The government's dogged insistence that Saddam Hussein was able to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of the order being given suffered two serious blows yesterday as ministers braced themselves for the findings of the Hutton inquiry.
As the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, was once again forced to defend the justification for going to war, the Iraqi exile group in London which claims to have supplied MI6 with the intelligence about Saddam's 45-minute capability admitted that the information might have been completely untrue.
Nick Theros, the Washington representative of Iyad Allawi, who headed the Iraqi National Accord in exile, said it was raw intelligence from a single source, part of a large amount of information passed on by the INA to MI6.
He told the Guardian: "We were passing it on in good faith. It was for the intelligence services to verify it."
The admission came as David Kay, who resigned as the coalition's chief weapons inspector in Iraq on Friday, accused the intelligence agencies of failing to detect that Saddam's weapons programme was in disarray as a result of corruption and increasingly erratic leadership.
Mr Straw admitted that it was "disappointing" that the inspectors had not found evidence of the weapons, but said the war with Iraq was more justified today than it had been when MPs voted for the invasion.
"We were never saying that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the United Kingdom... The serious and current threat [was] to the world, and that was absolutely true, and I remain convinced it was," he told the BBC Radio 4 programme Today.
The claim that Saddam could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes was highlighted by Tony Blair's preface to the dossier issued by the government in September 2002 in the run-up to the war.
It was also at the heart of the row between Downing Street and the BBC after doubt was cast on its accuracy by the government weapons scientist David Kelly.
But Mr Theros said the information now seemed to be a "crock of shit". "Clearly we have not found WMD," he said.