‘No offence meant’ on Hutton report auction

Tony Blair today insisted “no offence” had been intended in auctioning a copy of the Hutton inquiry signed by his wife to raise money for the Labour party.

But he refused to apologise for selling off the official report into the death of government scientist David Kelly, signed by Cherie Booth, at a fundraiser in Mayfair last week.

The auction, which raised £400, has caused outrage among opposition politicians, and Conservative MP Stewart Jackson has tabled an early day motion condemning it as “in appalling bad taste, arrogant and crassly insensitive”.

During prime minister’s questions this afternoon, another Tory MP, Robert Goodwill, asked Mr Blair directly whether it was right for an inquiry into a public servant’s death, “signed by celebrities”, to be sold off to fill a political party’s coffers.

“I do not believe that any offence to anyone was intended,” the prime minister replied.

However, afterwards Tory MP Ed Vaizey – who represents the constituency in which Mr Kelly lived – told MPs: “When the prime minister said no offence was intended to be caused by the sale of that document, I can assure him that it was caused.”

The motion put by Mr Jackson has been signed by Tory MP Graham Stuart and Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker so far, and urges the Labour party to apologise for the “distress caused to the family and friends of the late Dr Kelly”.

It deplores “such tasteless and offensive conduct”, “deprecates such conduct by honourable members” and calls for the money raised to be given to charity.

Speaking last night, Mr Jackson said the auction “offends the basic tenets of decency and decorum” and said it was a “monumental error of judgment on the part of Cherie Blair and also members of the government and the parliamentary Labour party”.

“I do not think it is appropriate it is hawked around like a novelty item by the Labour party to raise funds, however broke they may be,” he told BBC Radio Four’s PM.

Lord Hutton concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself in July 2003, after he was revealed as the source for a highly controversial BBC report claiming the government had ‘sexed-up’ the intelligence dossier claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

The January 2004 report cleared the government of having an underhand strategy to make Dr Kelly’s name public, although it said the Ministry of Defence should have dealt with the situation in a more sensitive way.