Fox’s political career was thrown into doubt over the weekend by allegations that Werritty – his former flatmate and best man at his 2005 wedding – had attended government meetings, despite holding no official position.
“I do accept that given Mr Werritty’s defence related business interests, my frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing,” Fox said yesterday evening, as opposition defence secretary Jim Murphy said he had written to the Prime Minister demanding a full inquiry.
“I accept that it was a mistake to allow distinctions to be blurred between my professional responsibilities and my personal loyalties to a friend. I am sorry for this,” he said.
Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Ursula Brennan has been asked to report to the Prime Minister this morning with her initial findings on Fox and Werritty’s working relationship, including whether the defence secretary’s action flouted the ministerial code.
Fox had earlier denied that Werritty had attended business engagements with foreign officials, but was forced to backtrack and issue an apology last night after video footage emerged of the two men meeting Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa in a London hotel last year.
Werritty also brokered a meeting in Dubai between Fox and businessman Harvey Boulter, chief executive of private equity group Polton Capital, who was interested in providing mobile phone encryption technology from key investment Cellcrypt to British troops in Afghanistan.
Cameron sped up the inquiry into whether the ministerial code had been breached on Saturday, after reports suggested Werritty had visted the MoD offices 14 times over the past 16 months, and that he carried a business card positioning himself as Fox’s adviser.
It had originally been due to be completed over the next two weeks.
Fox has said he is happy to answer MPs questions today, after deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman called on him to make an official statement addressing the matter to the House of Commons.