North Somerset MP Liam Fox is fighting for his political life as the row over his best man intensifies.
Prime Minister David Cameron was due to hear the results of an urgent report on Dr Fox’s dealings with Adam Werritty today.
Dr Fox is also due to appear in the House of Commons today in his role as Defence Secretary but could face a grilling from Labour politicians who smell blood.
Last night Dr Fox issued a lengthy statement accepting he had “made a mistake”, apologising to the Prime Minister but stopping short of resignation.
The leader of his local association has told the Evening Post they stand by their man.
A series of allegations have surfaced over the involvement Mr Werritty had in brokering meetings for Dr Fox, as well as the access he enjoyed to government despite having no formal parliamentary or Whitehall role.
In his statement, Dr Fox said: “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.
“At no stage did I or my department provide classified information or briefings to Mr Werritty or assist with his commercial work – let alone benefit personally from this work.
“Nevertheless, I do accept that given Mr Werritty’s defence related business interests, my frequent contacts with him may have given an impression of wrongdoing, and may also have given third parties the misleading impression that Mr Werritty was an official adviser rather than simply a friend.
“I have learned lessons from this experience.
“I accept that with the benefit of hindsight I should have taken much greater care to ensure that any meetings with Adam Werritty, at which defence and security related issues were raised, were properly attended by officials and recorded – to protect myself and the Government from any suggestion of wrongdoing.
“With respect to my meeting with Mr Boulter in Dubai in June 2011, I accept that it was wrong to meet with a commercial supplier, without the presence of an official.
“I have apologised to the Prime Minister and agreed with my Permanent Secretary to put in place new procedures to ensure that this does not happen again.
“My Permanent Secretary will report her interim findings to the Cabinet Secretary [Monday]. It is important that this process is allowed to run its course. I will answer all questions in the House of Commons.”
The national newspapers gave the issue significant coverage over the weekend and that media interest is likely to continue this week.
Labour’s shadow defence secretary, Jim Murphy, has demanded Dr Fox makes an emergency statement to the House of Commons to answer the claims.
Mr Murphy has also written to the Prime Minister calling for an independent investigation into the allegations surrounding Dr Fox, claiming there are “significant shortcomings in the scope of the inquiry” that is currently being staged.
It is alleged Mr Werritty has visited Dr Fox at the MoD’s London headquarters 14 times in 16 months, prompting Labour to question whether national security could have been at risk.
Mr Werritty also allegedly distributed business cards bearing the House of Commons portcullis logo dubbing himself as ‘adviser’ to the minister, despite not being an employee.
He joined Dr Fox in Sri Lanka in July when the Defence Secretary was on official business and is also said to have brokered a meeting for Dr Fox in Dubai.
Last week Mr Cameron ordered the head of the civil service Sir Gus O’Donnell, to urgently report back on an internal investigation into the matter.
Mr Werritty, 34, and Dr Fox shared a London flat before the Defence Secretary married Jesme Baird in 2005.
He was also among those at Dr Fox’s birthday party last month when former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher was a guest of honour.
The allegations have prompted some backbenchers to call for Dr Fox to resign.
Last night North Somerset Conservative Association chairman Anita Heappy, who attended the MP’s 50th birthday celebrations last month, said: “The first thing which I heard regarding the inquiry was on Friday morning when I turned on the news.
“Liam continues to have my full support and that of the association. I am sure Liam will make a statement to the association.
“It is not something which has been discussed by members as yet.”