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Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond.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
    -124

    Comment number 256.

    A good Defence Secretary who fought his corner. Very sad indeed. On another note, isn't it time Mr Cameron brought back Malcolm Rifkind?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 255.

    100. "Now could all the Labour supporters explain what this actually achieves?"

    **********
    Rational supporters of any party would hope that this achieves a new minister who understands right from wrong, just like a normal person.

  • Comment number 254.

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

  • rate this
    -137

    Comment number 253.

    I don't know if he should have gone or not, but it appears that because they cannot make the government change course, the press and others are trying to hobble this government by drowning them in matters that are totally irrelevant to the trouble we are in. The business with Letwin is another example. Politicians are human like the rest of us. They must be allowed to be imperfect

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 252.

    Please could we have some "grown up" politiciians who will not act like "cowboys". Time the PM got a grip on things like he promised.

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 251.

    A cheap shot from the Labour shadow secretary. Pathetic.

    Fox had to go though, no doubt about that.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 250.

    Letwin next - When will we realise that this Tory Government is a Bullingdon Club for grown ups - it's a big privelidged club that has no sense of reality other than the big world of big business - there will be a reckoning

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 249.

    What kept him? Should have done the decent thing right at the start! Most undignified behaviour for a Government Minister. "Right Honourable"? Pah!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 248.

    I am not so morally outraged by this as by his ministerial decision to make thousands of our servicemen redundant and to push for reserves to sign up to do the same dangerous, vital job for none of the pay. We should ask our soldiers to comment on what they think of this resignation. Probably that he will just be replaced by another budget cutting short-sighted politician.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 247.

    Amazing - the only guy that has been in post as defence minister, for a long long time & that hasn't been wasting billions & billions of £'s - resigns as the result of a media inspired hate campaign.

    Pity this virtriolic standard of media coverage hadn't been applied to the Labour govt - they wouldn't have lasted the first Parliamentary term under Bliar.

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 246.

    Whilst I am sure Mr. Fox is an honourable chap who did a good job, what planet was he on in this instance? How long is it since anyone could sneeze without the press noticing, so to get embroiled in this mess is just silly and inviting trouble. Now we have Mr. Letwin and the park bin competing for second place in the political Darwin awards, what next?

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 245.

    The arrogance of this man to try and face this out, despite all the evidence of wrongdoing. So who was paying Werritty and for what? Why did Fox let a paid mole accompany him all around the world, attend important meetings and feel that everything was fine? Is this a tip on the ice-burg? Is this the disdain with which politicians treat the rest of us? Shame on you.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 244.

    This was the man who was accompanied to official events by a friend who allowed officials from other governments to gain the impression that this man was from his office, What do you think [as a Telegraph columnist pointed out yesterday] if it had been Theresa May having her bridesmaid do similar things for her....I suspect she would have been forced out last week.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 243.

    Fox and Hounds anyone?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 242.

    203.michael

    "this man is a professional politician and it is alleged that he drove a horse and cart through parlimentary rules and standards."

    Goodness, how can you be so crass?

    It was NOT a horse and cart, but at the very least, a coach and horses!

    Really!"!!!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 241.

    Two questions:
    1. Presumably Dr. Fox was accompanied on his trips by all manner of genuine aides and civil servants, how was this situation allowed to go on for so long in the first place? Did no one ask who the guy handing out dodgy business cards was?
    and
    2. How many other ministers have unofficial hangers-on and lobbyists pushing private agendas following them around? Or was Fox the only one?

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 240.

    162.Jericoa
    'In a midst of a crisis we have a bunch of self obsessed upper class twits in office who bow to the media and are wined and dined by bankers, defence contractors, energy companies and other large corps.'

    I assumed you were talking about Labour but the upper class twits bit confused me. Glad Fox has gone as he's on the neo-con wing judging by the pressure groups he deals with.

  • Comment number 239.

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

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 238.

    When will Conservative ministers learn that being good at your job is not enough. The press are out to get you, the civil servants hate you (every civil servant I have met and I meet a lot in my job are Labour to the core) so you have to be whiter than white. Two stupid mistakes in a week... Cameron must be furious.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 237.

    What an unprincipled shower we have in charge. Imagine if this had not been revealed and continued. How many more Cabinet ministers are hiding similar things - pretty much all of them I would imagine. Amazing how the press has improved since Murdoch fell from grace.

 

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