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.
The Defence Secretary said that as well as conducting the review, his priority was to ensure troops in Afghanistan were well equipped.
“We’re all concerned about the political excitement here but we have to remember that in Afghanistan our armed forces are involved in a very brutal and bloody war and we have to ensure that they have everything they need to do the job that we have asked them to do in our name,” he said. “So the number one priority has to be to look after our armed forces,” he said.
“There will be a number of challenges because the time I spent working as a doctor with the armed forces taught me that it’s not just about our frontline forces themselves, it’s also about the families. And we have to pay more attention to service families and their needs as we also have to do with service veterans. I think that in this country we need to treat our veterans in the way that the best of other countries treat their veterans.”
Fox also added that the coalition government arrangement with the Liberal Democrats would allow the Trident replacement programme go ahead.
“We’ve got a very clear agreement that we will continue with the nuclear deterrent. The Liberals have said that they would like to look at what other alternatives in terms of costs of the nuclear deterrent will be. I will certainly want to scrutinise the cost of the Trident replacement programme but the ultimate responsibility is to keep Britain safe and protect the generations of the future from whatever threats may emerge in a dangerous world.
“We cannot play fast and loose with the country’s security and we will not.”
I heard a rumour last night that the Defence Secretary was to be Paddy Ashdown and was surprised but quite pleased as I don’t really rate Liam Fox, the new Defence Secretary.
Sadly the rumour didn’t turn out to be true. I believe it would have been a good move and with his experience in conflicts he could have brought a realism to Defence that has been missing for some time.
It seems that I am not the only one of that opinion as Subrosa has been explaining here. As she says
Out of all the appointments mentioned today this one concerns me most. Liam Fox, as shadow defence secretary, never performed better than average. His media interviews were composed of soundbites and no substance and often he seemed far more concerned that the public knew he had been to visit our troops in various parts of the world rather than address their concerns.
Sadly she is correct he has managed to make Bob Ainsworth almost appear talented. Let us hope that his performance in the real role, where we need someone well above average, is better than his role as shadow.
Hopefully he will be backed up a good team who can help him through what will be a tough time in the next few years. This is a department that cannot fail. There are some very good names out there on all sides of the fence who can lend their experience at all facets of defence.
Good to see LiamFox has reaffirmed that mental health will be his welfare priority if he becomes Defence Secretary.
Defence has hardly been spoken about in this election and with Afghanistan on-going and Iraq barely over it should be central to the debate in GE2010. The Conservative focus is on a new Covenant for our Armed Forces and their Families.
There are many threads that tie together our society, many bonds that bind us into one great nation.
The bonds of responsibility and care within our families; the bonds of friendship and civility within our neighbourhoods; and the bonds of duty and obligation between the people of Britain and the Armed Forces who serve our country so selflessly.
Over the last thirteen years, these ties have been sorely tested, these bonds nearly broken.
And nowhere is this more stark or more shameful than in the breakdown of the Military Covenant – that special bond of gratitude between society and those who put their lives on the line to defend our country.
Too often, our Armed Forces on the frontline have been sent into battle without the right equipment. Too often, their families have had to cope with poor housing and a lack of support at times of immense stress. Too often, veterans have been repaid for their service with inadequate support at times of great need.
And to make matters worse, the defence budget was cut even while our Forces have been at war.
David Cameron and Dr Liam Fox have launched the Conservative Party’s Armed Forces Manifesto. David Cameron said:
Our Forces sacrifice and risk so much to do their duty by us, The least we can do in return is to do our duty by them. So if elected, a Conservative government will work from day one to improve the lives of everyone in our Forces. And it will work to improve the lives of all their families.
The Armed Forces Manifesto outlines how we will repair the Military Covenant and rebuild the bonds between the Forces and the people. We will:
Give the Armed Forces clear leadership – we’ll hold a Strategic Defence and Security Review to make sure resources match commitments. In the meantime, we’ll protect the defence budget for 2010/11.
Equip our Armed Forces properly – we’ll reform procurement so our Forces get the equipment they need when they need it, at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.
Support our servicemen and women – we’ll double the operational allowance, improve rest and recuperation leave and establish a tri-Service Military Covenant.
Support service families and children – we’ll give Forces children extra support in school through the pupil premium, and provide college and university bursaries for the children of Forces personnel who have been killed.
Support our veterans – with a new mental health screening process and a new ‘Troops for Teachers’ programme to get ex-service personnel into teaching.
Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said:
The first duty of government is the defence of the realm, and our most vital asset in that is our people, I know from my experience as a Civilian Army Medical Officer that the surest way to have unhappy service personnel is to have unhappy service families. This is why a Conservative government will repair the Military Covenant as a matter of urgency.
Fox reaffirmed that mental health is will be his welfare priority if he becomes Defence Secretary, and said he was “delighted” to announce the mental health screening service for all service leavers (including reservists) and a PTSD treatment programme within the NHS.
