Hain: Not naming Kelly an 'absurd' idea
PETER Hain raised fresh questions yesterday about the extent of the government’s role in the death of Dr David Kelly, claiming it would have been "absurd" for the name of the weapons expert to have been kept from the media.
The remarks came ahead of a press conference by Tony Blair today, when he will try to calm the political storm engulfing his government by concentrating on Labour’s domestic agenda.
In a startling intervention, Mr Hain, the Leader of the House and the Welsh Secretary, said that if Dr Kelly’s identity had not been revealed, then the government would have stood accused of a "cover-up".
"With the media pack in full cry, the very idea that David Kelly’s name could have been kept a secret is absurd," he told a seminar at the Institute for Public Policy Research.
"If it hadn’t emerged, doubtless the media would have spun it into a cover-up story, with endless speculation on the Today programme as to why."
Mr Hain’s remarks may be seen as an attempt to bolster the government’s position as Lord Hutton prepares to hold the preliminary hearing of his investigation into the tragedy on Friday.
But the Conservatives claimed Mr Hain had effectively admitted that the Ministry of Defence had deliberately allowed Dr Kelly’s name to be made public, apparently against the scientist’s wishes.
Dr Kelly took his own life 11 days ago, shortly after he was unmasked as the primary source for a report by the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan alleging that Downing Street had doctored intelligence material to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the Gulf war.
Oliver Letwin, the shadow home secretary, said the remarks came "very close indeed" to an admission that the MoD led journalists to Dr Kelly.
"If that is true, it would be very damaging indeed," added Mr Letwin. "I hope that the Prime Minister, at his press conference, will make clear exactly what the MoD did or did not do in this respect."
Mr Blair is expected to use the Downing Street press conference, one of the most difficult since he became prime minister, to try to close down the row over Dr Kelly’s death.
The Prime Minister will repeat his original call for "restraint and respect" and is likely to try and deflect difficult questions by saying the issue is now a matter for Lord Hutton.
In an attempt to move attention away from the crisis, Mr Blair is expected to focus attention on public service reform and the fight against crime. To underline the government’s commitment to move on, Michael Barber, the head of the government’s delivery unit, is expected to chart progress made on reforming hospitals and schools.
To stress the "business as usual" message, Stephen Byers, the former transport minister, will use a speech to the Social Market Foundation today to say that the government must not be diverted by the "pressures of the moment" from its key election pledges.
Mr Hain stressed the importance of not allowing the crisis to hamper the government and called on Mr Blair to maintain his campaign for British entry into the single currency.
"Despite the important attention that events of the last few weeks have commanded, and whatever the outcome of Lord Hutton’s inquiry, strategically it is essential we do not lose momentum in ensuring Britain remains, and indeed enhances, its role as a leading European power," the Welsh Secretary told the Financial Times.
"When the pro-European argument is put to the test - and this applies to the pro-euro argument, too - it wins. When the crunch comes and people confront the hard choice of being at the heart of Europe or being isolated ... people overwhelmingly vote for a pro-euro position."
The pro-euro cause was given a boost yesterday by a report which said that joining the single currency could make British families an average of almost 700 a year better off within six years.
The report by Maurice Fitzpatrick, an economist, noted that the eurozone’s two biggest economies, Germany and France, had boosted their trade with other European Union countries since the launch of the single currency.
Germany’s EU trade went up from 27.2 per cent of GDP in 1998 to 32 per cent in 2002, while that of France increased from 28 per cent to 31.4 per cent over the same period.
If British trade saw a similar boost, gross domestic product could increase by 16.5 billion a year within six years of euro entry - which equates to 687 for every household in the country - calculated Mr Fitzpatrick, the head of economics at the business services group Numerica.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 10 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east