fee renewal and its independence of funding and function?

At the time of the publication of the dossier that gave rise to the high-profile recall of Parliament, the Prime Minister wrote in his introduction to that dossier about the current and serious threat to the UK national interest posed by Saddam and his possession of weapons of mass destruction. For those of us who were less than convinced at that point—that does not include either the previous or the current leadership of the Conservative party—the key questions remain outstanding. Why was the decision to go to war at that point taken on the available information? Should not the United Nations weapons inspectorate have been given more time? Does not the case for an independent inquiry remain paramount?

On 18 March 2003, this House debated an all-party amendment to which my party put all our names. It stated that the House believes that the case for war…has not yet been established",—[Official Report, 18 March 2003; Vol. 401, c. 779.] The sad truth of the outcome of the Hutton inquiry is that as of today—nearly one year later—nothing fundamental has changed.

The Prime Minister

To be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, he has not made allegations of lying against me personally throughout the past few months. Because of the position that he took on the war, he is obviously in a stronger position to ask some of those questions than the Leader of the Opposition.

Nobody was actually in any doubt about the threat that Saddam posed, and I shall quote the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore): Saddam must be disarmed and his evil regime with it. Nobody disputes that."—[Official Report, 26 February 2003; Vol. 400, c. 288.] I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman's view was that the matter should have been dealt with differently, but we should not rewrite history by saying that it was only this side, or even only this and that side, who said that Saddam Hussein posed a threat—everybody accepted that he posed a threat.

Of course, we will reflect very carefully on the lessons that the report outlines for us, and that is absolutely right. Incidentally, the term "mitigation" in relation to the Ministry of Defence personnel who handled Dr. Kelly is Lord Hutton's term.

On the Joint Intelligence Committee, I agree that its independence should be fully upheld, but I point out that Lord Hutton's report makes it clear that that independence was not compromised by the Government and that no intelligence was inserted in the dossier against the committee's wishes.

I want to draw attention to this issue: the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that at one point the report—Alastair Campbell accepted this in his evidence—states that in hindsight it might well have been better to name Dr. Kelly in the statement or 24 hours later. However, the crucial point is that the whole of the allegation about the naming of Dr. Kelly has proceeded on the basis that his name should have been kept confidential. The important finding that Lord Hutton makes is that his name should not have been kept confidential. That puts the issue in an entirely different context.

Finally, I am sure that the BBC will make its own response. I want to make it clear that I have never questioned and would never question the independence of the BBC, but it is not inconsistent with its independence also to exercise proper editorial control over serious allegations.

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) (Lab)

Was it not a sad sight to see the Leader of the Opposition scratching around for minor qualifications in a report that on any objective analysis exonerates my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and undermines those who, for many months, have sought to impugn his integrity? Would it not now be more constructive for press, public and Parliament to concentrate on reconciliation and reconstruction in Iraq, with a new focus that could transform that country from being a danger to its neighbours, the world and its own people into a model for its region?

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend says. I would add only that we should once again state the House's pride in the work that British troops and civilians are doing in Iraq alongside troops and civilians from some 30 different countries to rebuild that country, giving its people every day an increasingly better chance of prosperity and stability in the future.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con)

While the Prime Minister is correct in saying that the words were carefully chosen and there were mitigating factors, does he not genuinely think that somebody should accept some responsibility for the clear accusation on page 324 of the report that the MoD was at fault and is to be criticised for not informing Dr Kelly that its press office would confirm his name"? It also says that that must have been a great shock and very upsetting for him". Surely the right thing is for the Prime Minister to say clearly and precisely that the Ministry of Defence was wrong and made a mistake, and that somebody should accept some responsibility.

The Prime Minister

We accept entirely those findings, and the Ministry of Defence has made that clear and is obviously sorry for the distress that was caused to Dr. Kelly as a result. What is important, however, is also to draw attention to what Lord Hutton says are the three mitigating circumstances, and it is therefore right that the Ministry of Defence accepts full responsibility—as indeed do the Government—but that we recognise the mitigating circumstances. Lord Hutton expressly found that it was not wrong, but was actually right that the name came out.

