Fresh doubts surrounded the Duke of York’s continuing role as UK trade ambassador today, in the wake of controversy about his ties with a convicted paedophile.
The Daily Telegraph reported that ministers were to review his position and reduce his responsibilities.
The move comes after more media coverage over the weekend about Andrew’s links with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.
A series of ministers including Business Secretary Vince Cable have now refused to offer the royal public backing.
Foreign Secretary William Hague, however, did praise his performance in his unpaid role as an envoy.
Mr Hague told the BBC’s Politics Show: “I’m not an expert in what you say are the embarrassments... but certainly I’ve seen around the world a lot of good that he has done for this country.”
Andrew has known the American financier since the early 1990s, and met him as recently as December in New York.
Epstein, 58, was accused of sex offences by a number of under-age girls and sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
The Duke has been the UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment since 2001, travelling around the world and at home promoting Britain’s business interests.
There have been long-running complaints about the lavish nature of his official foreign trips.
His private secretary Alastair Watson, writing in a letter published in the Times newspaper last week said: “There has been widespread comment on the Duke’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
“The Duke has known Mr Epstein since being introduced to him in the early 1990s.
“The insinuations and innuendos that have been made in relation to the Duke are without foundation.”
Mr Watson also confirmed that as part of his trade role Andrew had met Colonel Gaddafi’s son Saif in Libya on two occasions in 2007.
Saif Gaddafi was “not a friend” of the Duke’s, Mr Watson added.
Andrew has also faced criticism for entertaining the son-in-law of ousted Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at Buckingham Palace.
A Cabinet minister told the Telegraph the Duke’s responsibilities would be the subject of a “tasking review” that would lead to a reduction in his responsibilities.
However, there would be no official announcement of the review, as the Government was wary of antagonising the Queen and Royal Family.