The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 18 October 2003

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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At a specially reconvened hearing of the Hutton inquiry into circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the expert on Iraqi weapons, Sir Kevin Tebbit, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said that Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had chaired the meeting that agreed a ‘change of stance’, under which officials would confirm the scientist’s identity as the man who illicitly briefed Mr Andrew Gilligan, a BBC radio correspondent, if his name was put to them by reporters. Lord Hutton said that his report ‘might not be delivered and published before the New Year’. Mr Blair held talks at Downing Street with Mr Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach of Ireland; the leaders of Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists; and Mr Richard Haass, President George Bush’s special adviser on Northern Ireland; an aim was to arrange elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been suspended for a year. Mr Michael Crick, a television journalist, handed over to Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, a dossier alleging that Mr Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of the Conservative party, improperly employed his wife as a secretary using an allowance from public funds; Sir Philip said he would make a full inquiry. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, met the primates of 38 Anglican provinces at Lambeth Palace in an effort to stop a schism in the Anglican Communion over the ordination of practising homosexuals. Mr Callum McCarthy, the new chairman of the Financial Services Authority, said in his first speech that implementing European financial market regulation would bring ‘severe stress’ to the City of London over the coming years. Blood supplies in Scotland have reached dangerously low levels and planned operations might have to be cancelled, according to the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. D.B.C. Pierre, whose real name is Peter Finlay, won the Man Booker Prize with his novel Vernon God Little; he told the prizegiving audience an extraordinary story of wanting to pay back debts run up on cocaine and gambling. Dame Felicitas Corrigan, the Benedictine nun, died, aged 95. The contractors Jarvis are withdrawing from rail maintenance work, mentioning the effect of ‘reputation issues’; Network Rail now becomes responsible. Merseytravel, which runs local trains from Liverpool, is applying for a local by-law to enable police to confiscate drink and arrest anyone caught drinking alcohol on its trains.

A suicide car-bomber killed six Iraqis by driving against the barriers in front of the Baghdad Hotel in the Iraqi capital, which is used by contract employees of the American occupiers. A throng of a million Shias on pilgrimage to the city of Karbala for the birthday of the 12th and final Imam were urged to support a separate Shi’ite administration in Iraq; about a dozen died in clashes between rival Shi’ite factions. An explosion killed four in an American convoy in the Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia announced it would hold its first elections for municipal councils, and said that it had handed over to the United States at least three American citizens suspected of links with al-Qa’eda. In the Philippines, security forces shot dead Fathur Roman al-Ghozi, an Indonesian terrorist member of Jemaah Islamiyah, the group linked to al-Qa’eda, who had escaped from jail after being convicted of planning a bombing that killed 22 in Manila in 2000; President Gloria Arroyo visited the mortuary to see his bullet-riddled body. Bolivian government tanks drove into La Paz after four weeks of protests against President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s plans for a gas-export pipeline through Chile. Karel Hoffmann, aged 79, had a four-year sentence increased on appeal to six years for having aided the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union in 1968 by blocking radio and television broadcasts. China sent its first man into space. The Pope celebrated a reign of 25 years, the fourth longest in papal history.

CSH