Ann Taylor (Dewsbury) (Lab)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the vast majority of Members of Parliament are grateful for the thorough work that Lord Hutton has done and that the public will set more store by his judgments than the wriggling comments from the Leader of the Opposition? Does my right hon. Friend accept that that the findings of Lord Hutton parallel closely the findings of the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and will he confirm that the Government will be able to produce their response to that report in advance of the debate next Wednesday, because it is clearly relevant? Will he also recommend to the House that all Members who consider themselves informed on the matter should read the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which confirms what Lord Hutton said—that the dossier was not sexed up by anyone and that there was no political pressure whatever on the Joint Intelligence Committee?

The Prime Minister

I thank my right hon. Friend for the work that she does as Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I hope and believe that we will produce our response to her report prior to the debate next week. Of course she is right to draw attention to the fact that Lord Hutton's report confirms the findings of her Committee, which is no doubt why those findings received publicity for other reasons on the day that they were published. It is right that everybody who has considered the issue has concluded, as they were bound to do from the evidence, that the original claim made against the Government was false.

Mr. Robert Jackson (Wantage) (Con)

Lord Hutton deserves all our thanks for the incisive conclusions that he has reached, which I hope will achieve closure on the matter, not least for my constituents, the Kelly family, to whom all our hearts go out. On the question of the cause or causes of Dr. Kelly's death, which do not in my view include the disclosure of his name—which he knew to be inevitable and inescapable—the BBC has admitted that Mr. Gilligan's broadcast was wrong, and Lord Hutton has concluded that the BBC did not exercise proper editorial control. Does the Prime Minister agree that if Mr. Gilligan had not felt encouraged to make the gravest allegations as a matter of routine, my constituent Dr. Kelly would still be alive today?

The Prime Minister

I agree entirely with what the hon. Gentleman said about Mrs. Kelly and the Kelly family. I also agree with what he said at the conclusion of his question. It is important that there be reflection on how such allegations come to be routinely made, as there is absolutely no need for that. As I said earlier, a perfectly sensible debate can be had; it is one to which I think the public would respond with rather greater enjoyment and depth, if it was conducted on the basis that there can be two views about Iraq and the justification for the conflict. I have never disrespected anyone who took a different view, and I certainly do not disrespect those people who ask searching and proper questions about what has happened to weapons of mass destruction. I entirely accept that, but it has always been a completely different issue from suggesting that I, the intelligence services, or anyone else in government deliberately set out to mislead people. It simply is not necessary for the debate to be conducted in those terms. Frankly, if I may put it like this: the contrast between the journalism exemplified by Mr. Gilligan and that exemplified by Susan Watts tells its own tale.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West) (Lab)

Does my right hon. Friend share the concern, at least on the Labour Benches, that the Leader of the Opposition did not find it within himself today to come to the House and apologise—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should put a question on the report. This is not a time to attack any Member of the House. He must put a question regarding the report.

Mr. Ross

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, following the publication of the report, it is time to stop arguing about whether a document was right or wrong? The responsibility of the House is to help to rebuild Iraq.

The Prime Minister

I agree. Whatever the questions, I hope that at least the major part of our focus is on the reconstruction of Iraq and I thank my hon. Friend for his support.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP)

As Lord Hutton makes clear on pages 2 and 3, he was asked to investigate the circumstances of a personal tragedy, not the issue of weapons of mass destruction, so when the Prime Minister's chief of staff wrote to John Scarlett on 17 September 2002 that We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he"— Saddam Hussein— is an imminent threat", does the Prime Minister feel that, in the words he chose when speaking to the House about the foreword one week later, he followed that sensible advice?

