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Wednesday 25th June 2003

Alastair Campbell gives evidence to Select Committee

Alastair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s director of communications and strategy, appears before MPs for only the second time today. The subject is the Government’s now famous dossiers on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, which have been accused on this programme of being "sexed up" to make the case for war more compelling.

We asked three people involved in the field to suggest the questions they would ask Mr Campbell if they were members of the committee.

Dr Glen Rangwala:
Lecturer at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the first person to spot the plagiarism in the "dodgy dossier"

* Is it true that the intelligence agencies produced a six-page dossier in March 2002 which stated that there was no new evidence of a threat from Iraq?

* Were you involved in asking for that dossier not to be issued, and for it to be radically revised?

* Who actually wrote the final published text of the September dossier?

* Jack Straw has acknowledged in a memo to the committee that ministers and special advisers "offered comments" to the Joint Intelligence Committee during theproduction of the dossier. Were you one of the special advisers who offered comments? If so, what comments did you offer?

* Since you and the other members of the Prime Minister’s staff are neither experts on Iraq’s WMD or members of the intelligence services, what possible impact could you have had on making an assessment of Iraq’s WMD?

* Three weeks before the dossier was published, Whitehall sources told the defence editor of The Times that the dossier would not be revelatory. A few days later, a Whitehall source told the security editor of the Guardian that the dossier "would no longer play a role" because there was "very little new to put in it." How do you account for the difference between those statements and the dossier which emerged only a few weeks later?

Menzies Campbell:
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman and QC

* Very little evidence comes without qualifications. When the evidence on the 45-minute claim was first produced [by the intelligence services], were there any qualifications attached to it?

* The Armed Forces Minister has told us that the 45-minute deployment evidence came from a single, unsupported source. How much of the other evidence in the September dossier came from single, unsupported sources?

* Do you or anyone else in Downing Street still stand by the claim that weapons of mass destruction could [have been] deployed within 45 minutes?

Martin Sixsmith:
Former head of communications at the Department of Transport

* Why didn’t Downing Street deny the "45-minute story" [that the dossier had been "sexed up" to include this claim] for six days after it first appeared?

* When you finally did so, why did you leave so many holes in your denial? Why did you deny that the Joint Intelligence Committee was unhappy, when the allegation was that the intelligence services were unhappy?

* I remember when I was a civil servant, you used to give advice on the best way to bury bad news. When a story was true, and couldn’t be denied, your advice was always to create a diversion. Can I ask you if it was you who asked John Reid to start spreading stories about "rogue elements" in the intelligence services plotting against the Government by casting doubt on the dossier?
* Did you agree with the Foreign Secretary’s evidence to this committee yesterday that the so-called "dodgy dossier" was actually "a complete horlicks?"

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