Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The death of David Kelly - The Parliamentary Questions which were "live" on 17th July 2003

One of the supposed explanations of David Kelly's hypothesised "suicide" on 17th July 2003 is that the Parliamentary Questions due for reply on 17th July 2003 or sent to him on that day in some way made him "realise" that his life was in tatters.

I thought, therefore, it might be useful to look at the Parliamentary Questions that were "live" on 17th July 2003 and consider whether they posed any particular difficulty for David Kelly.

I can trace two Parliamentary Questions due for written answer on 17th July 2003. Both were from Andrew MacKinlay.

The text of the first question (Ref. 126330) is as follows (See Ministry of Defence Parliamentary Question: Andrew MacKinlay Esq MP to Geoffrey Hoon MP 17.07.03):

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, when over the past two years Mr David Kelly has met Andrew Gilligan of the BBC. 126330

The drafted answer was as follows:

Andrew Gilligan has had meetings on Iraq with Dr Kelly twice over the past two years : February 2003 and 22 May 2003 . In addition, Dr Kelly spoke to Andrew Gilligan about Iraq during a seminar at the International Institute of Strategic Studies on 12-14 September 2002 .

I don't see anything particularly threatening with respect to the question or the proposed answer.

The text of the second question (Ref. 126331) is as follows (See Ministry of Defence Parliamentary Question: Andrew MacKinlay Esq MP to Geoffrey Hoon MP 17.07.03)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, which journalists Mr David Kelly has met over the past two years ; other than Andrew Gilligan of the BBC. (a) for what purpose each meeting was held, and (b) when each meeting took place. 126331

The draft answer was as follows:

Dr Kelly has records of having held meetings with the following journalists .

Name Date Purpose
Nick Rufford (Sunday Times) 14 March 2002 Discussing Al-Manal
Alex Nicoll (Financial Times) 15 May 2002 Iraqi WMD in general
Phillip Sen (The Engineer) 3 October 2002 Inspection teclmology

Dr Kelly has also had meetings with Jane Corbin (BBC) and Tom Mangold (BBC) but has no record of the dates .

In addition, Dr Kelly will have spoken with journalists about Iraq at a range of seminars and similar events, and on the telephone. Dr Kelly has also discussed non-Iraq WMD matters on which he is an acknowledged expert.

Not a comprehensive answer, perhaps, but no obvious threats there.

Given Dr. Kelly's death the planned answers were not given.

One of the questions from Andrew MacKinlay was answered on 9th September 2003: David Kelly.

In addition to the two questions from Andrew MacKinlay there was another five-part question from Mr. Jenkin.

First let's recognise that David Kelly had lots of time to answer any new Parliamentary Questions. That's confirmed in James Harrison's email of 17th July 2003, e-mail to Dr Kelly 17 July 2003 re: Parliamentary questions.

I believe that the anticipated deadline for answering this new five-part question was around 3rd September 2003.

In the event the written answer to Mr. Jenkin was given on 9th September 2003.

David Kelly

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) whether his Department has complied with Dr. David Kelly's terms and conditions of employment in handling the matter of his discussions with Mr. Andrew Gilligan; [127159]

(2) on how many occasions Dr. David Kelly spoke to Mr. Andrew Gilligan; and whether his line managers knew this; [127156]

(3) how many of his Department's personnel have been interviewed in connection with the dossier story reported by Mr. Andrew Gilligan; [127157]

(4) what inquiries are being conducted by his Department into unauthorised briefings of the BBC in connection with Iraq; [127158]

(5) what (a) civil service and (b) MOD rules and regulations may have been infringed by Dr. David Kelly in talking to Mr. Andrew Gilligan. [127155]

Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman will recognise that these are all matters that are being addressed by Lord Hutton's Inquiry. Lord Hutton will publish his report in

9 Sept 2003 : Column 351W

due course. I am therefore withholding the information requested under Exemption 4a of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Geoff Hoon, after David Kelly's death, could use Exemption 4a to avoid answering Mr. Jenkins questions. However, if David Kelly had not died then the multipart question would have had to be answered by early September.

Notice that Geoff Hoon's answer includes five separate reference numbers. So, it would appear that five separate written questions are being answered together. The questions could potentially have been answered singly or grouped according to the Ministry of Defence's preference.

A composite answer to Mr. Jenkin's question might have looked something like the following:

(1) The Ministry of Defence has fully complied with the terms and conditions of Dr. David Kelly's employment in respect of its handling of contacts that Dr. Kelly had with Andrew Gilligan.

