British PM says defence minister made ‘serious mistakes’

LONDON, October 10, 2011 (AFP) – British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday his defence minister had made “serious mistakes” in allowing a close friend to operate as his advisor despite having no official government role. He nevertheless has a key role in the coalition government in pushing through defence spending cuts, as part of its deficit reduction programme, as well as in Britain’s military operations in Libya. His spokesman’s remarks came just minutes after Defence Secretary Liam Fox issued a defiant account of his conduct in the House of Commons, and after Cameron received the first findings of an inquiry into the scandal.

Those findings revealed that Fox had met Adam Werritty, his former flatmate and best man at his wedding, on 18 overseas visits since taking office in May 2010, and Werritty had visited him 22 times at the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Fox has been under pressure for days over his ties to Werritty, after claims that the 34-year-old posed as his advisor, brokered meetings with businessmen and accompanied him on ministerial trips including to Sri Lanka and Dubai.

In a statement to lawmakers, the 50-year-old defence secretary said the 18 trips where he met Werritty “in the margins” inc