The Prime Minister

I do believe that I followed entirely the right and proper course in the statement that I made to the House. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that, in relation not just to the dossier itself but also to its foreword, Lord Hutton specifically finds that no improper pressure was put on the Joint Intelligence Committee and that it was satisfied not only with the document but also that the foreword properly reflected the intelligence evidence it had received. I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman would recognise that Lord Hutton found the accusations of lack of integrity not to be true.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab)

Now that my right hon. Friend has been exonerated from any allegation of impropriety, untruth or dishonour, does he not believe—along with me—that the public will draw a stark contrast between his measured response in the Chamber today and the response of those who have made such allegations in this place, who have tried today to wriggle and squirm around the report, have lifted sections of it out of context and have shown that they—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not want the Prime Minister to respond to that. The Prime Minister has made a statement and the questions should be on that statement.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con)

Does the Prime Minister agree that Lord Hutton, in his long statement earlier today and in his report, makes two things abundantly plain? The first is that the death of Dr. Kelly was a great personal tragedy, but not a great public scandal. The other is that those who have charge of our public service broadcasting should really consider their position.

The Prime Minister

I want to add only this to what the hon. Gentleman has said: he has been exemplary throughout in drawing the right distinction between legitimate questions about the conflict and accusations of impropriety that should never have been made.

Mrs. Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale) (Lab)

In the Prime Minister's statement he referred to page 19 of Lord Hutton's report, which specifically refers to the editorial systems needed to ensure that what we believe to be in the best interests of a democracy—that is, not impugning anyone's integrity, especially that of our Government and the Prime Minister—are in place. What does the Prime Minister believe that the governors of the BBC and the rest of the British media should now do to ensure that that happens?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the lessons of this will be reflected on carefully by the BBC. It is important, in all the focus that there will inevitably be on the procedures of the BBC, that we make it clear that there is sometimes a strain of journalism—certainly not shared by all journalists or all parts of the media—that is willing to make some of these accusations far too readily. I hope that that reflection will go a little bit broader than the BBC.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con)

Once the decision was made to name Dr. Kelly, did not the Prime Minister share the great unease about the cat-and-mouse process involving the 20 questions asked by The Times newspaper, for example, in order to identify a public servant? It does not seem straightforward, and it leaves unease in one's mind.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman should study the part of Lord Hutton's report in which he says that he first came to this issue asking precisely that question, and heard the evidence explaining exactly why this was done. Let me go back to the situation on 7 and 8 July, because the context is extremely important. What had happened was, we had known literally at the very last minute that someone had come forward saying that they might be the source. We did not in fact know whether they were, but we increasingly believed as the days went on that they were. We had the Foreign Affairs Committee literally about to report on 7 July. On 9 July, the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, was due to give evidence. I was due to give evidence, too. I was also in front of the Liaison Committee on 8 July.

As was described not merely by me but by the civil servants, Sir David Omand and Sir Kevin Tebbit, there was a dilemma as to whether to name somebody in circumstances in which we could not at that stage be absolutely sure—because the BBC was refusing to confirm even whether it was not the source, which would have cleared the matter entirely—or whether we had to be careful about naming someone when we were not sure, and indeed given that other people then could be speculated upon.

The reason for this way of proceeding, as was explained in the evidence, was that it became increasingly clear that there was a risk of the name leaking out in any event, and that there were other Ministry of Defence officials being harassed as the potential source. So that was the reason why it was done in that way. What Lord Hutton describes in the end is that process, and he concludes that it was conducted in good faith. I entirely accept what he says, that in retrospect it could have been done in a number of different ways. But in the end, one thing was for sure: the name was bound to come out because it would have been wholly improper for us to have realised that we had the person within the Ministry of Defence who was supposed to be the source of this story and not once disclose the fact that we knew that someone had come forward and admitted that, given that we had two Committees looking into it and we were going to go and give evidence to those Committees, and they were focusing on the truth or otherwise of the Gilligan claim. That is the reason for it. I think that the hon. Gentleman is a fair-minded person, and I would just ask him to read what Lord Hutton says about this in detail. I think that he will find it properly described.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester. Gorton) (Lab)

Does not the Hutton report confirm what some of us have been reviled for saying for months, namely that the BBC broadcast a lie, that the chairman of the BBC railroaded an acquiescent board of governors into endorsing the lie, that Richard Sambrook withheld from the board of governors information showing it to be a lie, and that Kevin Marsh and John Humphrys endorsed and built on the lie? How can the BBC continue as a public service broadcasting organisation, funded by a tax, unless these people are cleared out and a new regime appointed?

