POLITICS

Liam Fox Resigns Amid Controversy Surrounding Access To MOD By Friend Adam Werritty

14/10/2011 16:04 | Updated 09 December 2011

Liam Fox has resigned as defence secretary following allegations that he allowed a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs.

The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, has been looking into claims that Fox broke the ministerial code by allowing his friend Adam Werritty to accompany him on 18 overseas trips since the election.

In his resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Dr Fox said he had “mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred”.

It comes after Downing Street appeared to pave the way on Friday morning, when a Number 10 spokeswoman said: "There are lots of questions which do draw concern, which is why this inquiry is ongoing."

Although Downing Street insisted that Fox retained the confidence of David Cameron, newspapers had been speculating that the ongoing accusations and innuendos had made it impossible for the defence secretary to remain in post.

The Ministry of Defence believed Adam Werritty had accompanied Liam Fox on these expeditions in a personal capacity, but by Wednesday night reports had begun to emerge, claiming that Werrity's expenses had been paid by right-wing backers, who'd wanted to ensure that a Eurosceptic, pro-American, pro-Israeli message was delivered on the trips.

On Friday The Times reported that the backers included G3 Good Governance Group, a strategic advisory company, and venture capitalist Jon Moulton. Another backer was said to be Poju Zabludowicz, the chairman of the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) - an organisation that lobbies the government on behalf of Israel. BICOM describes itself as "providing resources to individuals and organisations in Britain who share BICOM's agenda to promote a better understanding of Israel".

According to The Times, the backers contributed towards the £147,000 paid into the bank account of a not-for-profit company that Werritty owned.

Liam Fox had also allowed his best man Adam Werritty access to the Ministry Of Defence on more than a dozen occasions, despite Werritty holding no official government position. Werritty had produced at least two sets of business cards describing himself as an advisor to Dr. Fox, cards which improperly displayed the official Portcullis of the House of Commons. Civil Servants at the MoD had raised concerns about the use of the cards in August.

Adam Werritty had not been appointed as an official adviser to Dr. Fox, a process which under the Ministerial Code requires the sign-off from David Cameron, regardless of whether or not advisers are to be paid.

Last weekend video footage emerged showing that Werritty had also attended at least one high-level ministerial meeting with Sri Lankan dignitaries, despite Dr. Fox earlier claiming this had not been the case.

On Thursday afternoon the Labour MP Anas Sarwar wrote to the Electoral Commission, asking them to investigate Liam Fox's declarations of interests, which had not included any mention of Adam Werritty.

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