One of the many mysteries surrounding the Liam Fox/Adam Werritty controversy is what exactly Sir Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary is supposed to be investigating.
Sir Gus took over the internal investigation into the relationship between the two men and their links with defence contractors earlier this week, but as yet, no terms of reference have been published.
Number 10 has told us repeatedly, “All unanswered questions will be answered.”
But who decides what counts as an unanswered question? And does this mean all unanswered questions as of Monday, when Sir Gus started his investigation, or is it expanding every day to answer each fresh question that arises?
What should worry anyone interested in really finding out who funded Werritty and why is a report by Craig Murray this morning, suggesting Sir Gus has been asked only to lok at whether specific payments have been made to set up specific meetings with Fox. Murray, a former ambassador to Uzbekistan, writes:
This information comes straight from a source with direct access to the Cabinet Office investigation into Fox’s relationship with Werritty…
So O’Donnell will announce that Werritty received no specific money for specific meetings with or introductions to Fox.
But the deal between Cameron, Fox and O’Donnell is that O’Donnell will not address the much more important question of who funded Werritty and why. Having claimed there was no wrongdoing, O’Donnell will say Mr Werritty’s finances are private and should not be made public. It was on that basis that Werritty agreed to give financial details to Sue Gray in the Cabinet Office yesterday.
We already know the answer to the question “Did anyone receive specific payments for specific meetings?” It is no: that is why Fox couched his defence in the Commons by saying Werritty was “not dependent on any transactional behaviour to maintain his income”.
The funding is likely to have been more general than that, and the influence less easily pinned down. The Times this morning reported Werritty was paid £147,000 by a network of donors including a corporate intelligence group and a property company owned by the chairman of a pro-Israel lobbying group.
Murray could be wrong – certainly “all unanswered questions” sounds broader than he suggests. But the best way for Number 10 to reassure people would be to do the obvious thing and publish the terms of reference.
Incidentally, Downing Street is also refusing to say whether Sir Gus’ report will be published. If it isn’t, expect this story to go on for much longer.