THE former head of the Royal Navy said Liam Fox was right to resign as defence secretary over his business links with a close friend.
Lord West called the resignation a ‘personal tragedy’ for Dr Fox, but said he should have left his job sooner during a week of revelations about his friendship with Adam Werritty, a lobbyist who he allowed to access the heart of government.
Dr Fox stood down yesterday after it emerged Mr Werritty had falsely posed as the defence secretary’s official adviser, joined him on 18 engagements overseas and met up with him at the Ministry of Defence 22 times in 16 months.
Lord West, a Labour peer who was a security minister in the last government, said: ‘I think it had got to the stage where he had to resign as more and more was coming out.
‘It’s all well and good saying sorry but this was such a gross error of judgment he had to say sorry and resign – and he should have done it a couple of days earlier.’
The former First Sea Lord, who has been an outspoken critic of military cuts Dr Fox has made, added: ‘It’s unfortunate because Liam Fox understands defence and he did fight for money for defence but he lost against the Treasury.
‘He was a robust character and he was making positive changes to how the MoD is run so it is a shame to see him go in that respect.’
Dr Fox, who apologised to MPs on Wednesday and denied wrongdoing, resigned with ‘great sadness’ in a letter to David Cameron.
He said: ‘I mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred.’
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has been named as the new defence secretary.
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South and a member of the Commons’ defence select committee, said: ‘It’s a big disappointment because Liam Fox was the right man for the job and he’ll be a hard act to follow.
‘He’s the only person in more than a decade to show some determination to sort out the Ministry of Defence. The thing that upsets me is there will be people in the MoD having a drink on this because they will be glad he’s gone.’
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said: ‘I’m very sad because he was somebody well suited to his role, did a good job at it and loved it.
‘It’s really sad that he let his private life cross over with his professional life. He made some terrible errors of judgment and that’s overshadowed everything that he has achieved.’