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Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond.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
    +75

    Comment number 376.

    Not a moment to soon. Lets hope this doesn't brush the matter under the carpet. Let the enquiry continue and find out just how dodgy these dealings were. Another example of the government no-one elected doing what they please when they please.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 375.

    About time!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 374.

    I wish I could get companies to all chip in and fly me around the world on holidays hanging out with world leaders. No doubt these companies were paying for introductions to government contracts. Foxy handled the arms sales and his buddy introduced companies to world leaders. Not a bad line of business.

    Aren't MPs and the cabinet supposed to look after our interests instead of their own?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 373.

    Some people think Dr Fox was a good minister. Be that as it may, if you break the rules you should expect to be thrown out of the game. Well done to the media for your investigative journalism and well done Dr. Fox for resigning: at least we can see that accountability still occurs at Westminster.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 372.

    Just another 600 odd lunatics to be kicked out of the asylum and then maybe we can start again with some sensible and honest politicians.... Whoops, is that what they call an oxymoron....?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 371.

    No wonder Cameron wanted him to stay. He now has the icon of the right outside the tent p------ in instead of remaining in the tent and p------ out on the rest of us! Why did he not do the decent thing and go earlier. What a shower Cameron is the leader of.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 370.

    No doubt Labour will milk this for all they can. Now I'm no supporter of Labour, but two ministers in a row being very stupid does give them a lot of ammunition, and could even be deemed to call into question Cameron's judgment.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 369.

    The most humble council employee knows what they can and cannot do under the rules and where the boundaries are. For the Defence Minister to have "blurred" things is absolutely sackable. This is one of the top posts in government and it is almost unbelieveable that he allowed Werritty such access. No matter how good you are at your job, rules are rules.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 368.

    Not before time. This is another example of misuse of power and underhand dealings by someone who thinks they are above public scrutiny.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 367.

    If I brought a friend to work with me, brought him through security doors, I would be sacked.

    Mr Fox will be security cleared to DV level (The highest). What he has done is unacceptable regardless of whether he was good at his job or not.

  • rate this
    -16

    Comment number 366.

    I am a bit lost with this...I am no tory but I dont see what is wrong with the guys mate helping him or being with him on trips...this is just another press lets get another MP...this has to stop...poor man...hope he gets a chance again

  • rate this
    -17

    Comment number 365.

    What he did was clearly wrong but to lose a very good politician over a media 'witch hunt' shows the kind of fickle politics this country has come to.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 364.

    i'm sure the good DR will survive,shame that the rest of them can't meet with same fate before they do any more damage to the country & people,so long Foxy,you won't be missed.

  • Comment number 363.

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

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 362.

    Interesting that all the Editors Picks seem to be more on the side of Liam Fox staying rather than reflecting the overall feeling here which is that he should go......is this the Beeb hedging its bets?!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 361.

    "I have always placed a great deal of importance on accountability and responsibility"

    Yeah right, pull the other one Mr Fox.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 360.

    Our system of Government is in danger of becoming like the American one. MP's should be more closely monitered & they should not be able to take up 2nd jobs while they are in office. Many of these 2nd jobs are given to them by companies with vested interests. We're forever hearing politicians saying they got into politics to help the Country- it would appear very few of them actually do.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 359.

    We must await the reports on his actions rather than imagine that Liam Fox's resignation is the end of the matter. He has indeed driven a 'coach and horses' through ministerial protocol, but we do not yet know why or who's agenda he was delivering.
    Oh! Letwin has just joined the ministerial list of embarrassments for the PM who has also driven a 'coach and horses' through ministerial protocol.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 358.

    297. John
    1 MINUTE AGO
    You can wage war on nations like Blair did or bring the UK close to the brink of bankruptcy like Brown did. But god forbid you meet a friend for some lunches or have him come along for trips (no public money was used). If he resigns over this lets bring 75% of the labour party to the war crimes court for its role in Iraq
    As pink floyd song gos not now john your talking crap

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 357.

    A good Defence Secretary indeed - but how foolish.

    In the wake of the expenses scandal, only someone in strong denial would fail to realise that such behaviour was bound to give rise to questions, and if no sensible explanation was forthcoming, to cause his downfall.

    Do we really want someone with such poor judgment to be our Defence Secretary?

 

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