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Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond.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
    +7

    Comment number 476.

    I can't believe that so many people are so relaxed. Dr Fox took this man to meetings with many overseas governments and never explained why. So why do YOU think Fox did it? And why did Werritty chose to spend his time like this? For the craic? There's more to come out, and Fox knew he had to go before it did. He may have been a reasonable defence minister otherwise, but that's not enough.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 475.

    This guy Fox isn't real could he be related to Mr Spock? ...how anyone in such a high position feels they can operate like he obviously thought he could can't possibly be human! If he is an alien then its time he came clean...I could understand him better...is anybody out there to take him home.....nanu nanu...LF phone home....

  • rate this
    -18

    Comment number 474.

    Absurd that the Defense Secretary should resign. Labour pressured him too much. They should know that a Defense Secretary shouldn't quit during war, absurd, completely absurd.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 473.

    If you want to get to the top in politics you need some powerful supporters; Murdoch as an example. Once you accept the support of this 3rd party you are at their whim. If you want politicians that are answerable only to the electorate the rules regarding outside influence need to be addressed, otehrwise the true, honest, upstanding politicians will never reach positions of real influence.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 472.

    What I don't get is why so many people don't get it. The defence secretary gave his friend access to foreign ministers and heads of state whilst said friend posed as a member of the government and also had defence business interests. It stinks to high heaven. He should have gone days ago.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 471.

    This case kind of continues to hightlight what an utter failure those in the top draw of society are. It seems if it isn't MPs making questionable expenses, bankers filling their pockets it turns out to be something else.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 470.

    Nice to know that Fox knew his position was untenable while Cameroon gave him for ever to make excuses.

    Cameroon is incompetent. He back tracks, side steps and generally does the hokie kokie all the while achieving with the exception of enhancing the wealth of Tory party members, backers and cronies.

  • Comment number 469.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 468.

    Cry if you like. (Boo hoo for the Tories)
    All I can say is good riddance.
    Get a proper job and earn your money for a change.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 467.

    I presume there will be a pair of matching beige jackets on the market soon...

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 466.

    My mother applied for a job at the Foreign Office. As part of the application process the FO interviewed my mother's friends and asked questions about her financial situation, her sexuality, drinking habits, relationships etc -she got the job.

    So, Dr Fox. Are you gay? Is your marriage a sham to make yourself electable? Who's Adam Werritty? How's he paid? We want the right sort of person you see

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 465.

    It's a shame that Fox has resigned. He was a good Defence Secretary and was bringing a bit of stability to the MOD during a period of huge cuts and change - and while UK armed forces are fighting in Afghanistan and operating in Libya. His performance in the job is what mattered most. Thanks for nothing journalists!

  • rate this
    -12

    Comment number 464.

    A bad mistake by the Tory Party. The question must be asked -Who was behind hounding out one of the best Defence Ministers this county has had for some considerable time. Many politician before him have used the armed forces and/or their office for personel glory or gain. Is Dr Fox really one of them.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 463.

    Who remembers watching Andrew Marr last Sunday when he dismissively announced that this was not a story! I wonder what he'll say this week. I do wish journalists (especially from the BBC) would let us decide what is a story and what is less so.

  • Comment number 462.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 461.

    Surely if Dr Fox is unfit to be a minister because of poor judgement, should he not resign as a member of parliment as well.......

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 460.

    You first have to leave the Front Bench before you can rejoin it. Have a great holiday Liam. It really would be best to go on your own and send Adam a "Glad you're not here" card this time. See you next May back in Health.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 459.

    Can we not get a top officer from the Army, Navy or RAF to fill the position of this amateur or am I being silly. Yes I am, damn, we just have mainly have career politions with thier own adjenders

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 458.

    Fox nil, Hounds one. As all good ok ya chaps know, The hounds always get the fox.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 457.

    So ne broke the most important commandment of any politician. Numbers 12 Thou shalt not been found out. What is more to the point I cannot remember in any Tory or Libdem manifesto, that we would be aligning ourselves with either Israeli or US defence or foreign policies both of which are an anathema to most decent thinking individuals. The only question now is who is next to fall on his sword?

 

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