David Cameron needs facts before making Liam Fox decision
Thursday 13 October 2011
Prime Minster David Cameron has suggested he would be "a weak leader" if he made a decision on Liam Fox's future before the facts about the financial affairs of his close friend and self-styled adviser Adam Werritty had been established.
Mr Werritty will be questioned for a second time by senior civil servants investigating his relationship with Dr Fox, the Defence Secretary, either on Thursday or Friday.
Speaking during a visit to Aberdeen, where he was welcoming BP's announcement of a near £10 billion investment in the UK oil industry, Mr Cameron said: "I think what is right is to allow the Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell to complete his full report. I think we have to be patient and allow him to gather the information, to answer the questions and a judgment can be made.
"But let me repeat again, I think Liam Fox has done a good job in sorting out the defence budget, making sure we've effective in Libya, and clearing up the mess in the MoD left by the last administration."
Mr Cameron was responding to new allegations that wealthy backers of Dr Fox had funded Mr Werritty's work and travel, claims that Labour said have appeared to "blow a hole" in the Defence Secretary's position.
Mr Cameron added: "A strong leader actually recognises you have to take time to get all the information, answer all the questions, and then actually make a decision.
"A weak leader is someone who jumps at it because of some artificial deadline. Let's get the facts established, and then we'll make a decision."
Labour MP Anas Sarwar called on the Electoral Commission to investigate the latest claims that anonymous backers had paid Mr Werritty.
In a letter to the watchdog, Mr Sarwar said there had been "potential breaches of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000" as anonymous donations were illegal.
Referring to reports that Mr Werritty was effectively a privately-funded adviser to the Defence Secretary, he wrote: "If true, this would be a donation to Liam Fox, which would legally have to be declared.
"Records of donors available on the Electoral Commission website list a number of donations to Dr Fox but none of these date from after the 2010 election - a period when Mr Werritty is reported to have been an adviser to Dr Fox - and it is unclear whether these donations relate to money used for the employment of Adam Werritty.
"Additionally, Dr Fox's entry in the House of Commons Register of Members' Financial Interests makes no reference to Adam Werritty."
The BBC reported that Mr Werritty, who has been by the Defence Secretary's side on numerous overseas visits over the past 18 months, was bankrolled by "a number of wealthy private clients" who shared his and Dr Fox's strong Atlanticist views.
Arriving at the Ministry of Defence this morning, Dr Fox said he was concentrating on his job at an important time for operations in Libya.
"I'm continuing to do what is needed at the moment, which is that the Defence Secretary focuses on defence issues," he told reporters.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "This uncertainty is not good for the country.
"We've got a distracted Defence Secretary and a distracted Government.
"The questions are mounting about Liam Fox, and the best way of answering those questions is to speedily get on with the report that is being done."
Mr Miliband said Prime Minister David Cameron should have referred the inquiry into Dr Fox's conduct to an independent adviser.
"Let's get on with that report and then let's find out what his judgment is about whether Liam Fox broke the ministerial code," he said.
Mr Miliband accused the Prime Minister of being "weak" in his response to the allegations surrounding Dr Fox.
Renewing his questions over why the case had not been referred to the independent adviser on the ministerial code, Sir Philip Mawer, he told a press conference: "There is an issue now about delay and indecision at the heart of Government.
"A report should have been commissioned swiftly, and then a decision should have been made.
"He is showing ineffective leadership. He should have acted more swiftly, he should have done what the code says."
The Labour leader said Mr Cameron was showing himself to be "a weak Prime Minister seemingly unable to make the right decision".
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