14 Oct 2011

Liam Fox resigns as defence secretary

Embattled Defence Secretary Liam Fox has announced he is to stand down after prolonged speculation about his relationship with self-styled adviser Adam Werritty.

In his resignation letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, Dr Fox said he had “mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred”.

The Daily Telegraph reported today that Liam Fox and Adam Werritty had both attended a fund-raising dinner in Washington last year, organised by the US arm of the Atlantic Bridge, a right-wing charity headed by Mr Werritty.

However, the event did not appear on the list released by the MoD earlier this week of 18 occasions where Dr Fox and Mr Werritty both attended overseas engagements.

A spokesman for Dr Fox said: “Dr Fox took annual leave to attend an awards ceremony in a purely private capacity. No taxpayers’ money was spent on this visit.”

‘Errors of judgement’

On Sunday Dr Fox apologised for “errors of judgement” in his dealings with Mr Werritty.

The following day, Downing Street issued a statement after the delivery of the Ministry of Defence permanent secretary’s interim report into the conduct of Dr Fox.

It said: “It is clear, as Liam Fox himself said yesterday, that serious mistakes were made in allowing the distinction between professional responsibilities and personal loyalties to be blurred.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the prime minister of “delay and indecision” in his handling of the case.

Liam Fox's resignation letter to David Cameron

Dear David

As you know, I have always placed a great deal of importance on accountability and responsibility. As I said in the House of Commons on Monday, I 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. 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 - a position which I have been immensely proud and honoured to have held.

I am particularly proud to have overseen the long overdue reforms to the Ministry of Defence and to our Armed Forces, which will shape them to meet the challenges of the future and keep this country safe.

I am proud also to have played a part in helping to liberate the people of Libya, and I regret that I will not see through to its conclusion Britain's role in Afghanistan, where so much progress has been made.

Above all, I am honoured and humbled to have worked with the superb men and women in our Armed Forces. Their bravery, dedication and professionalism are second to none.

I appreciate all the support you have given me - and will continue to support the vital work of this Government, above all in controlling the enormous budget deficit we inherited, which is a threat not just to this country's economic prosperity but also to its national security.

I look forward to continuing to represent my constituents in North Somerset.

Yours ever, Liam
Philip Hammond, newly appointed Defence Secretary

Dr Fox will be replaced as Defence Secretary by the current Transport Secretary Philip Hammond. His job will be taken by Justine Greening, who has served as economic secretary to the treasury since the election. She becomes the fifth woman in Mr Cameron’s cabinet.