Fox feels heat as new claim casts doubt on MoD denial

Liam Fox faces damaging new questions over friend's role

Adam Werritty, a self-styled adviser and former flatmate of Liam Fox, arranged a meeting with the Defence Secretary for a company interested in selling technology to the Ministry of Defence, The Independent has been told.

The meeting, which took place in a Dubai hotel without any officials present, apparently centred on voice encryption technology which the company, the Porton Group, was interested in demonstrating to the MoD.

The alleged subject of the meeting suggests that Mr Werritty, who was Mr Fox's best man, was able to arrange access to the minister for private companies on matters where they could gain commercially. It also seems to contradict statements by the Ministry of Defence which suggested Mr Werritty had never been involved in official MoD business.

"Mr Werritty's meetings with the Secretary of State have concerned entirely private matters, not to discuss MoD business," they said.

Under the terms of the Ministerial Code, "ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or could reasonably be perceived to arise, between their public duties and their private interests".

Harvey Boulter, CEO of the Porton Group, told The Independent that he had retained the services of a lobbying firm for media advice as part of a legal dispute his company was involved in which indirectly involved the MoD.

The firm, Tetra Strategy, put him in contact with Mr Werritty – who was described as an adviser to Mr Fox – to see if it might be possible to arrange a meeting with Mr Fox to discuss the case.

"Tetra suggested a meeting with Adam Werritty because he was an adviser to Mr Fox. They figured I might be able to meet with Mr Fox if Adam Werritty sanctioned it.

"It was: meet the adviser. If you get through the adviser you get to see the boss and then I might be able to persuade him to say something publicly positive about the case."

But at that meeting Mr Boulter says he also raised a voice encryption technology product which one of his companies had developed and was interested in selling to the MoD.

He suggested to Mr Werritty that he would like to show the technology directly to Mr Fox.

"At the meeting [in April] Mr Werritty agreed that Cellcrypt was interesting. He said he would speak to the boss. He came back in June and I met him again and he said, I will organise a meeting with the boss."

That meeting, according to Mr Boulter, took place in June at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai where Mr Fox was staying on official business. It included three representatives from Porton as well as Mr Fox and Mr Werritty – but no officials from the MoD were present.

Mr Boulter said 90 per cent of the meeting was about the Cellcrypt voice encryption technology – and included a demonstration for Mr Fox of how it worked. He confirmed that he was interested in selling the technology to the MoD.

"It was – this is what the technology is, this is how it works, this is the strength of it. We did a demonstration for him so he could do a voice encrypted call in Dubai, which he did. We also talked about some of the customers which we have."

Asked what he thought the role of Mr Werritty was, Mr Boulter said: "I one hundred per cent thought that he was an adviser to Mr Fox.

"He produced this card the first time I met him which said he was an adviser to the Rt Hon Dr Fox. And in the meeting he was sitting next to the minister so you wouldn't question it.

"You would never go to the guy and say 'are you really who you say you are' because he's sitting there next to the minister. I honestly didn't question it. I was very surprised when I learnt he didn't have security clearance because I assumed he was an adviser to Mr Fox which is what it said on his card. I had no reason not to believe that. You can sort of imagine someone pretending to be an adviser to Mr Fox – but then they would never get near the man would they? Anyone can print a business card, but sitting next to him in a meeting you assume he is what he says he is on his card."

Mr Fox has been accused of putting national security at risk by allowing Mr Werritty access to the Ministry of Defence, even though he is not employed by the Government.

It also emerged last night that Mr Werritty used Mr Fox's office in Parliament, before he became a minister, as the official headquarters of a rightwing charity, the Atlantic Bridge, that he ran and which Mr Fox was also involved with. Parliamentary answers have revealed that Mr Werritty visited Mr Fox at the MoD 14 times in the space of 16 months. Mr Werritty also joined the Defence Secretary on an official visit to Sri Lanka, despite Mr Fox having previously said Mr Werritty did not travel with him on official visits overseas.

Speaking yesterday, the Labour MP John Mann said: "This whole visit was organised by the British high commission, quite appropriately, but the photograph of Werritty in Sri Lanka with Fox at the time is a photo [from] the British high commission, that's hugely significant. An official high commission photo, obviously of an event that they were involved in organising, part of the official visit, and Adam Werritty was there."

He added: "Unless Mr Werritty was there as a tourist, visiting the tourist sites, then he's obviously there on business. If he's there on business, why is he in an official event photograph by the British high commission with his close friend Liam Fox, our Defence Secretary? He's either there as a tourist – in which case what a coincidence and why is he at official events? – or he's there on business."

Tetra Strategy confirmed that it had put Mr Boulter in contract with Mr Werritty but had no further involvement with either party.

The MoD declined to comment.

Troublesome Advisers

William Hague and Michael Ashcroft

When Hague was shadow Foreign Secretary in 2005-10, he was accompanied on visits to at least 12 countries or overseas territories by Lord Ashcroft, who never held a position on the Tories' foreign affairs team. Hague faced questions about Ashcroft's tax status and whether he was using these trips for his own purposes.

Tony Blair and Lord Levy

Levy was Blair's special envoy to the Middle East for nine years, and acted unofficially as Labour's major fundraiser. It was the latter activity that led to a police investigation into the supposed award of peerages in exchange for donations. The charge never stuck.

Tony Blair and John Birt

The former head of the BBC was brought into Downing Street in 2001 as an unpaid adviser who was supposed to do "blue skies" thinking. His main contribution was to suggest a network of toll motorways, an idea immediately squashed by Alistair Darling when he took over as Transport Secretary in 2002. After a few years, Birt found another job.

Margaret Thatcher and Alan Walters

Walters was Thatcher's favourite economist and advised her how to deal with the recession in 1981 before leaving for an academic post. He vehemently opposed the idea of tying sterling to European currencies. When he returned to Downing Street in an unofficial capacity in 1989, Nigel Lawson objected so strongly that Walters resigned and went back to the US.

Margaret Thatcher and David Hart

During the 1984-85 miners' strike Hart, who inherited a huge fortune, drove around the coalfields on an unpaid mission to encourage strikebreakers. Late in 1985, he claimed to be acting for Thatcher when he aggressively lobbied the US government to place a huge order with British firms, but she disowned him and his pass to the Conservatives' annual conference was taken away.

Michael Portillo and David Hart

Ten years after Thatcher had washed her hands of Hart, John Major resigned, daring any member of his cabinet to run against him in the resulting leadership election. Hart took over a house in Westminster and installed phone lines so that Portillo would have a campaign headquarters. But Portillo decided not to run.

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