Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Fox defiant amid Werritty questions

The pressure on Defence Secretary Liam Fox shows no sign of abating

A defiant Liam Fox has 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.

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.