Whitehall moves to defend Hoon

Whitehall and Number 10 have responded to alleged leaks from tomorrow’s Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on the decision to go to war in Iraq by defending the embattled Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon.

An article in today’s Evening Standard claims that the report will accuse Mr Hoon of misleading the Committee about the Defence Intelligence Staff’s concerns about the September 2002 weapons of mass destruction dossier.

The newspaper suggests that the Committee will say Mr Hoon’s actions were “misleading” and “unhelpful”.

Anonymous Whitehall briefings to journalists since the story broke have insisted that Mr Hoon in fact volunteered the information about the DIS’s reservations.

Indeed, the BBC’s political editor Andrew Marr said he had also been told that one element of the Evening Standard report was completely wrong – but not which bit.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith clashed over the Despatch Box this afternoon over the matter, as the Tory chief demanded to know if Mr Blair would sack Mr Hoon if the report proved to be true.

The Prime Minister insisted that the report had not been leaked by Downing Street.