By Heather Pickstock
North Somerset Conservative Association raised concerns with Liam Fox about his close friendship with Adam Werritty on a number of occasions over the past decade, it has been revealed.
A source close to the North Somerset Conservative Association (NSCA) said officers had raised concerns about the Defence Secretary’s relationship with Mr Werritty several times since the MP was elected to power in 1992.
The Evening Post has been told that questions were raised with Dr Fox whether Mr Werritty was being paid by the charity Atlantic Bridge, which Dr Fox helped set up to forge links with American politicians.
A source at the association said it was forced to raise the issues with Dr Fox after being contacted by journalists.
The charity has since been dissolved after the Charity Commission had raised concerns about it being too party political.
Dr Fox installed Werritty, his best man and former flatmate, as the executive director of the charity in 1997.
Association officers asked Dr Fox why no accounts had been prepared and questioned whether Mr Werritty was being paid by the charity.
According to national newspaper reports, Mr Werritty earned more than £90,000 as the charity’s chief executive between 2007 and 2010.
The concerns were raised in private meetings between Dr Fox and association officers. The source said that each time their concerns were acknowledged by the MP.
Last year Mr Werrity joined Dr Fox and wife Jesme at the annual Nailsea and Backwell Beer Festival at the town’s rugby club. It was there that former local newspaper editor and friend of Dr Fox for 20 years, Carol Deacon took Dr Fox’s picture and happened to catch Dr Fox’s wife and Mr Werrity in the background.
She told the Evening Post: “I don’t believe I was ever formally introduced to Adam and we just acknowledged each other with a nod.
“It always seemed very secretive, so I just presumed Mr Werritty was one of his security team and I never asked any questions.”
Councillor Carl Francis-Pester, former NSCA president and chairman, said: “We were not aware of the extent of Liam’s involvement with Mr Werritty. Those matters were nothing to do with the administration of the association.”
Dr Fox has apologised to the House of Commons for “blurring” the lines between ministerial work and his personal life after a report found he met Mr Werritty a total of 40 times at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and on overseas trips.
David Cameron said the interim report by MoD permanent secretary Ursula Brennan made clear that Dr Fox had made “serious mistakes” in his links with Mr Werritty and that procedures within his department needed tightening up.
The Prime Minister ordered the Government’s top civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, to join Ms Brennan in completing her inquiry, the results of which are expected later this month.
The report revealed how Mr Werritty, who was best man at Dr Fox’s 2005 wedding to Jesme Baird, had visited the MoD 22 times and been on 18 meetings abroad with Dr Fox in the last 18 months.
Dr Fox said that during the private meetings commercial and defence matters were not discussed and that Mr Werritty had no access to classified documents.
Dr Fox refused to return our phone calls or emails yesterday afternoon and Mr Werritty was unavailable for comment.