The Prime Minister

Well—[HON. MEMBERS: "Make him chairman!"] No, I shall not do that. I will simply say that I am sure that the BBC will reflect on the findings of the Hutton report. I also say to my right hon. Friend and to other hon. Members that there are some wider lessons, as well as those for the BBC. Although I am sure that the BBC will reflect on those lessons, there may be too great a willingness to focus only on the BBC, because it is not only particular journalists there who make such allegations at the drop of a hat and do not really bother to correct them once they are found to be untrue.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)

As the leader of the largest party from Ulster, I should like to pay tribute to Lord Hutton, an Ulsterman. I congratulate him on the speed with which he brought his findings to this House and on the fact that one does not need to get a dictionary to understand what he is saying.

The Prime Minister finished his speech by quoting Lord Hutton, who said: false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others…should not be made". All right-thinking people in this House will agree with that. The Prime Minister finished his own statement by saying, "Let those who made them now withdraw them." No right-thinking person could disagree with that.

The Prime Minister knows of the turmoil and division in the nation that this matter has caused, and now is the appropriate time for him to discuss with Her Majesty the Queen a national day of prayer that we may return to the old paths and remember this: that justice and judgment are an honour to a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

The Prime Minister

In relation to the hon. Gentleman's first point about his party, if he talks to the Conservative party he will discover that a large party can become smaller in time.

In respect of the day of prayer, I do not think that I shall be suggesting that to Her Majesty, but what he says about the importance of allegations of impropriety being properly sustained or withdrawn must indeed be correct. We do not need to engage in a great deal of prayer to achieve that: we could achieve it perfectly simply if we merely acted on it.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) (Lab)

A great deal of time has rightly been spent on producing this report, because, tragically, a very well-respected civil servant died. Given the thousands who have died in Iraq since the invasion, and given the weight of evidence that we now have that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, will the Prime Minister now undertake to call an independent and non-partisan inquiry with terms of reference wide enough to allow us to discover why we went to war with Iraq? Millions of people opposed this illegal war. Do we not owe it to our democracy and to the citizens of this country to find out exactly why we went?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid that I cannot agree with the last part of what my hon. Friend said.

In relation to the first part, it is not the case that thousands of people are dying in Iraq, nor that anyone is dying in Iraq as a result of the way in which the coalition forces and the Iraqi civilian authority are behaving—on the contrary, they are doing their best to reconstruct that country. It is former Saddam sympathisers and assorted terrorist groups who are conducting terrorist operations and killing wholly innocent people, including members of the United Nations and, in particular, large numbers of Iraq citizens. Whatever my hon. Friend's thoughts about the war, I should think that she would agree that Iraq is a better place without Saddam, that the region is a better place without Saddam, and that the world is a better place without Saddam; and that we should now get on and help that country.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con)

Lord Hutton ends his report by quoting Dr. Kelly's obituary on page 328. I think we should keep that in mind.

May I now raise what appears to be a slightly unpopular subject in the Chamber today, that of journalists' standards and the BBC? May I ask the Prime Minister to reflect on the BBC's letter of 30 May last year, which was sent in reply to a letter from the Downing street press office? It gives a clear summary of the BBC's response.

May I also point out that the words of Andrew Gilligan at seven minutes past 6 o' clock, which he has not defended in full, seem to have led to the controversy? Does the Prime Minister accept that No. 10 could have calmed the whole thing down if it had not over-reacted, especially after the letter of 30 May?

The Prime Minister

I am afraid I do not accept that. I do not accept that this was not a claim that was not substantiated and was sustained over a long period by the BBC. The BBC did that, and the claim was then repeated and then taken up by newspapers. The truth is that it went very much into the public consciousness, and became virtually part of the accepted truth when in fact it was a complete untruth. If the hon. Gentleman looks in detail at what Lord Hutton says about these things, I think he will find a complete answer to the points he has made.

