British defence minister orders probe into friend's role

7th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's defence minister Liam Fox ordered an inquiry Friday into the role of a friend and self-styled adviser after claims that he influences government business despite having no official role.

Fox said the "wild allegations" would be probed after confirming that he met Adam Werritty on an official visit to Sri Lanka in July despite previous denials his friend accompanied him on government business.

"I've asked the permanent secretary (his most senior official) to look into any of these wild allegations, and I'm very happy to stand by that investigation," the 50-year-old minister told BBC television.

The disclosure about the Sri Lanka trip followed the revelation that Werritty, 34, had visited Fox 14 times in 16 months at the Ministry of Defence in London, even though he is not a government employee.

Werritty had distributed business cards with a House of Commons logo and a description of himself as an "advisor to Rt. Hon. Dr. Liam Fox MP", despite having no official role, the Guardian newspaper reported.

Fox said he had made it clear to his friend -- who was his former flatmate and best man at his wedding -- that it was "unacceptable to carry a card saying that he is a personal adviser."

The latest allegation about Sri Lanka emerged Friday in a report in the Guardian, which printed a picture showing Fox arriving to give a lecture during his visit to the island nation on July 9, with Werritty in the background.

Fox said he and his friend did attend the "private event", which was organised by Werritty and the widow of an assassinated Tamil former foreign minister.

The Ministry of Defence insists that Werritty was not part of Fox's party and said he did not accompany the minister during any official meetings.

Fox is on the right of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party, which shares power in a coalition with junior partners the Liberal Democrats.

© 2011 AFP

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