Liam Fox defiant amid Adam Werritty questions

A defiant Liam Fox today signalled his determination to carry on as Defence Secretary amid more questions over his working relationship with close friend and lobbyist Adam Werritty.

At Westminster, the focus was increasingly turning to the links between Dr Fox's political duties and his private life, which one fellow minister admitted was the subject of "wild gossip" among MPs.

The Defence Secretary was forced to deny he was responsible for wrongly briefing journalists that he was alone in his London flat when it was burgled last year while his wife, Jesme, was out of the country.

The Sun disclosed that an unnamed "younger man" was staying with him when thieves broke into the apartment during the general election campaign and stole a laptop computer, a mobile phone and the keys to his Skoda car.

In a statement, Dr Fox said he had given the full facts to police at the time and was "appalled at being portrayed as having something to hide". He added, "for the sake of clarity", that the guest was not Mr Werritty, a former flatmate.

In the Commons, he received support from David Cameron who said he was doing an "excellent job" at the Ministry of Defence.

However, the Prime Minister also made clear that in the end he would decide whether Dr Fox should keep his job once the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell had completed his inquiry into his links with Mr Werritty.

"I ask people to have a little patience and wait for the facts to be established," he told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions.

Mr Cameron found himself being drawn into the controversy after it was disclosed that one of his most senior political advisers, Gabby Bertin, had previously worked for Dr Fox's controversial Atlantic Bridge charity.

The organisation - which Mr Werritty also later worked for - was dissolved earlier this year after the Charity Commission said its main objective appeared to be promoting a political party "closely associated with the Conservative Party".

Under pressure from Labour MPs, Mr Cameron said he would be "very happy" to consider publishing a list of all ministers and No 10 staffers who had met Mr Werritty, either officially or socially, since the Government came to office.

However No 10 said only that the matter was being "looked at".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman also confirmed that Sir Gus was no longer working to the previous October 21 deadline for completing his report.

"There is no timetable. We want to do this as quickly as possible. But equally, we want to ensure we answer the questions properly," the spokesman said.

A key issue for the inquiry is how Mr Werritty was able to fund his overseas travel, which has seen him join Dr Fox on 18 foreign trips since the Government came to office last year.

The 33-year-old - who was interviewed yesterday by a senior official - appears to have travelled the globe presenting himself as an adviser to Dr Fox, even though he had no official role.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson reported he was being bankrolled by "a number of wealthy private clients" who shared his and Dr Fox's strong Atlanticist views and who paid him for "political and strategic advice".

Meanwhile Tory Party officials were trying to establish how journalists came to be told that Dr Fox was alone at his flat near London Bridge at the time of last year's burglary.

"As I told the police at the time, a friend was staying in the guest room," Dr Fox said. "I was a victim of a violent crime and I'm appalled at being portrayed as having something to hide."

As he left for talks in Paris with his French counterpart, the Defence Secretary made clear that he had no intention of resigning in the face of the continuing controversy.

"I shall carry on doing the job that I am meant to do, the job that I am paid for," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Employment Minister Chris Grayling acknowledged that gossip about Dr Fox's private was rife at Westminster, although he said he had heard nothing which called into question his ability to do his job as a minister.

Asked about rumours the Defence Secretary is gay, Mr Grayling said: "If you look around the Westminster village you will find all kinds of wild gossip about all kinds of individuals in all parties. That doesn't mean they are not good at their jobs.

"I've known Liam for many years, I've known Liam and his wife, they've always struck me as being a very happily married couple. The reality is that the gossip is certainly circulating.

"I thought we had got past the point in politics though where we needed to worry about people's private lives. The question is somebody doing an important and capable job."

PA

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