Peter Bottomley

indicated dissent.

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I suggest he read the report as a whole. It is quite plain what Lord Hutton thinks.

Alan Howarth (Newport, East) (Lab)

The public will indeed expect a significant response from the governors to Lord Hutton's serious criticisms of the BBC, but—saving the presence of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) beside me—can my right hon. Friend assure the House that Lord Hutton's strictures against the BBC will not bias the Government in their consideration of the future of the charter and licence fee?

The Prime Minister

I can give that assurance completely.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con)

The whole House mourns the loss of an outstanding servant of the nation, but many of us also greatly value the honour and integrity of the House. I am delighted that the Prime Minister will be pleased with the outcome of the Hutton report—it is a good thing to have this put behind us—but will he work with all Members, and particularly with the leaders of all political parties in the House, to uphold the honour and integrity of Parliament; otherwise people will lose confidence in this place? If there is one thing that I wish to do during my remaining time here, it is to enhance the honour and integrity of the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister

I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I think that the vast majority of the House will agree with it. I only wish that the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr.Howard) had said the same in responding to my statement. It would have been perfectly simple for him to say "We accept these questions about the Prime Minister's integrity being removed; now let us debate other issues." It is unfortunate that he did not do so, because he left the impression—and meant to leave the impression—that there were still doubts about my integrity over this issue.

Sir Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) (Lab)

May I build on the question asked by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton)? Is not the kernel of the 740-page report contained in what Lord Hutton says about the best elements of democracy? Is it not the case that the bridge between the public servant and the public is the press? If that bridge is destroyed by falsehood, innuendo, unfounded allegations and attacks on the impunity of public servants are not the public worse served? Is it not appropriate for the sections of the press that indulge in such odious practices to cease to do so, so that our democracy can be stronger and that bridge between the public servant and the public can be restored?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that people will reflect on what Lord Hutton has said. Let me make it clear that I believe a vibrant, healthy and investigative press is precisely what a democracy like ours needs and should have. That is perfectly compatible with making allegations of impropriety only when they can be substantiated.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) (UUP)

I am sure the House will agree that the inquiry and the report are the very model of what a judicial inquiry should be, and that Lord Hutton deserves our thanks. I also agree with Labour Members that there is a clear need for a radical response from the BBC to the cogent criticisms that have been made. I am sure the House will return to that on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary can rightly feel that they have been vindicated in the report because it is clear that they acted properly in handling the dossier and the intelligence material. I have no regrets about my support and that of my colleagues for the war. It was the right thing to do and events since the war have, if anything, vindicated that.

However, I have a concern about the intelligence material. I appreciate that other intelligence agencies and the Security Council were of the same view as our intelligence services, but there must be serious concern about whether the intelligence services had an accurate picture of the position at the time. I suggest to the Prime Minister that it would be a good idea to examine the way in which we could have some sort of consideration of or inquiry into the accuracy of the intelligence that our intelligence services gave him. I do not suggest any impropriety, but there must be a lingering anxiety about the reliability of the intelligence and we need to consider the way in which we can ensure that we get the best possible intelligence in future.

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has put his comments moderately and sensibly. I agree that there must be consideration of such issues, which I think will be informed by the final report of the Iraq survey group because it will say, "This is what we have found in Iraq." The information that has already come out is more balanced than people are saying. However, I agree that, at that point, it will be sensible to consider the lessons that can be learned.

Several hon. Members

rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. There will be a debate on the matter next week.

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Inaccurate and sloppy media reporting, sometimes provoked by hon. Members' inaccurate and sloppy statements, has not only falsely impugned the integrity of a Prime Minister but called into question the effectiveness of the House and the quality of the scrutiny of the Government by our Committees and hon. Members. When you have the opportunity to read the report, will you ask your staff to compare Lord Hutton's conclusions with statements by hon. Members? If there is any case in which an hon. Member appears to have misled the House, will you have a private conversation with that Member about the advisability of making a personal statement?

Mr. Speaker

I shall look into the matter.