Blair: I would have quit if BBC claims were true

The Prime Minister has told the Hutton Inquiry that he would have quit if the BBC's claims that Downing Street had "sexed up" an intelligence dossier on Iraq's WMD capability were true.

Tony Blair made the claim at this morning's session of the inquiry which is probing the circumstances into the death of leading weapons expert Dr David Kelly. He said that the credibility of the government had been called into question by Andrew Gilligan's report.

Mr Blair is only the second prime minister to have taken the stand at an inquiry of this kind – the precedent being set by Tory premier John Major at the Lord Scott's inquiry into the arms to Iraq affair.

Today, Mr Blair said that by associating the Downing Street communications chief Alastair Campbell with the prominence of the 45-minute deployment claim in the September dossier, the BBC had raised the stakes. By so doing, the Prime Minister said that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and the Intelligence and Security Committee, hearings were absolutely necessary.

Mr Blair took responsibility for the way in which Dr Kelly's name emerged, saying that it was right for journalists not to be misled when asking about the identity of Mr Gilligan's source.


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