UK defence aide’s fate hangs in balance

The opposition calls for a wider inquiry and an emergency statement from Fox.


Reuters October 10, 2011

LONDON: The fate of Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox may be decided next week after claims his relationship with a close friend and unofficial adviser may have breached national security.

The role of defence secretary is particularly sensitive in Britain because of the involvement of about 10,000 British troops in Afghanistan and its role in helping Nato protect civilians in Libya after the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

Fox returned to Britain on Sunday from Libya where his first visit to the country was overshadowed by the saga.

Prime Minister David Cameron has demanded the initial findings of an inquiry arrive on his desk on Monday after media furore surrounding his minister’s ties with a former flatmate and best man at his wedding, Adam Werritty, refused to go away.

Although Cameron has said he has “full confidence” in Fox, the 48-hour deadline was shorter than the two-week deadline Fox gave a top military civil servant to carry it out.

One defence analyst said Fox, who has been defence secretary since the Conservative-led coalition came to power in 2010, would fight to keep his job, saying Fox’s behaviour was more a case of poor judgment than a risk to national security.

But the opposition is calling for a wider inquiry, and will push for Fox to make an emergency statement to parliament on Monday, where he is already due to answer defence questions.

“I mean it’s not just the questions of national security and access to highly sensitive information. It’s also the question of the probity and procurement,” Harriet Harman, deputy Labour leader, told BBC television on Sunday.

“But there’s now a further question about Dr Fox’s integrity and the question of whether he actually answered truthfully and fully all the questions that have been put.”

Fox, on the right of Cameron’s Conservatives and seen as a leadership challenger, is sceptical on Europe and in favour of close cooperation with the United States on defence issues. His departure would leave Cameron searching for someone of similar political leanings to avoid accusations that his

coalition with the Liberal Democrats was getting dragged too far into the centre ground of British politics.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2011.

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