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Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond.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
    +6

    Comment number 516.

    I disagree with (27) jonathan king: it matters who our ministers take on official business. With a c £30 Bn Budget unscrupulous friends might take advantage of proximity to a minister to curry favour which is a) unfair and b) compromises security (possible blackmail / coercion). While there is no proof this has happened here the minister has shown naivety and must resign.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 515.

    Ask yourself the question. You have been put in charge of the UK's Defence. You will spend a significant part of your time overseas with politicians / military personnel. You have a team of civil servants (and, if required, paid advisors) to support you. You meet up with a good friend perchance on a particular trip. Would you think "that's quite good - we must do this again"? Sheer stupidity

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 514.

    Some appear to think cronyism is acceptable. My view is that it's a dangerous practice, as it allows someone to advance their own agenda without the usual caveats in place. If it wasn't for "The Old Boys Club' we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now.
    For some simple examples, please see;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cronyism

  • Comment number 513.

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

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 512.

    Please can the editor's pick show the balance of views and not those of the minority who see nothing wrong with Liam Fox's actions and who, sadly, see this as some kind of irrelevance.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 511.

    You dont take a post as a member of the cabinet and let a mate freeload around with you on state trips and important visits with other dignitaries. I dont go to client meetings in my line of work and bring a friend to tag along! How he ever thought he could do this as a member of the cabinet is beyond me! His fate is a result of his ridiculous behaviour!

  • Comment number 510.

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

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 509.

    Fox's arrogance in thinking that it was ok to for his best friend to feed off his govt connection is what has cost him his job, not the press hounding. To let Werritty attend so many meetings and work so closely on BOTH health and defence matters makes this only slightly worse than expense fiddling - at the end of the day another elected official used his position to look after those near to him.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 508.

    Such a shame fine chap, tried to help out an old chum, and this is what happens. The press have been really hard on him.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 507.

    Genocidal Government of Sri lanka will be shock to see you quite from the office.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 506.

    He had to go - the whole affair was obviously rooted in dishonesty & Fox resigned as he knew he had abused his position of privilege -
    doubtless more will come out in the ensuing days.
    63 and others. No, it's a big problem, especially if the taxpayer paid for this friends lunch & 11 trips abroad don't you think you think? Also, was this friend privvy to defence secrets he shouldn't have been?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 505.

    Fox Gone ,Minister Oliver Letwin on his way, today apologised for binning confidential papers, waiting for his tomorrow fate.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 504.

    Pity is the "friend" hasnt got a job he too could resign from.
    We need politicians with more than a bit of common sense.
    I have no idea where we will find them though,it is certainly not at the polling booth.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 503.

    Well, it looks like my last comment did not make it. Can I just say then that Foxy Fox clearly did not meet the professional standards required. If it was someone lower down the food chain they would go so fast their head would spin.

  • Comment number 502.

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

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 501.

    This was such a gaffe that it was obvious to most from day 1 that he had to go. Yet, instead of an easy "bye-bye", Cameron in particular, had to make it a long drawn out affair. Whilst doubting the competence of Cameron (after all the buck stops there) I do feel incompetence and arrogance is endemic within the twits we generally choose to represent us. We deserve better.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 500.

    Not sure what is mopre serious. Fox having someone he trusts on his side, funded by donors or David Cameron paying for Andy Coulson from tax money...

  • Comment number 499.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 498.

    Not before time. If the man had any sense of honour he would have gone from the start knowing, as he must have, what was to come. Instead he hung on in the belief that he could get away with it, embarrassing Cameron who should have shown more decisiveness. Again, Cameron is shown to lack judgement. Writing's on the wall. Unless they pull something out of the bag, they are goners!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 497.

    Fox says its slurs, rubbish! Look at Portillo. Fox does not get it, Werrity, male or female handing out business cards, being privy to meetings, counsel to the minister and in contact with the top level of MOD, contractors and foreign powers but Werritty was not acccountable. It is not just bad judgment its bad security. At least this episode with Fox was not a repeat of the Profumo Affair!

 

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