Liam Fox has resigned as defence secretary following allegations that he allowed a close friend improper access to the highest level of government affairs.
The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, has been looking into claims that Fox broke the ministerial code by allowing his friend Adam Werritty to accompany him on 18 overseas trips since the election.
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”.
It comes after Downing Street appeared to pave the way on Friday morning, when a Number 10 spokeswoman said: "There are lots of questions which do draw concern, which is why this inquiry is ongoing."
Although Downing Street insisted that Fox retained the confidence of David Cameron, newspapers had been speculating that the ongoing accusations and innuendos had made it impossible for the defence secretary to remain in post.
The Ministry of Defence believed Adam Werritty had accompanied Liam Fox on these expeditions in a personal capacity, but by Wednesday night reports had begun to emerge, claiming that Werrity's expenses had been paid by right-wing backers, who'd wanted to ensure that a Eurosceptic, pro-American, pro-Israeli message was delivered on the trips.
On Friday The Times reported that the backers included G3 Good Governance Group, a strategic advisory company, and venture capitalist Jon Moulton. Another backer was said to be Poju Zabludowicz, the chairman of the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) - an organisation that lobbies the government on behalf of Israel. BICOM describes itself as "providing resources to individuals and organisations in Britain who share BICOM's agenda to promote a better understanding of Israel".
According to The Times, the backers contributed towards the £147,000 paid into the bank account of a not-for-profit company that Werritty owned.
Liam Fox had also allowed his best man Adam Werritty access to the Ministry Of Defence on more than a dozen occasions, despite Werritty holding no official government position. Werritty had produced at least two sets of business cards describing himself as an advisor to Dr. Fox, cards which improperly displayed the official Portcullis of the House of Commons. Civil Servants at the MoD had raised concerns about the use of the cards in August.
Adam Werritty had not been appointed as an official adviser to Dr. Fox, a process which under the Ministerial Code requires the sign-off from David Cameron, regardless of whether or not advisers are to be paid.
Last weekend video footage emerged showing that Werritty had also attended at least one high-level ministerial meeting with Sri Lankan dignitaries, despite Dr. Fox earlier claiming this had not been the case.
On Thursday afternoon the Labour MP Anas Sarwar wrote to the Electoral Commission, asking them to investigate Liam Fox's declarations of interests, which had not included any mention of Adam Werritty.
|@ guardiannews : Liam Fox resignation: Adam Werritty money trail was final straw http://t.co/xcW2HNlT|
|@ TIME : U.K. Defense Secretary Liam Fox resigns over questions about a close relationship with another man | http://t.co/8BO5IwDY|
|@ WSJEurope : U.K. Defense Secretary Resigns Amid Scandal: Liam Fox, Britain's defense minister, said that he has quit his pos... http://t.co/vXfEjmlW|
|@ HuffPostUK : Liam Fox ally Chris Grayling says as the week went on it became "pretty clear it was likely to end this way (with his resignation).|
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith has been promoted to the Treasury to replace Greening.
The 29-year-old has had a rapid rise through the ranks having only been elected in 2009.
Former economic secretary at the Treasury has been named as the new transport secretary. Here is a quick profile of the 42-year-old Putney MP who has had a rapid rise to the top table.
|@ christopherhope : #fox Extraordinary rise to prominence for Ms Smith. Only entered Parliament last year|
Downing Street has released the full changes in the wake of Fox's resignation:Philip Hammond MP, currently Secretary of State for Transport, to become Secretary of State for Defence; Justine Greening MP, currently Economic Secretary at HM Treasury, to become Secretary of State for Transport; Chloe Smith MP, currently an Assistant Whip in the House of Commons, to become Economic Secretary at HM Treasury;
Greg Hands MP to become an Assistant Whip in the House of Commons.
Philip Hammond will replace Liam Fox as defence secretary after Fox's resignation on Friday afternoon.
Treasury minister Justine Greening will now become transport secretary. Hammond's appointment was backed today by influential Tory MP Patrick Mercer, who told Sky News on Friday he could think of "few greater" replacements.
Sky news reporting Philip Hammond will become defence sec.
|@ gavinmaclure : There better be a damn good reason why Liam Fox went. What right has a civil servant got judging a elected representative?|
He tells the BBC he went for a drink with Fox and could see how worn out he was by the constant revelations about him reported in the papers. "The media have done nothing over the last few days apart from try to force him out of office."
"But there’s no doubt that a point had been reached at which he had, effectively, to bow to the inevitable."
I wish him well for the future and I'll be announcing a replacement very shortly
“This has been a controversial Defence Secretary and, yes, he’s made these difficult decisions but the reality is, and I know this from speaking to people in the military, that they’ve lost faith and trust in him both at a senior level and at a junior level and I look forward now to the Prime Minister appointing someone sooner rather than later who can provide the leadership and the judgment that our armed forces deserve and expect.”
Now the Tory front bench has lost both David Davis and Liam Fox, and its class homogeneity is ever tighter. This is not good news: all the voters who now believe that the Conservatives are out of touch with ordinary people will be even less likely to be persuaded otherwise.
"This has been a controversial defence secretary. I know from conversations I've had with people who are still serving that they've lost faith and trust in him, both at a senior level and at a more junior level."
He adds that Fox has made "some very difficult and painful decisions but the right ones for the future of the country". He said he had never heard of or met Werritty "until this fuss blew up", telling the BBC: "Clearly he thinks what he did was wrong and I think his resignation letter should speak for itself."
|@ davidallengreen : Well, Ken Clarke still in cabinet, and Liam Fox out. Didn't look like that a fortnight ago...|
Dan Jarvis: "It was the right thing for him to do to resign. The armed forces deserve and respect clear leadership... recent events show that Liam Fox didn't have the legitimacy to continue in the role."
“It’s very, very distressing but it was inevitable given what has emerged in the past few days.”
|@ KevinBrennanMP : Anyone who had been a Government Minister knew Liam Fox would have to resign. Why wasn't his behaviour challenged earlier by his officials?|
The tenacity with which the Defence Secretary hunkered down in his foxhole heartened some on the Tory Right. But that doggedness, far from being admirable, is to be deplored.
|@ lucymanning : Understand likely Cabinet Sec's report into Liam Fox still likely to be published. Though maybe No 10 will have a rethink over weekend|
The Labour MP suggests other ministers met with Werritty: "He's [Fox] not the only one who had a close working relationship with Mr Werritty"
|@ Tony_McNulty : Of course, Liam Fox's three real special advisers are now out of work too. Spads go when their Ministers go.|
|@ jameschappers : If Hammond goes to Defence, a woman will be promoted to Cabinet, sources say. Justine Greening in pole position and likely to get Transport|
|@ LouiseMensch : Very sorry indeed Liam Fox has resigned. He was an outstanding Secretary of State for Defence and a completely dedicated minister.|
|@ skynewsniall : Spoke with Fox's SpAd - wouldn't be drawn on "why now" beyond saying that Fox believed people in public office shd be held to high standards|