David Cameron "almost certainly" breached the ministerial code by failing to call in his independent adviser on ministers' interests to investigate claims against the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, a Whitehall watchdog said yesterday.
Dr Fox resigned last year after he was found guilty of breaching the code over his relations with his friend Adam Werritty, following allegations initially investigated internally by the Ministry of Defence and then by Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary.
Sir Philip Mawer, who was Mr Cameron's adviser on ministerial interests at the time, has expressed his "frustration" that the Prime Minister did not call him in to handle the case. Sir Christopher Kelly, the chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said he shared Sir Philip's concerns.
He told the House of Commons Public Administration Committee yesterday: "On this occasion, I think he should have been employed. Indeed, I think it was almost certainly a breach of the ministerial code that he was not employed."
Sir Christopher added: "Just like the parliamentary commissioner [on standards], the adviser should be able to initiate inquiries of their own where there is a prima facie case to investigate, whereas at the moment he is only able to do so at the request of the Prime Minister."