Campbell 'to be cleared over dossier claims'

Alastair Campbell is set to be cleared by MPs of exaggerating intelligence on Iraq to justify war, it was revealed today.

Alastair Campbell is set to be cleared by MPs of exaggerating intelligence on Iraq to justify war, it was revealed today.

Mr Campbell has been waging a bitter battle with the BBC over reports he “sexed up” a dossier on weapons of mass destruction.

But secret papers shared with the Commons committee probing the allegations prove he is innocent, said Labour MP Eric Illsley.

They show intelligence chiefs were behind the key claim that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical or biological weapons in just 45 minutes, he said.

BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan had said Mr Campbell inserted the claim in the Government’s first dossier, published last September.

In a letter to the BBC tonight Mr Campbell said he would be letting the matter rest until MPs officially report next Monday.

But he warned: “I reserve the right at that time, or subsequently, to pursue my case further.”

MPs are expected to say Downing Street’s communications director should have known a second dossier was “dodgy”.

However, he has already apologised for the error that saw a thesis cribbed from the Internet passed off as intelligence.

Mr Campbell persuaded MPs he did not tamper with the first dossier which formed the basis for war when he appeared before them last week, Mr Illsley revealed.

Any doubt was removed when Foreign Secretary Jack Straw shared secret papers with them at a private session on Friday, he said.

Tory committee member John Maples stressed the committee had not yet met to formally consider its verdict.

“We haven’t come to any conclusions at all yet,” Mr Maples insisted.

But Mr Illsley told LBC radio: “Alastair Campbell did not exaggerate the first dossier.”

Other colleagues on the committee agreed with him, the Barnsley central MP said.

“The information we were given was to the extent that the intelligence services wrote the dossier,” he continued.

“The claim of the 45 minutes availability of weapons of mass destruction was inserted in the dossier by the intelligence services, not by Mr Campbell.”

MPs from other parties who sit on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee could still produce a minority report blaming Mr Campbell.

They will be angered that Mr Illsley has gone public before they have even set down to consider their final verdict.

However, a majority report would still allow Mr Campbell to claim victory over the BBC.

He is certain to use that to renew his demands for a public apology from the Corporation.

However, that is expected to be resisted by BBC news director Richard Sambrook who tonight launched a fresh defence of the BBC’s reporting.

“The real question for the BBC is were we right to report what we actually said, when we said it? We believe the answer is ‘Yes’,” he said.

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