(2) With respect to Dr. Kelly's meetings with Mr. Gilligan I refer the Honourable Gentleman to the answer I gave to the Honourable Member for Thurrock (Mr. MacKinlay) at [Hansard Reference].

(3) The Ministry of Defence has conducted a thorough inquiry into contacts by its staff with Andrew Gilligan and has decided that, in the light of the evidence, no further action is appropriate.

I am sure that a skilled parliamentary draftsman could produce something yet more bland and reassuring.

There is nothing truly threatening in Mr. Jenkin's questions.

By early September 2003 the interest in the matter would, in all likelihood, have at least begun to die down.


  1. A couple of queries...
    Why is there never a date attached to the February 2003 meeting with Gilligan (prior to Gilligan going out to Baghdad)?
    It is agreed here and here by Richard Hatfield, yet Gilligan's solicitors say that there was only ever one meeting on 22 May in 2003 (see FSB/5/0020. Who is telling the truth?
    On the same page, Gilligan denies meeting David Kelly at the IISS conference (11-13 Sept) quoting a boat hire booking
    That the booking was only started on Friday afternoon at Nantwich , the last day of the 2002 International Institute for Strategic Studies seminar, is no evidence that Gilligan couldn't have met David Kelly between those dates. (an indeed the booking is no proof that the holiday occurred)
    This was an interesting time, when Bush called Saddam's regime a grave and gathering danger and a dodgy UK intelligence dossier said that Iraq was sourcing Uranium (from Niger).

  2. Incidentally , a photo of the press briefing of the IISS on 9th September 2002 is here with press statement, and also reported by the BBC here

    Was there ever a seminar between those dates?
    In fact the launch of its report was 9 September 2002, and not 11-13 as given by Gilligan's solicitors

  3. Felix,

    Interesting points of detail. Thanks.

    I've written a new post The death of David Kelly - Meeting at the IISS with Andrew Gilligan about related matters.

    There are at least two other IISS-related meetings which at a minimum touched on Iraq in the period June to September 2002.

  4. Gilligan seems,from his Hutton Inquiry statements and notes of the Assistant Editor of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Miranda Holt, to have had close contacts with the IISS, especially Dr John Chipman CMG (the same honour conferred on Dr Kelly 3 years previously) and the American, Dr Gary Samore (whose hawkish interview with Gavin Hewitt on Newsnight on 9th September 2003 may be seen here
    Unfortunately,Olivia Bosch's BBC interview is no longer available although a BBC forum exchange is still online at the IISS website.(Bosch had become a visiting fellow at the IISS by then)
    Chipman's pre-Press conference interview on BBC Breakfast seems geared to ramping up the threat

  5. Andrew,
    the three contacts ,Philip Sen (note spelling)Nick Rufford and Alex Nicoll are to be found at TVP/3/0115. This exhibit is NOT a note of 11/4/02 as it details future meetings. Perhaps it was written prior to "returning home" late on 16 July to answer the PQs??
    Sen had previously worked for Jane's Defence publications before The Engineer.
    These three contacts are listed in the email of 10.22 am,17 July 2003 sent from xsk45@dial.pipex.com at COM/4/0079

    The feeling I get is that by writing in the email of 17 July SUSAN WELLS (Dr Kelly knew Susan Watts quite well as a contact) it is SOMEONE ELSE sent this email, and whoever did it is merely copying the list of contacts in Dr Kelly's pocket book, where Watts does indeed look like Wellsin Kelly's rather spidery hand. See TVP/3/0125.
    We do not now when the notebook was written, or indeed where. The business cards might even have been in the wallet which was,according to a FoI, found on a table at Westmoor, and may well have been on his person when the note was made.

  6. Alex Nicoll wrote an article for the FT DEADLY AGENTS DIFFICULT TO DEFEND AGAINST
    dated 9 November 2002, just as the dossier was being compiled.
    Nicoll quotes the just released IISS dossier.which was presented that day by John Chipman,Gary Samore and Dennis M Gormley who was during 2002 a Consulting Senior Fellow for Technology and Defence Policy at the IISS, and from 2003-10 Senior Fellow at the Monterey Institute, Center for Nonproliferation Studies and a leading expert on conventional, especially unmanned weapons.

  7. Felix,

    That's an interesting possible explanation about the confusion between "Wells" and "Watts".

    It's not a possibility that we can completely exclude, in my view.

    But it would be difficult to prove on the presently available evidence.