"A note indicating the decision and the analysis of the regulations that supported that decision came into my office on Thursday, and early on Friday afternoon one of my officials took me through that," he said. 
 
The British government was criticised after the navy gave permission to the 14 men and one woman seized by Iran in the northern Gulf last month to sell their stories to the media.
 
Browne reversed the decision on Monday, banning further payments.
 
But stories from two of the personnel had already been published. Faye Turney, the woman captive, is thought to have earned about $200,000.
 
Turney and Arthur Batchelor, the youngest of those held captive and who also sold his story, have been accused of behaving "like reality TV stars".
 
The government's opponents said the decision to allow the naval personnel to profit from the 13 days they were held by Iran was a propaganda disaster and has embarrassed serving troops.
 
David Cameron, the leader of the UK's opposition Conservative party, called for an inquiry into how the decision was taken, saying: "This was a dreadful decision. And it is of a piece with what we get from this government so often.
 
"They put tomorrow's headlines ahead of concerns about the long-term damage they might do."
 
On Tuesday an Iranian military official called the decision to allow the stories to be sold a "scandal" for the British military.