David Kelly24. Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): If she will make a statement on the actions of the Oxfordshire coroner in August 2003 in respect of the death of David Kelly. 
The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): The Oxfordshire coroner briefly resumed the inquest into the death of Dr. David Kelly on 14 August 2003 to admit post mortem evidence. He then adjourned the inquest, in accordance with the provisions of section 17(a) of the Coroners Act 1988, having been informed by the Lord Chancellor that Dr. Kelly’s death was likely to be adequately investigated by the Hutton inquiry.
Norman Baker: I thank the Minister for her reply. She will know my view that the coroner acted in a most peculiar way and contrary to the 1988 Act in resuming the inquiry after Lord Hutton had been appointed. In a letter that I received from Lord Hutton last week, he tells me that he had “no knowledge” of the inquest being reconvened, and no knowledge of the meeting with her officials, which she was aware of, that took place at the Oxfordshire coroner’s request, in August 2003. Is this not an extraordinary situation, and does the Minister not agree that it would be helpful if the Oxfordshire coroner agreed to a meeting with the Minister and me, at which we could discuss these matters in more detail? It is clear that there are a great many loose ends.
Ms Harman: I do not agree that the coroner acted in a most peculiar way. I have looked into this issue with great care and in great detail, and I do not think it
30 Jan 2007 : Column 85
necessarily odd that Lord Hutton had no knowledge of, or information about, the meeting that the coroner held with officials from the Department for Constitutional Affairs. I know that the hon. Gentleman remains suspicious and thinks that something underhand has gone on regarding the meeting between the Oxfordshire coroner and officials from the Lord Chancellor’s Department, but I do not
30 Jan 2007 : Column 86
think that that is the case. I have so far been unable to reassure the hon. Gentleman through very detailed letters and parliamentary answers, but perhaps he should meet the officials who were involved in that meeting, who I am sure can reassure him of its propriety. Obviously, I cannot offer a meeting with the Oxfordshire coroner, who is an independent judicial official.
So, in a recent letter to Norman Baker, Hutton avers that he had "no knowledge" of the inquest being reconvened! Compare that with the list of documents sent by the coroner to the Inquiry, which was the subject of my last post. On the face of it Hutton is being dishonest.
Unfortunately Mr Baker links the "no knowledge" of the inquest being reconvened with no knowledge of the meeting with her officials. Ms Harman gives an unusually detailed response to the question of the meeting between the coroner and her officials thereby giving the impression that she has given Mr Baker a very full answer. This is a prime example of the deviousness of politicians because she has disguised the fact that the question of Lord Hutton having "no knowledge" of the inquest being reconvened is totally ignored.
I do not believe that Hutton had "no knowledge" of the inquest being reconvened on 14 August.