|Sign in Register|
Radio| Special report: Iraq - the media war| Special report: the BBC| Television
Kelly: Blair promises public inquiry
His spokesman, Godric Smith, came to the back of the plane less than an hour ago to announce the possible inquiry.
He said a judge would be named this afternoon by the Ministry of Defence.
The development comes as Thames Valley police confirmed the description of the body found near Dr Kelly's home in Oxfordshire matched that of the MoD scientist.
A spokesman confirmed there would be no formal identification until tomorrow.
"We are currently treating this incident as an unexplained death and we will have to wait for the results of the postmortem," he said.
Tony Blair was told of the disappearance of Dr Kelly early this morning and spent much of his flight on the telephone, according to Sky News.
The prime minister's spokesman said he was very concerned for the family of Dr Kelly and promised a public inquiry if his death was confirmed.
"If it is Dr Kelly, there will be a public inquiry, I urge you not to jump to conclusions," said Godric Smith, the prime minister's official spokesman, who is travelling on the plane with Mr Blair.
His comments were reported by the political editor of Sky News, Adam Boulton and by BBC Radio 5.
Alastair Campbell, who usually travels with Mr Blair, is not on the plane - he is on his way back to London.
Mr Smith said he was unable to confirm whether the prime minister has spoken to Mr Campbell but said there was no reason to believe that he had resigned.
"While he understands there will be no formal identification until tomorrow, if it is Dr Kelly the prime minister is obviously very distressed for the family and the Ministry of Defence intends to hold an independent judicial inquiry and there will be an announcement this afternoon as to the name of the judge," Boulton reported.
The MoD said Dr Kelly had at no point been threatened with suspension or dismissal as a result of his admission he had spoken to Gilligan.
It was made clear to Dr Kelly at the time that he had broken civil service rules by having unauthorised contact with a journalist, but "that was the end of it", said a spokesman.
Dr Kelly was given five days to consider his options before the MoD issued its statement on Tuesday July 8 to say an unnamed official had spoken to Gilligan.
And he was given an opportunity to talk through the possible ramifications of going public before the statement was released.
The MoD spokesman said: "He was first interviewed before the weekend and then asked to think about what the options were over the weekend and a decision was taken to say nothing in the meantime.
"He was interviewed again on the Monday and the question of what was the best way forward was talked through with him.
"The contents of the statement were cleared with him before it went out and it was flagged up to him that it was possible his name might get into the public domain at some point and that it was likely the intelligence and security committee and foreign affairs committee would want to take evidence from him."
The spokesman added that the MoD had offered Dr Kelly the use of alternative accommodation to avoid any press attention at his home address.
When he appeared before the committee, Tory MP Sir John Stanley told Dr Kelly he had acted in a "proper and honourable manner" in coming forward to suggest he may have been Gilligan's source but had been "thrown to the wolves" by the Ministry of Defence.
Earlier today a scientist colleague of Dr Kelly said it was because he had so much integrity that he had come forward.
Professor Alistair Hay said the way Dr Kelly had been treated by politicians before the foreign affairs select committee earlier this week was "absolutely inexcusable".
"His whole demeanour during the foreign affairs committee was one of someone who had beaten by the process. I was just so worried by his whole demeanour at the FAC. I just think the pressure is intolerable for someone like him. He is a professional scientist, not somebody who should be a ping pong ball for politicians," Prof Hay told Radio 5 today after police revealed they had found a body near Dr Kelly's home.
Dr Kelly had met Gilligan in the Charing Cross Hotel in central London on May 22, a week before the claim that No 10 had inserted intelligence that Saddam Hussein could launch a chemical or biological weapons strike within 45 minutes was broadcast on the Radio 4 Today programme.
The story has sparked a lengthy and bitter row between the government, the BBC and critics of the war on Iraq.
Dr Kelly told the committee he did not think he could have been the source for the story because Gilligan's account of his conversation with the contact differed from his own version of events.
The foreign affairs committee chairman, Donald Anderson, told Sky News: "On the face of it, this appears to be a human tragedy, if the news is now confirmed, and puts much of the discussion which we have had in a very different and personal perspective."
Later Richard Ottoway, a Tory MP who was on the committee, said he felt the implications of the latest developments were very serious. He said the committee's conclusion that Dr Kelly was unlikely to have been Gilligan's source was flagrantly ignored by No 10, which reacted by saying it was 99% sure Dr Kelly was the BBC reporter's source.
He rejected the idea the committee's questioning of the former weapons inspector had been unduly harsh.
Mr Anderson said there was "no way in which government ministers can be blamed" for the way in which Dr Kelly's name became public.
And he rejected suggestions that the committee should reconvene to consider its position in the light of today's events.
"It is awful, but this is not relevant any more to the work of our committee."
To contact the MediaGuardian newsdesk email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7239 9857
Printable version | Send it to a friend | Save story