Defence Secretary Liam Fox quits

 

Key moments over the last seven days that proved fatal to Liam Fox's career in front line politics

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Defence Secretary Liam Fox has resigned after a week of pressure over his working relationship with friend and self-styled adviser Adam Werritty.

Mr Fox was being investigated amid claims he broke the ministerial code.

In a letter to David Cameron, Mr Fox said he had "mistakenly allowed" personal and professional responsibilities to be "blurred".

Mr Cameron said he was very sorry to see him go. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond will replace Mr Fox.

Labour said Mr Fox had not upheld the standards expected of ministers and his departure had been "inevitable".

Business cards

The defence secretary has been under pressure since it emerged that Mr Werritty, a lobbyist, had met him on 18 foreign trips despite having no official role.

Mr Werritty, a former flatmate of Mr Fox and the best man at his wedding, handed out business cards suggesting he was his adviser and was present at meetings Mr Fox had with military figures, diplomats and defence contractors.

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In short he went before he was - in all probability - pushed”

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Questions were also raised about who paid for Mr Werritty's business activities and whether he had personally benefited from his frequent access to the defence secretary.

No 10 sources said that the prime minister had been willing to give Mr Fox time to stay in his job - at least until the details of a report by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell into his conduct were published early next week.

Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond. In a mini-reshuffle caused by Mr Fox's departure, Treasury minister Justine Greening has replaced Mr Hammond - becoming the fifth woman in the Cabinet.

In a statement released on Friday night, Mr Hammond said his predecessor had done a "brilliant job".

"I look forward to picking up the baton from Liam and working closely with the prime minister, foreign secretary and international development secretary to ensure that our defences are robust and that the finances that lie behind them are equally robust," he added.

National interest

In his resignation letter, Mr Fox said he had "mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred".

"The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days," he added. "I am very sorry for this.

"I have also repeatedly said that the national interest must always come before personal interest.

"I now have to hold myself to my own standard. I have therefore decided, with great sadness, to resign from my post as secretary of state for defence."

ANALYSIS

Liam Fox was far from universally popular with either the military or Ministry of Defence civil servants.

He arrived at the MoD with energy and vigour, unafraid to ruffle feathers and determined to sort out what he called the Labour legacy of the "car crash" of the MoD's finances.

He said he had to fill a black hole of more than £38bn. That meant brutal cuts to iconic military kit - scrapping the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, the Harrier jump jets and the new Nimrod spy planes.

He ordered a series of painful redundancies for all three services but few doubt that, without him, cuts could have been even more severe.

Friends of Liam Fox said he loved the job. He wanted to leave a legacy of a military machine that was fit for the next decade. He also pushed ahead with reforms that he hoped would end the overspends and late delivery on military kit.

Despite warnings from military chiefs that they were overstretched Liam Fox managed to maintain Britain's commitment to Afghanistan and to begin the fight on a second front - Libya.

Helping bring about an end to the Gaddafi regime looks like his most obvious achievement. The rest remains unfinished business.

Responding to Mr Fox's resignation, Mr Cameron said: "I understand your reasons for deciding to resign as defence secretary, although I am very sorry to see you go.

"We have worked closely for these last six years, and you have been a key member of my team throughout that time."

He said Mr Fox, MP for North Somerset for 19 years, had "done a superb job in the 17 months since the election, and as shadow defence secretary before that" and had overseen changes that would allow the armed forces to "meet the challenges of the modern era".

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said the prime minister had given Mr Fox time to defend himself but the defence secretary had struggled to stem the tide of questions about his dealings with Mr Werritty.

No 10 had come to the conclusion on Thursday that Mr Fox's position was becoming untenable, he added, and Mr Fox had reluctantly reached the same view.

'Inconceivable'

Mr Fox apologised to MPs earlier this week about how his links with Mr Werritty had been perceived but he maintained there had been no impropriety.

Labour said Mr Fox had "fallen foul of the standards expected of ministers and broken the rules".

"The facts have caught up with Liam Fox and he had to resign," shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said. "It was inconceivable that once a minister had been seen to break their own code of conduct on so many occasions that he could survive."

And former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said recent events had undermined Mr Fox's authority and morale at his department.

"Mr Fox has bowed to the inevitable," he said. "It had become impossible for him to draw a line under the story."

But Conservative MPs rallied behind Mr Fox, saying he had made a major contribution in his time at the Ministry of Defence and some suggested he could, one day, return to government.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES

  • Transport Secretary Philip Hammond replaces Mr Fox at Ministry of Defence
  • Mr Hammond is succeeded by Justine Greening, number three at the Treasury
  • Ms Greening is succeeded as economic secretary by assistant whip Chloe Smith
  • Greg Hands becomes a whip

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former defence secretary, said Mr Fox had done an "extremely good" job and his departure was "very, very distressing" as it would lead to further upheaval at the MoD.

