Liam Fox takes inducements
A donor to Liam Fox charity paid for five MPs' flights to Washington
Michael Lewis, who donated £14,000 to Fox's Atlantic Bridge charity, paid for airline tickets for five newly elected Tory MPs in 2005
A major donor to Liam Fox's controversial charity paid for the defence secretary to take five freshly elected MPs on a first-class trip to Washington.
Three of the MPs joined Fox on the flight from London to Washington on October 18 2005, the same day as the first round of voting in the leadership election, which Fox subsequently lost to David Cameron. The other two MPs joined the trip on different dates.
It is thought that Fox's long-term travel companion Adam Werritty was also on the trip, but this could not be confirmed. Fox and Werritty did not respond to requests to comment.
The Tory MPs – Mark Harper, member for the Forest of Dean; John Penrose, Weston-super-Mare; Brooks Newmark, Braintree; Adam Holloway, Gravesham; and Philip Dunne, Ludlow – had only months earlier been elected to parliament.
All of the MPs declared in the register of members' interests that their flights and hotel bills were paid for by Michael Lewis, who has donated £13,832 to Fox's Atlantic Bridge charity, which was shut down last month after regulators found it was primarily promoting Tory ideals.
"18-21 September 2005, to USA. Travel and accommodation costs met by Dr Liam Fox's office from a donation by Mr Michael Lewis, a businessman from London. I received flight upgrades on outward and return journeys from London to Washington from Virgin Atlantic," Harper registered on 17 October 2005. The other MPs' registers include similar entries, although some dates differ.
Electoral Commission records show Lewis, who is deputy chairman of the Israeli lobby group Bicom, donated £5,000 to Fox's leadership campaign on 27 July 2005.
Bicom paid for Werritty's flight and hotel bill to attend a conference in Israel in 2009 where he was asked to join a panel and talk about Iran. The Herzliya conference was one of the events listed by the Ministry of Defence at which he met Fox.
Kevan Jones, Labour's defence spokesman, said: "This is yet another question Liam Fox needs to answer. Why during his campaign to be Tory party leader, did Dr Fox's office fund a visit to the United States for new Tory MPs from a donation by businessman Michael Lewis? The only declaration of money to Liam Fox from Mr Lewis is in regards to his leadership campaign. Did he use this money donated to his campaign to fund these visits?"