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Mr Fox has been replaced by Transport Secretary Mr Hammond.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
    +8

    Comment number 336.

    As usual, the only reason he resigned is because he got caught. He claims he "mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred." What personal interests and agenda has he knowingly been putting forward whilst in his ministerial role - an inquiry needs to be set up to discover the extent of any wrong doing here.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 335.

    Good, now lets not ease off and lets find out how much this odious man Fox gave away in dodgy contracts to his ' friend'..

    Next up, the mad bin man..

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 334.

    When DC said he has his complete confidence you just knew it was the kiss of death. We will never know what the 'relationship' was really.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 333.

    Adam Werrity. Maybe not such a great friend after all.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 332.

    The Fox and defence, was he pushed or did he jump. he's certainly nolonger sitting pretty.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 331.

    Headline: POLITICIAN IN BENT AS NINE BOB NOTE SHOCKER. Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 330.

    Well it's a start!

  • Comment number 329.

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

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 328.

    Not sure why there are some showing sadness at Fox's departure. Are they naive enough to think there was nothing wrong with this liaison. Sorrow at my mistake? Sorrow at getting caught is true, I would think. To be so arrogant concerning his misbehaviour is so typical: " I've done nothing wrong" wrong is the normal cry from shysters hoping no one will notice their transgressions. Good riddance.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 327.

    whose advice did Fox take to make this step?
    clearly not his civil servants!
    that narrows the field to his 'commercial' advisers from israel
    to find out whether i'm right or wrong_ watch Fox's career from now >: (

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 326.

    He knew the rules, his behaviour has been strange to say the least.
    What part of this was he not getting. It like something you would have done at school. Not in high ministerial office

  • rate this
    -16

    Comment number 325.

    Dr Liam Foox behaved with integrity, dignity and understanding in grappling with amyriad ofsituations he had to contend with in his stay as Defense Secretary, bringing a freshness to the approach that was missing in the immediately preceeding period. We saw that he was welcomed in all parts of the world. I hope hewill be back in the cabinet before long. before long.

  • rate this
    -13

    Comment number 324.

    Frustrating as Fox actually "got" defence and at least showed some vision and drive and was prepared to challenge the status quo on the years of bureaucratic ineptitude that have paralysed MoD. Given the Ministry is in a desperate state of flux having him go like this doesn't help matters at all. Still, it'll shift a tonne of newspapers for the hacks though..kerching.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 323.

    The implication here is that he was using whichever high office he was currently holding to push a bit of consultancy work Werrity's way . That is absolutely a resigning offence.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 322.

    Back to the Future.Persecuted belittled and hounded. I thought there was a ban on fox hunting. Apparently not. So what if "his friend" had Fox being introduced to Pro Israeli defence contractors. Israel needs all the help it can get against stone throwing.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 321.

    Now that distraction is at last out of the way perhaps we could get on with sacking the Home Secretary for publicly lying, then shamelessly blaming the fib on her department, only for it to be revealed that she stole the lie from a UKIP speech! Its all sleaze and its all the Eurosceptics. People should wonder if they can believe a word these Eurosceptic types say? I certainly don't.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 320.

    Money, Money, Money that's what its all about. Did he never think to question his best mate and ask the question "what you doing here" Come on please! Fox knew all along what was going on. Blurred?, yeah right!
    I remember the last tory government and it took a while for the sleaze to appear. This shows how good journalists can be, 18 months and we can already see it.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 319.

    I'm sorry, but if the defence secretary of some third world country had taken his friend on officail state visits, and allowed him into his place of work, everyone would have been saying "tut tut, typical of these people, they're all corrupt"!

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 318.

    Why are the Editors' Picks for this story all Pro-Fox???Who ever is moderating these comments is clearly pro-Tory.
    Liam Fox broke the rules. End of. He should be ejected from politics completely as he's someone who either:
    a- Puts his own interests before the interests of the Nation.
    b- Is so idiotic he thought it was perfectly fine to allow non-vetted personnel into the very heart of Government!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 317.

    The bit I don't get is why Werritty wasn't appointed as one of Fox's spads (special advisors) - then Werritty would have been able legitimately to advise Fox, and would have had legitimate access to relevant MoD papers. Why the private arrangement financed by high net worth Tory supporters, when there is a facility for ministers to bring in their own advisors entirely properly?.

 

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