He said: “I have to tell you at that particular stage I had a lot on my plate and really didn’t focus on the matter until these stories started to emerge in the last few days.

“Do I regret what has happened? Yes of course - I do regret the confusion and the anger and the pain that people feel.

“This is a country that has been going through the most tremendous difficulties and suffering in the course of the last 10 weeks and that’s why I really did want people to understand exactly what had happened.”