The manifesto has been “warmly welcomed” by the Chief Executive of Combat Stress, and the Chairman of the Combat Stress fundraising appeal has said it has:
“the potential to really help the UK meet the anticipated future demand for high quality mental health services for our Veterans”.
British Forces Broadcasting (BFBS) has a Defence Debate online hosted by Kate Gerbeau. First Question from General Sir Michael Jackson, asks if Defence is an important issue in the General Election.
To me Defence certainly has had little air play and very little is said in all the Manifesto’s. It features Bob Ainsworth, Liam Fox and a Liberal who is resigning so just shows how much they value Defence.
Army at full stretch, navy over-committed and RAF pilots short of planes for training
That just about covers the full gamut. The Guardian goes onto report:
Britain’s forces need a period of “effective recuperation” after operating at a rate well above official planning assumptions, a report by the Commons defence committee says today. “The MoD was unable to tell us how long it would take before the armed forces return to satisfactory levels of readiness”, it says.
It describes how RAF pilots are unable to train because aircraft are tied up on operations, the navy has too many commitments and major exercises are having to be cancelled.
The report quotes Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, a senior commander, as saying that his fellow senior officers believed the army needed to expand from about 102,000 troops to 112,000 to meet demand.
This is the state our dithering and delaying Prime Minister has brought our Armed Forces to by his years of mis-management, first as Chancellor and lately as the Prime Minister.
The shadow defence secretary, Liam Fox, said the report
“exposes the damage that has been done across the armed forces by Labour’s refusal to hold a proper review for over a decade.
It is clear that radical reform is needed to ensure that our armed forces are best configured to defend British interests and that our procurement programme gets our troops what they need, when they need it,”
This is something I have been saying for a while, and despite this Ainsworth wants to ring fence spending on items such as Trident and the new Aircraft Carriers BEFORE the SDR is carried out. This is political posturing rather than strategy as they attempt to bribe voters in marginal constituencies.
General Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army, said war in Iraq and Afghanistan had taken its toll on troops and echoed Lamb’s call for a boost to land forces.
“There is quite a strong argument to say that our land forces are not large enough, particularly units that may have done two or three tours in Iraq and are now on a second or third tour in Afghanistan,” he told GMTV. “Inevitably and sadly we have taken a number of casualties and people are tired. So those units need to be stronger. If they were 10% or 15% stronger they would be more resilient to casualties and if people become ill or injured.”
It is time to get the SDR done and sort out proper long term funding for our forces. How we sort out the shorter term problem of knackered soldiers and equipment is much harder without a substantial withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is time to get our supposed allies to help us in Afghanistan.
According to Dizzy the Tories have ust put a press release out that contains the following quote from Liam Fox
“At Prime Minister’s Questions today Gordon Brown repeatedly made the allegation that the Conservatives pledged to cut defence spending at the 2005 election, when our manifesto was committed to a £2.7bn increase in frontline spending. Gordon Brown must apologise for misleading the House. Another day, another figure, same wrong Gordon Brown.”
In an article by Reuters it is very apparent that Mainland Europe has little enthusiasm for the war in Afghanistan, beyond what they are currently doing and that only reluctantly. Almost all Defence Ministers had the same thing to say, typically no extras troops were available, and that the focus should be on training the Afghan Army and Police.
Typical was Danish Defence Minister Soren Gade who told reporters:
If you look at Europe, I don’t hear any voices saying we have an additional five or ten thousand soldiers to send to Afghanistan, take my country for example, we have right now 850 soldiers (in Afghanistan). Compared to our size — we are 5 million people — it’s a lot, so it will be very difficult for me to send more soldiers and I think a lot of European politicians will have an excuse not to do so
In the meantime Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said a Tory government would be “sympathetic” to requests from Nato for more British troops.
He told the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London it was essential that the government provide the resources to enable the mission in Afghanistan to succeed. If it failed, it would be down to the politicians at home, and not the troops on the frontline.
“We have the best armed forces in the world. Our officers and NCOs are world class. The government must provide all of the tools – soft and hard power, civilian and military – to be successful,”
“If Afghanistan is lost, it will be lost at home by political leaders – not by our gallant men and women on the frontline. Failure is not an option.” Afghanistan would be the military’s “main effort” under a Conservative government,
“Public disillusionment with the mission in Afghanistan is exacerbated in the UK because of the government’s failure to define our objectives clearly in national security terms and because of the widespread belief that our forces have not been fully resourced.”
“The day we start justifying our security presence in Afghanistan by the number of girls attending school as Harriet Harman [Labour’s deputy leader] did in the House of Commons before the summer recess; or by the number of people exercising their right to vote, as the media did during the recent elections, is the day we have set ourselves up for political failure … they are neither the reasons why we went to Afghanistan nor the reasons why we should remain”.
Fox still seems not to have worked out that Afghanistan is not just a military solution, it also requires much input on the civilian side to bring about the economic turnaround that will sustain Afghanistan once we leave. At the moment this is an area that seems to be being almost overlooked.