29/01/2004

Trimble backs calls for 'intelligence' inquiry

Following the publication of Lord Hutton’s Report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the Ulster Unionist Leader David Trimble said the findings had left a "lingering anxiety about the reliability of the intelligence".

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Trimble said that the Hutton Report had raised concerns 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."

Addressing the Prime Minister, Mr Trimble said: “I suggest to you 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."

Responding, Mr Blair said: “You have put your 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.”

Mr Trimble praised Lord Hutton’s inquiry and said that he agreed there was "a clear need for a radical response from the BBC to the cogent criticisms that have been made".

The MP for Upper Bann added that the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary could "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".

Mr Trimble said: "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."

The BBC Chairman of Governors Gavin Davies announced his resignation shortly after the publication of the Hutton Report.

The BBC Director-General resigned following a four hour meeting of the remaining 11 BBC governors this morning as the effects of the crisis precipitated by Lord Hutton's findings spread within the BBC.

(SP)

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