Fox apologises for 'mistake' over Werritty


Defence Secretary Liam Fox tonight apologised for making a mistake in allowing "distinctions to be blurred" in his working relationship with former flatmate Adam Werritty.

In a statement released on his return to London, Dr Fox conceded that his "frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing".

The beleaguered Tory also accepted that their close ties my have given outsiders the "misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend".

He said: "I accept that it was a mistake to allow distinctions to be blurred between my professional responsibilities and my personal loyalties to a friend. I am sorry for this.

"At no stage did I or my department provide classified information or briefings to Mr Werritty or assist with his commercial work - let alone benefit personally from this work.

"Nevertheless, I do accept that given Mr Werritty's defence-related business interests, my frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing, and may also have given third parties the misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend.

"I have learned lessons from this experience."

Dr Fox has apologised to Prime Minister David Cameron, who is poised to make a decision on his fate tomorrow after receiving a report into the controversy.

The Defence Secretary added: "I accept that with the benefit of hindsight I should have taken much greater care to ensure that any meetings with Adam Werritty, at which defence and security related issues were raised, were properly attended by officials and recorded - to protect myself and the Government from any suggestion of wrongdoing.

"I have apologised to the Prime Minister and agreed with my permanent secretary to put in place new procedures to ensure that this does not happen again."

Dr Fox insisted he will "answer all questions in the House of Commons" tomorrow following demands by Labour for him to make a full statement.

It follows a raft of allegations over recent days about the unusual involvement Mr Werritty, best man at the Secretary of State's wedding, had in brokering meetings for Dr Fox and the access he had to government.

The self-styled advisor had no formal parliamentary or Whitehall position yet accompanied the Defence Secretary on overseas visits and meetings with foreign dignitaries.

Despite claims Mr Werritty had never been involved in official engagements, footage was uncovered yesterday that showed him meeting Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa with Dr Fox in a London hotel last year.

He also helped set up a meeting with defence industry representatives at a hotel in Dubai. Dr Fox yesterday appeared to suggest that event was arranged following a chance meeting at a restaurant but later was forced to issue an embarrassing statement clarifying his position after emails surfaced showing it was pre-arranged.

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy has written to the Prime Minister calling for a full investigation into the controversy, claiming there are "significant shortcomings" in the current internal investigation.

He told Mr Cameron "there are important questions which I do not believe will be sufficiently addressed by this process".

The letter states: "The terms of reference are narrow and simply inadequate in light of the evidence that has come to light."

It adds: "This is a totally inadequate response to the scale and nature of the charges that the Secretary of State now faces.

"To arrive at a meaningful judgment on whether the ministerial code has been breached it is necessary to assess all the issues that have been raised.

"As you will know, the 2010 ministerial code states explicitly that it is not the role of officials to enforce the code and it is therefore inappropriate for the Permanent Secretary to undertake this role.

"The code states that if there is an allegation about a breach then you as Prime Minister should refer this to the independent adviser on ministers' interests.

"This course of action is now clearly necessary and I urge you take it immediately.

"It is important that the breadth of this inquiry matches the severity of the accusations."

Earlier, former prime minister Sir John Major admitted it was an "extremely difficult" situation for David Cameron to handle.

"Either natural justice requires you wait a long time and you are then said to be incapable of making decisions or you move too speedily and you are said to be ruthless.

"I don't know what the situation is. The Prime Minister has asked for the facts to have a first look on Monday and I think that is right.

"From the Prime Minister's perspective he has to balance natural justice and the truth rather than the gossip, the rumour and things that may be true. I have no idea whether they are or not."

Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, who supported Dr Fox in his bid to become Conservative leader in 2005, told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "First of all can I say that I have found Liam Fox to be a man of extraordinarily high work ethic.

"He is a very hard-working MP and secretary of state and he is someone who I have found to be an honourable and decent man and so I am very disappointed about the whirlwind that the media and others are looking at in obviously making it very difficult for him at the moment."

Mr Kawczynski added: "You have to take the man by his pedigree. This is somebody who has throughout his political career acted in an honest, decent, open and transparent way and I think that should be taken into context.

"I very much hope that he will survive, quite frankly. I think it would be a huge loss to the Government for him to go, yes."

Former Armed Forces Minister Kevan Jones said: "This is a remarkable admission. Just 24-hours ago Liam Fox called these allegations 'baseless' and now he has apologised, but yet is denying any wrongdoing took place.

"The Defence Secretary simply cannot have sensitive meetings behind the back of his officials. This is incredibly serious and this response is incredible.

"This is a man in denial. We need a full explanation of the very serious questions which remain.

"There is no need for new procedures, but there is a need for a Secretary of State who abides by existing ones.

"The public will be deeply unimpressed if this obfuscation continues and it is the duty of the Prime Minister to make sure this is no longer allowed to cloud the character of his Government.

"This inadequate response is exactly why we need a full and proper inquiry led by the Cabinet Office into whether the Ministerial Code has been breached."

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee, said: "From the backbenchers I have spoken with, on both the left and right of the party; the Defence Secretary still has a huge amount of support. His statement has added to that support."


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower