9 Oct 2011

Fox apologises for Werritty ‘mistakes’

Ahead of the report to David Cameron on Liam Fox’s dealings with adviser Adam Werritty, the defence secretary admits his contact with his friend may have given an impression of wrongdoing.

In a statement on Sunday evening, the defence secretary said: “I accept that mistakes were made, and I should not have allowed the impression of wrongdoing to arise. And I’m very sorry for that.

“However, I don’t believe that wrongdoing did occur. Nonetheless, the right thing is for the investigation by the permanent secretary and the Cabinet secretary to run its course, and I will answer questions tomorrow in the House of Commons.”

Dr Fox, who was in Libya over the weekend to meet the interim government there, has insisted that he has nothing to hide.

I accept that mistakes were made, and I should not have allowed the impression of wrongoing to arise. Dr Liam Fox, defence secretary

He told today’s Sunday Telegraph: “I have absolutely no fear of complete transparency in these matters. I think there are underlying issues behind these claims and the motivation is deeply suspect.”

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy told Channel 4 News Dr Fox had to come to the Commons on Monday and make a full statement – otherwise he would summon him to do so.

Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman told the BBC the allegations surrounding Liam Fox raise “very serious questions”, and she called for an immediate statement to the House of Commons

Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron ordered Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service, to report back by Monday on an internal investigation into whether the defence secretary’s links with Mr Werritty breach ministerial guidelines.

‘MoD adviser’

Saturday newspaper reports suggested Mr Werritty had arranged a meeting in Dubai between Mr Fox and the Porton Group, a private equity group interested in selling voice encryption technology to the MoD.

Dr Fox’s claim that the meeting was the result of a chance encounter appeared to be contradicted an email exchange, reported in The Guardian, between Mr Werritty and Harvey Boulter of the Porton Group. “A meeting with the Ministry of Defence doesn’t happen by chance,” Mr Boulter said.

Harvey Boulter has told Channel 4 News that his original introduction to Adam Werritty came from a company called Tetra Strategy, based in central London. He says he then met Mr Werritty who, he claims, offered to speak to “the boss” on the company’s behalf.

Mr Boulter also said Adam Werritty had told him he was an adviser to the defence secretary – “I assumed an MoD adviser.”

Meeting with Rajapaksa

The Observer website is running Sri Lankan TV footage which shows Mr Fox meeting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in a London hotel last year.

Adam Werritty, the defence secretary’s close friend and his self-styled adviser, is also present at the meeting, casting doubt on previous claims by Dr Fox that Mr Werritty had never attended formal meetings with overseas dignitaries.

Dr Fox called off a controversial visit to Sri Lanka in December 2010 after criticism of the defence secretary’s judgement in agreeing to meet the leader of a country accused of war crimes.

But a statement by the defence secretary denied that the visit had been cancelled because of criticism of Sri Lanka’s human rights record. It stated: “Dr Fox has postponed his private visit to Sri Lanka due to an extension to his scheduled official visit to the Gulf.”

Read more: What was Werritty doing meeting Sri Lanka's regime?