Portsmouth MP backs under fire defence secretary

Defence secretary Liam Fox
Defence secretary Liam Fox

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A PORTSMOUTH MP has spoken out in support of Defence Secretary Liam Fox who’s come under fire over his working relationship with friend Adam Werritty.

Dr Fox apologised to the House of Commons this afternoon following revelations about the role of his best man Mr Werritty who promoted himself as a Ministry of Defence advisor and joined the defence secretary on state visits and meetings with arms companies.

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock

Following a weekend of reports which threaten Dr Fox’s political career, Portsmouth South’s Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock hit back, calling the furore a ‘complete load of tosh’.

He said: ‘The sooner he gets on doing what he’s supposed to be doing, which is sorting out the MoD, the better.

‘I think this is a smear campaign. People in the MoD don’t like him because he has tried to take them on and sort out the mismanagement that’s been going on for such a long time.

‘He might have made some mistakes but I think he is doing a good job. He’s the right man for the job and I hope he can put all this behind him and move on. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes, me included, but he’s apologised for them and should be allowed to get on with his job.’

Dr Fox was today quizzed by MPs on the involvement Mr Werritty had in arranging meetings, particularly a meeting in Dubai.

In a Commons statement Dr Fox said he had met Mr Werritty ‘in the margins’ of 18 trips overseas - including holidays - and his friend had visited him in the Ministry of Defence on 22 occasions.

Dr Fox told MPs: ‘Mr Werritty was never present at regular departmental meetings, during private meetings we did not discuss either commercial or defence matters.

‘He had no access to classified documents, nor was he briefed on classified matters.’

But, he added: ‘I accept, with the benefit of hindsight I should have taken great care to ensure a more transparent separation of Government, party political and private business and that meetings were properly recorded to protect myself and Government from any suggestion of wrongdoing.

‘Again, I accept my personal responsibility for this.’

Despite initial claims Mr Werritty had never been involved in official engagements, footage was uncovered over the weekend which showed him meeting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Dr Fox in a London hotel last year.

Prime Minister David Cameron today defended Dr Fox, who has ordered an internal MoD inquiry into his behaviour.

Mr Cameron said: ‘Liam Fox does an excellent job as Secretary of State for Defence. He gives that department good leadership - I think we’ve seen that with all that it’s had to deal with in the Libyan campaign.

‘Of course there are a whole series of questions that have come out of the media that Liam is answering; he answered them last night, he gave a good account of himself, he’s in front of the House of Commons today.’

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy has written to the Prime Minister calling for a full investigation into the controversy, claiming there are ‘significant shortcomings’ in the current internal investigation.

In the Commons, Mr Murphy said Dr Fox had broken the ministerial code.

He added: ‘He has driven a coach and horses through the rules.’