Liam Fox, Britain’s Defense Secretary, said he has resigned from his role amid an intensifying controversy over his alleged use of a friend, Adam Werritty, to act as an unofficial adviser.
Dr. Fox’s relationship with Mr. Werritty has been under intense scrutiny in recent days, after the defense minister acknowledged that his former housemate and best man at his wedding attended several official meetings and used a business card that described himself as an adviser—a role he doesn’t hold.
Dr. Fox, one of the country’s most senior politicians, said that he had allowed the distinction between his personal and business interests “to become blurred.”
“The consequences of this have become clearer in recent days,” he said in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, released by the Ministry of Defence. “I am very sorry for this,” he added.
The resignation is the most serious to hit Mr. Cameron’s cabinet since he formed a coalition government in May 2010.
Dr. Fox was regarded as the leading figure of the right-wing arm of the Conservative party in the British government and the country’s most vocal proponent of the “special relationship” with the U.S.
In a letter to Dr. Fox, Mr. Cameron said he understood his reasons for resigning but said he was “very sorry” to see him go.
At issue was whether Mr. Werritty was being used by Dr. Fox to conduct government business and who was paying his costs.
On Monday, an interim report by the defense ministry said that no classified or other defense-related official information was discussed with or given to Mr. Werritty.
But a spokesman for Mr. Cameron said then that “serious mistakes” were made in allowing the “distinction between professional responsibilities and personal loyalties to be blurred.”
Government releases showed that Dr. Fox has met with Mr. Werritty some 40 times in 16 months. Those joint meetings included a July get-together with U.S. Lt. Gen. John Allen in a Tampa, Fla., steakhouse, and a meeting in a Dubai hotel to discuss official business with industry executives but at which no other government officials were present, in a breach of government protocol.
Mr. Werritty also visited Fox at the defense ministry 22 times over a period of 16 months. His costs were being picked up by a variety of sources—including an Australian hedge fund manager and a group that lobbies for Israel in the U.K.—that were garnering increased attention in the British media.
Jim Murphy, the defense spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said the resignation was “unavoidable and inevitable.”
“Governments must have rules and Ministers must have standards, Liam Fox fell foul of the standards and he broke the rules,” he said, according to CNN.