Lord Hutton, the law lord who conducted the inquiry into Dr David Kelly's death, has insisted there was no secrecy surrounding the post-mortem examination report.
In a statement, he said: "There appears to be widespread misunderstanding about the availability of the post-mortem report on Dr David Kelly prepared by Dr Nicholas Hunt, the Home Office pathologist, who gave evidence to the inquiry into his death which I conducted.
"I wish to make it clear that when a group of doctors made a request to see the post-mortem report, I issued a statement in January that I would not object to its disclosure to the doctors and their legal advisers for the purposes of legal proceedings.
"However, whether or not the report should be disclosed is a matter for the Lord Chancellor to decide.
"The inquiry which I conducted was open and public. It was very widely reported in the media and all the evidence appeared on the inquiry website which is still available to view.
"At the inquiry Dr Kelly's family, the government and the BBC were represented by leading counsel, none of whom asked for leave to question or challenge by cross examination the evidence of Dr Nicholas Hunt, the pathologist, Professor Keith Hawton, the director of the centre for suicide research in the University of Oxford and a leading expert on the subject of suicide, and other witnesses, whose evidence led to the conclusion that Dr Kelly had committed suicide and had not been murdered.
"The post-mortem report was available for inspection by those counsel.
"At the conclusion of the inquiry I requested (not 'ordered') that the post-mortem report should not be disclosed for 70 years.
"I made this request solely in order to protect Dr Kelly's widow and daughters for the remainder of their lives (the daughters being in their 20s at that time) from the distress which they would suffer from further discussion of the details of Dr Kelly's death in the media.
"My request was not a concealment of evidence because every matter of relevance had been examined or was available for examination during the public inquiry.
"There was no secrecy surrounding the post-mortem report because it had always been available for examination and questioning by counsel representing the interested parties during the inquiry."