Conservative backbencher Peter Bone told the BBC Mr Fox had made errors but they did not constitute a "hanging offence".

"He said he made mistakes and with hindsight he wouldn't have done it but I didn't think that was enough to require him to resign," he said.

"But when the story, every news item, isn't about what's happening in Afghanistan and what's happening in Libya but who said what to who then he put his country first and resigned."

David Pasley, a Tory councillor in Mr Fox's North Somerset constituency, described the MP as "hard working" and "diligent", and said he was "deeply saddened" by Friday's events.

But he added: "He's someone who you can't keep down.

"He has got such experience in his political career that I'm sure it will just be a question of time before he's back, and I hope he's back very soon in a high profile position."

 

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  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 236.

    Jericoa - hope the last lot made you sick as well, they left the coffers empty!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 235.

    What is his mate going to do now? His entire business appeared to be based on his being able to instigate meetings with Liam Fox.

    Effectively two people are out of a job today.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 234.

    Certainly corporate and personal greed are the reasons for such problems. Mr. Fox also was highly controversial as he openly supported the Srilankan president, who's alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. This incident shows the BRITISH press is strong-open and want only the GOOD to govern the public.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 233.

    Finally Liam has got the message. It is not ok to take your Best Mate to work with you. How can he have been so thick. Next one on the chopping block, Oliver Letwin who alledgedly thinks it is ok to dispose of Government Papers in public places. Is it arrogance or just stupidity? I hope arrogance, because if these people are this naive, I fear for the future of the country.

  • Comment number 232.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 231.

    Trial by media? Thank God! because none of the systems that are supposed to monitor wrong doing on our behalf picked up this shabby dealings. Liam Fox is a zelot politician with a skin like a Rhino. No way would he jump unless there was no squirming room left! and the government wonders why we don't trust them with the NHS !!

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 230.

    Yes, I fully agree... a sad day for UK politics. I also feel we've just forced one of the best politicians out of the job over a bit of a storm in a teacup. I wish him well and will watch his next steps with interest.

  • Comment number 229.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 228.

    Good riddance - had no friends in the Army. SDSR is a mess.

    Defence needs someone with strength and a good understanding of the remit - Davis or Mercer are the two standout candidates.

    One thing, until his Liberal colleagues, at least Fox had the integrity to resign.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 227.

    Whether he has been a good minister is not the point; as his statement suggests he now realises, there are rules which public servants must adhere to, and he clearly hasn't done so. After the whole expenses saga he should have been more careful; one may think that he's been unfortunate, or perhaps stupid, but there can be no exceptions, Politicians must be seen to be whiter than white!

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 226.

    Shame, really stupid being pushed by a bunch a left wing whingers.

    I hope there is someone on the
    that actually represent people who voted in the general election against massed immigration and EU from the tories. AT the moment its full of liberals and the left of the tory party.

    I will be voting UKIP in future and just hope Scotland goes independant.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 225.

    It took him long enough to go. About time if you ask me. What is this exactly, take your mate to work day? I could see the look on my bosses face if I brought my mate to work just because he was my best man.

    I not sure why people are defending him Mr Fox was in a very high profile job that requires a level of discretion.

    PEOPLE do urselves a favor DON'T VOTE

    Send a real message

  • Comment number 224.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 223.

    Here we go again same old same no difference from labour, do all politicans think there above the rules that they make. Its just the same everytime they never learn.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 222.

    Good to see another Eton success story end up where he deserves to be. Who votes for out of touch politicans like this? I shouldn't imagine Liam Fox or David Cameron have ever used the National Health Service or Public Transport in their lives so how they have the cheek to decide on how such services should be run is totally beyond the comprehension of anyone with a brain.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 221.

    One gone another will come and do same EAT EAT EAT TAX Money no wonder.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 220.

    Come on Guy's , If any fellow English men feel sorry or show sympathy on Mr fox, it will be biggest mistake of their Life, How can we feel secured if a unkown man know's all the MOD issues, and what if he discloses confidentail matters to someone who might put our country into Risk.
    He done mistake, he realised, he quit, end of the matter, no more hard feelings

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 219.

    Politicians need to stop being too close in office to their "friends", Coulson and Cameron, Werritty and Fox. Otherwise everyone will believe them corrupt, or foolish.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 218.

    Goodbye & good riddance any chance of some of the others going or all of them soon very very soon

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 217.

    How are most of the comments from the 'Editors' Picks' from deluded people? What Liam Fox did was blatantly a breach for working in public office.

 

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