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Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond.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
    +9

    Comment number 296.

    the quick brown fox tried to jump over the lazy dog, but failed - Letwin next??

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 295.

    Back to presenting the Top 40 on Independant Radio for Dr Fox.

  • rate this
    -18

    Comment number 294.

    once again the press has lost a man his position in the name of news, gutter press at its worst, I wonder how many of them could stand scrutiny

  • rate this
    -22

    Comment number 293.

    What a shame that so much ministerial time has been wasted pointing fingers over Liam Fox taking his mate places. Surely the actual stuff that Mr Fox is doing to help the country is more important to be debating over. So much time and money wasted on petty allegations.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 292.

    Politicians of all flavours seem incapable of behaving appropriately. Bet Fox was blind to the fact he was doing anything wrong, until he got found out. Its sympotomatic of an attitude of *entitlement* that pervades parliament. The expenses saga may be behind us, but root cause attitudes remain. There will be more stories like this and the somewaht sleazy reputation of politicians will not go away

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 291.

    Now I may just be cynical but why has this guy put up such a strong defence all week only to throw in the towel? Does he have something to hide? Funny how the questions about how these trips were funded only really started being asked in the past couple of days. It seems to me that there will be more of this murky story to come.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 290.

    It's the media wot did it!

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 289.

    Politicians just don't get it do they? As a public official, would I bring a developer 'as a friend' to a meeting I have with a landowner who wants to talk about developing his site? Would I allow my 'developer friend' to give cards out saying he's my advisor with my employers crest on it? I find this all just jaw-dropping.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 288.

    Once again a Government Minister resigns and then says that he has done nothing wrong. He apologised to his fellow MP's but he should be apologising to the British public for being naive. Quit on a Friday and hope it will all die down by Monday. There is more to come out this story...

  • Comment number 287.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 286.

    94.RonC
    worse than that if it has so much as a name on it then he has breached the data protection act and we know what Tories were shouting for when it was public servants (not ministers) who were accidental losing documents and in this case its not accidentally but deliberate breaking of the law.

  • rate this
    -30

    Comment number 285.

    A naive man resigns. Well done Labour, what a coup!!! Presumably this has been known about within the MOD for ages without it being carefully leaked to the press. So who has leaked it? Perhaps, our senior military staff are now better at politics than supporting and leading their own troops. The forces cull should continue or be stepped up to clear out the "staff officers" sitting behind desks.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 284.

    "understood his reasons".

    ???

    Conspiracists and those old enough to remember the blackmails of pre-enlightened times might think that Call Me Dave is nailing his [rainbow?] colours to the mast of the vessel piloted by Dr Fox....

    P.S. Why was it always "Dr Liam Fox" prior to this 'scandal', yet once his demise became likely even the BBC refer to "Mr Fox"...?

  • rate this
    -20

    Comment number 283.

    Perhaps now the hounds of the Media have got their dubious way , we'll see inquiries into their relationships with similarly-unpaid "sources"? Disappointing that the hypocrisy of irresponsible "journalists" seems to have influence beyond even those who will not look beneath the surface of these hysterical reports, and who are even now voting this down.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 282.

    Does anyone else bring their close friends on business trips?

    All off his work should be confidential. Why should he seek advice off a mere friend?

    A misjudgement on something as clear as this is a sign of blinded Fox is.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 281.

    @ 98, 63 and 59 - Please wake up and smell the Arabica beans. Dr Fox is only as good the standards he held others to ... and in his own carefully qualified words he condemned himself. What is it is it looks like cronyism - it sounds like cronyism, it stinks of cronyism - BUT you maintain it is NOT cronyism - so what is it? If Mr Fox wishes to find a culprit, he need only look in the mirror.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 280.

    I wonder whether Letwin had actually read any of the letters that he dumped. Perhaps he could be next. Contempt for parliamentary standards in the case of Fox, and of constituents must come at a price.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 279.

    I despair at some of the comments being made here! Fox had to go, and behind it all were justifications for doing so...and he himself admits it.

    He had a 'lobbyist' accompanying him on trips where he should not have been. Lobbyists are the bane of our society, they divert political interest away from the whole of society, and channel it towards the 'interests' they represent...corporations!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 278.

    222.Michael Berman

    Good to see another Eton success story end up where he deserves to be

    Did he go there then? Dont think so

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 277.

    Liam Fox good ridance you did for the armed forces what Thatcher did for the unions. God help us if there is ever another war because we have NOTHING to fight with.
    Also Mr Werrity was acting on behalf of certain companies (one of them Israeli) whats the score there, dont they have enough pull with the Conservative Friends of Israel doing their work for them. Think about that one.

 

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