Sunday 9 October 2011

PM intervenes in Fox flatmate row


Beleaguered Defence Secretary Liam Fox is fighting for his political career after the row over his working relationship with a close friend deepened. Prime Minister David Cameron is poised to decide his fate on Monday after ordering the head of the civil service to urgently report back on an internal investigation into whether Dr Fox's links to Adam Werritty, a former flatmate, breached ministerial guidelines. A series of allegations have surfaced over the unusual involvement Mr Werritty had in brokering meetings for Dr Fox, as well as the access he enjoyed to Government despite having no formal parliamentary or Whitehall role. Dr Fox, who has been in Libya on what should have been a publicity coup as he met the country's interim government, was forced to issue an embarrassing statement clarifying comments he made earlier about how a meeting in Dubai in June with a businessman had been arranged. But he also insisted he has nothing to hide and indicated he is the victim of a smear campaign, telling The 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." Further revelations emerged, however, that cast doubt on previous claims made by Dr Fox that Mr Werritty, best man at his wedding, had never attended formal meetings with overseas dignitaries. According to the Observer, footage has been uncovered that shows Mr Werritty meeting Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa with Dr Fox in a London hotel last year. During his visit to Libya, Dr Fox was asked to answer allegations that Mr Werritty arranged the Dubai hotel meeting, away from officials, with him and Harvey Boulter, chief executive of private equity company Porton Group. The Secretary of State said defence industry representatives asked for the meeting "when they happened to be sitting at a nearby table in a restaurant", but emails emerged later that appeared to confirm that Mr Werritty had been involved in setting up the discussions for some time - and Mr Boulter told the Guardian he first met Mr Werritty to arrange a meeting with Dr Fox in April. In a statement issued after the emails emerged, a spokeswoman for the minister said: "Dr Fox was referring to Mr Werritty, and not himself, bumping into Mr Boulter at a restaurant prior to the meeting."