THE most significant thing to emerge following yesterday's publication of the report of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) on the Iraq dossiers was the Government's statement that it will not reply to the report until after Lord Hutton has completed his Inquiry and made his report. Although the remits of the Committee and of Lord Hutton's Inquiry are quite different, they overlap in places, most obviously in their concern with the dossier's paragraphs referring to the so-called “45-minute claim” about Iraq's ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction. The accuracy of this claim was at the heart of Andrew Gilligan's report on the BBC's Today programme which started the chain of events leading to Dr Kelly's death. Yesterday's ISC report is critical of the way in the references to the “45-minute claim” were written; it says that there were omissions of the context and assessment of the intelligence on which the claim was based which “allowed speculation as to its exact meaning”. The report concludes, “This was unhelpful to an understanding of the issue.” Indeed! Most of the immediate comment following the report's publication yesterday concerned the “unhelpful and potentially misleading” failure of Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to reveal to the ISC that some of his defence intelligence staff had misgivings about parts of the dossier. Yet Foreign Secretary Jack Straw went on record that Mr Hoon “retains every confidence of the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues and will continue in his post.” All the signs are that the Government is closing ranks and nothing significant will happen until Lord Hutton makes known his findings in November.


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