Blair welcomes BBC apology

The Prime Minister has welcomed the BBC’s decision to apologise ‘unreservedly’ for its Iraq weapons story following yesterday’s publication of the Hutton Report.

The report into the tragic death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly examined the roles the BBC and the government played in his apparent suicide and, while largely absolving the government of blame, the report heavily criticised the BBC and its editorial policies.

Tony Blair’s comments come as BBC director general Greg Dyke announced his resignation after four years at the helm, in response to Lord Hutton’s description of the BBC’s editorial system as “defective”. BBC chairman Gavyn Davies announced his resignation last night.

Speaking in comments broadcast on BBC News 24 this afternoon, the PM remarked: “It has always been a very simple matter of an accusation – a very serious one – … a false accusation as Lord Hutton has found.

“That has now been withdrawn, and that is all I ever wanted.”

The PM said that he fully respected the independence of the corporation and had “no doubt that the BBC will continue as it should do – to probe and question the Government in every proper way”.

He added: “What this does now is to allow us to draw a line and to move on – for the BBC to get on with their job and the government to get on with ours.”

In a report broadcast on the Today programme last year, BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan alleged that the government had “sexed up” a dossier on Iraqi weapons to strengthen the case for war. Mr Gilligan cited a ‘source’ in his story, which was later revealed to be Dr Kelly.

In a statement made today, BBC acting chairman Lord Ryder apologised “unreservedly” for any errors in its Iraq weapons story.

“The BBC must now move forward in the wake of Lord Hutton’s report, which highlighted serious defects in the Corporation’s processes and procedures,” he said.

“On behalf of the BBC I have no hesitation in apologising unreservedly for our errors and to the individuals whose reputations were affected by them.”