The Hutton Inquiry was launched in 2003 by Tony Blair to investigate the death of the British Civil Service biological and chemical weapons expert, Dr David Kelly. Prior to Kelly's death, on the BBC Today programme the journalist Andrew Gilligan reported that the government had "sexed up" the dossier that supported the invasion of Iraq claiming that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes if so desired. Following the controversy surrounding Gilligan's report, the BBC eventually revealed that David Kelly was Gilligan's source for the story. Kelly was grilled about the Gilligan story and his involvement with it in a select committee hearing.
Within a few days, Kelly was dead. He was found in a wood nearby to his home in Oxfordshire. Following a police investigation, it was concluded that Kelly had committed suicide.
Hutton's report describes Kelly's career in the run-up to his death and the accompanying controversy as follows: Kelly had trained as a biologist and had joined the Ministry of Defence in 1984, heading the microbiology division of the chemical and biological defence establishment at Porton Down. He subsequently began working with the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat and the Non-Proliferation Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with a specific focus on Iraq. He also worked with the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, and had given advice to the Ministry of Defence's Defence Intelligence Staff, and the Secret Intelligence Service. Hutton notes that from 1991 to 1998, Kelly had made 37 visits to Iraq as part of his duties. Before working on Iraq, he had worked on analysing information about the Soviet Union's capacity to perform biochemical attacks and had visited Russia as part of an Anglo-American team.
In 1996, Kelly was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG), an honour given to individuals who have had an important role in foreign or Commonwealth affairs.
Following the release of the government dossier on Iraq's chemical, biological and other warfare capabilities, Kelly gave an interview to Susan Watts, the Science Editor of BBC Newsnight. Watts noted in shorthand the claim in the Government dossier that Kelly had stated it was a "mistake to put [it] in", and that it was based on a "single source", "not corroborated" and placed there simply because it "sounded good". Kelly subsequently met Andrew Gilligan who, at the time, was the defence and diplomatic correspondent for BBC Radio 4's Today programme, widely considered to be agenda-setting in terms of politics and national affairs. On the 29 May, 2003, Gilligan broadcast a series of reports on the Today programme where he stated:
the central claim in his [Tony Blair's] dossier which he published in September, the main, erm, case if you like against, er, against Iraq and the main statement of the British government's belief of what it thought Iraq was up to and what we've been told by one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up that dossier was that, actually the government probably, erm, knew that the forty five minute figure was wrong, even before it decided to put it in... our source says [Downing Street] ordered a week before publication, ordered it to be sexed up, to be made more exciting and ordered more facts to be, err, to be discovered.
In his report, Lord Hutton concluded that,
- I am satisfied that Dr Kelly took his own life ... that no other person was involved.
- There was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media.
- The allegations reported by Mr Gilligan on the BBC Today programme on 29 May 2003 that the Government probably knew that the 45 minutes claim was wrong or questionable before the dossier was published and that it was not inserted in the first draft of the dossier because it only came from one source and the intelligence agencies did not really believe it was necessarily true, were unfounded.
- Hutton Inquiry Report, s. 32.
- The Hutton Report Chapter 12