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Dominic Grieve's David Kelly statement: inside the Commons, it's applauded. Outside, it's attacked.

by Paul Goodman

The death of David Kelly is a sad and serious business, so I will restrain the exuberance with which I usually write about my old friend and neighbour, Dominic Grieve.  Instead, I want to highlight the difference between the reception that his statement about Dr Kelly yesterday received on the one hand in all parts of the Commons, and on the other in some quarters outside it.

The core of the Attorney-General's case was as follows:

"Having given the most careful consideration to all the material that has been sent to me, I have concluded that the evidence that Dr Kelly took his own life is overwhelmingly strong. Further, nothing that I have seen supports any allegation that Dr Kelly was murdered or that his death was the subject of any kind of conspiracy or cover-up. In my view, no purpose would be served by my making an application to the High Court for an inquest, and indeed I have no reasonable basis for doing so. There is no possibility that, at an inquest, a verdict other than suicide would be returned.

It is not possible in the short time that I have now to explain in detail the reasoning behind my conclusions. In order to inform the House, I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses today a more detailed statement of my reasons, copies of the independent reports that I commissioned, the responses of Lord Hutton and others, some additional material and a schedule—a 60-page list that I hope covers most, if not all, the arguments that have been put to me and my response to each and every such argument based on all the evidence available.

May I just say, in broad terms, that the suggestion that Dr Kelly did not take his own life is based not on positive evidence as such but on a criticism of the findings of the investigation and inquiry? It began with the views of a number of doctors, undoubtedly expert in their own areas of practice but not qualified as forensic pathologists, that Dr Kelly could not have died from loss of blood from the wounds described. To be fair to those who make such a claim, they did not have access to the material on which those conclusions had been reached in making their own reasoned arguments."

In the Chamber, his statement was applauded by Catherine McKinnell (for the Opposition), Richard Ottoway (Con), Andrew Miller (Lab), Sir Alan Beith (LD), Tom Harris (Lab), Karl McCartney (Con), Gisela Stuart (Lab), Sir Peter Bottomley (Con), Patrick Mercer (Con), Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Con), Robert Buckland (Con), and Bob Stewart (Con).  Only Tom Brake (LD) struck a doubtful note, while Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) asked mischievously whether Grieve had fellow Minister Norman Baker's book on the matter.  (The Attorney-General's reply was in effect a challenge to his ministerial colleague.)

Outside the Chamber, Dr Stephen Frost was quoted as saying that the decision is "‘one of the gravest miscarriages of justice to occur in this country" and that Grieve is "complicit in a determined and concerted cover-up".  Dr Michael Powers was more circumspect, saying in the same report that "the questions which have been raised by the doctors have either not been answered or if they have they have not been subject to the rigours of a coroner’s inquest".  Powers, a former coroner (and QC), is often quoted as a spokesman for the group of doctors who have questioned the coroner's original enquiry.

As I say, I will curb the excess of joy that usually overcomes me when considering my old neighbour and friend.  But the suggestion that as upright and proper a figure as the present Attorney-General could in any way be involved in a cover-up is, as he might say if the late Frank Johnson hadn't written it first, a sugestion without a jot or tittle of truth in it, or indeed a tit or jottle.  The accusation is as risible as it is contemptible.


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