Investigation into Fox widened after more Werritty links revealed


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The Independent Online

Liam Fox's ministerial future was thrown into serious doubt last night after a report uncovered new evidence of his personal and official links to his self-styled adviser, Adam Werritty.

The initial findings of a civil service inquiry into the Defence Secretary's dealings with Mr Werritty revealed that:

* Officials in Mr Fox's office were ordered to provide details of his diary to Mr Werritty on several occasions after he became Secretary of State.

* Mr Werritty has been present with Mr Fox on 18 separate foreign trips since he took office in May last year. These included official visits, conferences, mini-breaks and family holidays.

* Mr Werritty met Mr Fox on an additional 22 occasions at the Ministry of Defence's headquarters in London – many times without officials present.

* On one occasion, Mr Werritty attended a meeting with the new British ambassador to Israel and on another he organised a meeting at MoD headquarters with a Sri Lankan visitor.

It also emerged that Mr Fox instructed officials in his office to write a briefing note on a technology which had been demonstrated to him at a controversial meeting in Dubai with a defence contractor organised by Mr Werritty. That meeting had initially been facilitated by a lobbying firm paid thousands of pounds by the manufacturers of the technology. No one in the Ministry of Defence knew the meeting, organised by Mr Werritty, was taking place.

Last night, Downing Street announced a wider investigation into Mr Werritty's activities. This will include a trawl of the Department's emails for contacts between the men and correspondence between Mr Werritty and Mr Fox's office.

In a statement to the House of Commons Mr Fox apologised for not being more transparent in his dealings with Mr Werritty but insisted that at no stage was the relationship improper. Mr Werritty had no access to confidential information, he said, and did not profit through their connection.

He said: "I accept that I should have taken greater care to ensure a more transparent separation of government, party political, and private business and that meetings were properly recorded to protect myself and Government from any suggestion of wrongdoing."

But Labour's shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said it was quite clear that Mr Fox had broken the ministerial code which states that "ministers must ensure that no conflict arises or could reasonably be perceived to arise between their public duties and their private interests".