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British defence secretary in hot water over ex room-mate

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British defence secretary in hot water over ex room-mate


The man in charge of Britain’s military is awaiting his political future as he faces questions from MPs on why his best man and ex flat-mate attended meetings with him without being employed by the government.

Adam Werritty met the Defence Secretary Liam Fox 14 times in about a year in MoD offices. He did not have security clearance, yet he joined Fox in an official visit to Sri Lanka this summer, an incident that the opposition said may have breached the ministerial code.

Prime Minister David Cameron will be under more pressure if an inquiry by the country’s most senior civil servant finds Fox in breach of the code. That may mean the end of the road for Fox.

For the moment, Cameron is backing Fox. He said: “Liam Fox does an excellent job as secretary of state for defence. He gives that department good leadership. “Of course there are a whole series of questions that have come out of the media that Liam is answering,” Cameron said, adding: “He answered them last night, he gave a good account of himself.”

Mr Werritty printed business cards with the logo of the parliament and with the title ‘Adviser to the Rt. Hon. Dr. Fox MP’. Ursula Brennan, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, had warned Fox over his relationship with his best friend and asked him to stop Werritty handing out the business cards, the Guardian reported.

The paper reported that Werritty was appointed by Fox as chief executive of a right wing charity, the Atlantic Bridge, and used Fox’s office – Room 341 at Portcullis House – meant exclusively for parliamentarians – as Atlantic Bridge’s official headquarters. He earned more than £90,000 between 2007 to 2010.

The opposition has mounted pressure on Fox since the beginning of last week.

“Did Mr Werritty have any business in the defence industry? Did he have any contacts? Was he making any money? Was there any cash for access? That is one set of questions, I think,” said Labour Shadow Defence Minister Jim Murphy. “There is also the fact that whenever the Secretary of State for Defence offers an explanation, it appears to unravel within hours.”

Fox has changed his stance on the controversy several times in the course of just a few days. Last Thursday, he launched an investigation over what he called “wild allegations.”

He then criticised his friend on Friday and said it was “unacceptable” that Werritty carried and distributed those business cards. “I understand those cards are no longer used. I have made it very clear to him that it’s unacceptable to carry a card saying that he is a personal adviser,” he said.

On Sunday, Fox apologised to David Cameron but denied any wrongdoing. He will appear in parliament to make his case today.

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