Liam Fox's ministerial future was thrown into serious doubt last night after an official report uncovered new evidence of his personal and official links to his self-styled adviser and defence consultant, Adam Werritty.
Initial findings of a Civil Service inquiry into the Defence Secretary's professional dealings with Mr Werritty revealed that:
- Officials in Mr Fox's private office were ordered to provide details of his diary to Mr Werritty on several occasions after he became Secretary of State.
- Mr Werritty was present with Mr Fox (right) on 18 separate foreign trips since he took office in May 2010, including official visits, conferences and family holidays.
- Mr Werritty met Mr Fox on an additional 22 occasions at MoD HQ in London — often without officials present.
- On one occasion Mr Werritty attended a meeting with the new British Ambassador to Israel, and on another he organised a meeting at MoD HQ with a Sri Lankan visitor.
- Mr Fox instructed officials in his private office to write a briefing note on a technology which had been demonstrated to him at a controversial meeting in Dubai with a defence contractor organised by Mr Werritty.
That meeting had initially been facilitated by a lobbying firm paid thousands of pounds by the manufacturers of the technology. At the meeting, which was organised by Mr Werritty, no officials were present and no-one in the MoD knew it was taking place. Last night, in a sign of the seriousness of the new allegations, Downing Street announced a much wider investigation into Mr Werritty's activities to be overseen by Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell.
It will include a trawl of the email archive for contacts between the two men and correspondence between Mr Werritty and Mr Fox's private office.
The minister has already conceded that Mr Werritty had “defence-related business interests” but the department has been unable to specify what these are.
Downing Street conceded that he still had questions to answer.
In a statement to the House of Commons Mr Fox apologised for not being more transparent in his dealing with Mr Werritty but insisted at no stage was the relationship improper.