Early lifeFox was born and raised in East Kilbride, Scotland and brought up in a council house that his parents later bought. The only one of his siblings to be educated in the state sector, he attended St. Bride's High School. He studied medicine at the University of Glasgow Medical School, graduating with MB ChB degrees in 1983. Fox is a general practitioner (he was a GP in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, before his election to Parliament), a former Civilian Army Medical Officer and Divisional Surgeon with St John Ambulance. He is a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Whilst studying at the University of Glasgow, he was a member of the Dialectic Society and became president of the Glasgow University Conservative Association. From there he advanced through the Conservative ranks. Fox contested the Hairmyres Ward of East Kilbride District Council in May 1984, coming second – 210 votes – to the incumbent Labour Councillor, Ed McKenna.
While studying medicine at Glasgow University in the early 1980s, Fox resigned his position on the university's Students Representative Council (SRC) in protest at the council passing a motion condemning the decision of the university's Glasgow University Union (GUU) not to allow a gay students society to join the union. The SRC motion called both the union's decision and the explanations given for it "bigoted". The GUU maintained its stance regardless and the controversy was reported in the national media while leading to many other university student unions up and down the country, including Edinburgh, cutting ties with their Glasgow counterparts. Explaining his decision to resign from the SRC and support the GUU's position, Fox was quoted as saying "I'm actually quite liberal when it comes to sexual matters. I just don't want the gays flaunting it in front of me, which is what they would do." When asked about the controversy in 2008, Fox remarked that "fortunately most of us have progressed from the days when we were students more than a quarter of a century ago".
Member of ParliamentHis first attempt to get elected as an MP for a Scottish constituency ended in failure when he contested Roxburgh and Berwickshire in the 1987 General Election. Thereafter, he sought and won nomination for the English constituency of Woodspring and was successful in being elected MP for that constituency at the 1992 General Election.
In governmentA little over a year after his election in 1992, Fox was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, in June 1993. Thereafter, in July 1994, he was appointed an Assistant Government Whip. Following a limited government reshuffle in November 1995, he was appointed a Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury – a Senior Government Whip. He was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1996 to 1997.
In 1996, he brokered an accord in Sri Lanka, called the Fox Peace Plan, between Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge’s PA and the opposition UNP of Ranil Wickremesinghe, on a bipartisan approach for ending the ethnic war. However, little has happened since then to suggest that the various parties have acted in good faith in the interests of peace.
Shadow CabinetIn June 1997, Fox was appointed Opposition Front Bench Spokesman on Constitutional Affairs. Between 1999 and 2003 he was the Shadow Secretary of State for Health.
In November 2003, Fox was appointed campaign manager for Michael Howard following the no-confidence vote against the Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith. Fox was made co-chairman of the party by Michael Howard when he became party leader in November 2003. After the 2005 general election he was promoted within the Shadow Cabinet to become Shadow Foreign Secretary. On 7 December 2005 he was moved to Defence by new Leader of the Opposition David Cameron MP.
Leadership bidIn September 2005, Fox announced he would join the contest to be the next leader of the Conservative party.
His campaign theme for the 2005 leadership race was based on the "broken society" theme, which he says Conservatives can address by returning emphasis to marriage and reforming welfare.
In the initial ballot of Conservative MPs, on 18 October, he gained enough support (42 votes) to avoid coming last, and put himself through to the second ballot to be held two days later.
He was eliminated with 51 votes in third place behind David Cameron (90 votes) and David Davis (57 votes). Cameron, who eventually won the leadership election, gave Fox the role of Shadow Defence Secretary.
Secretary of State for DefenceHe was appointed as Secretary of State for Defence in the cabinet of David Cameron on 12 May 2010 and that weekend flew out to Afghanistan with the Foreign Secretary, William Hague and the International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell to see first hand the issues facing the troops based there.
In July 2010 he said that the dire state of the public finances meant the Armed Forces could no longer be equipped to cover every conceivable danger. He said that the strongest signal that it will have to give up one or more of these capabilities, which have been maintained at the same time as contributing to collective security pacts such as NATO. “We don’t have the money as a country to protect ourselves against every potential future threat,” he said. “We have to look at where we think the real risks will come from, where the real threats will come from and we need to deal with that accordingly. The Russians are not going to come over the European plain any day soon,” he added. Dr Fox’s admission casts doubt on the future of the 25,000 troops currently stationed in Germany. The Defence Secretary has previously said that he hoped to withdraw them at some point, leaving Britain without a presence in the country for the first time since 1945.
The Ministry of Defence is facing budget cuts of up to 8% over the next five years, according to some analysts, and the department is already grappling with a £37bn shortfall on programmes it has signed up to. The results of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) are expected around the same time as the cross-Government comprehensive spending review, which will be published on 20 October. The defence industry is very concerned that the review is being led by budget concerns rather than military need. Speaking in September 2010 Fox said on the possibility of sharing aircraft carriers with the French Navy that "I think it is unrealistic to share an aircraft carrier but, in other areas like tactical lift we can see what we can do," Liam Fox, said at a meeting in Paris with Herve Morin. "I can't deny that there is an element of urgency added by budget concerns."
In September 2010 Fox in a private letter to David Cameron, Fox refuses to back any substantial reduction in the Armed Forces. He says it risks seriously damaging troops’ morale. The letter was written the night before a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). In the letter Fox wrote that: "Frankly this process is looking less and less defensible as a proper SDSR (Strategic Defence and Strategy Review) and more like a "super CSR" (Comprehensive Spending Review). If it continues on its current trajectory it is likely to have grave political consequences for us". Fox continued saying that "Our decisions today will limit severely the options available to this and all future governments. The range of operations that we can do today we will simply not be able to do in the future. In particular, it would place at risk"
In February 2011 Fox launched an attack on “ballooning” spending in his own department as figures show projects are running at least £8.8 billion over budget. The top 15 major procurement projects are now running at £8.8 billion over budget and, between them, are delayed by a total of 32 years. That includes the A400M transporter aircraft order that is £603 million over budget and six years behind schedule. He will criticise what he calls a “conspiracy of optimism based on poor cost-estimation, unrealistic timescales” at the MoD and in industry. “These practices in the MOD would simply not be tolerated in the private sector, and they will no longer be tolerated in the MoD.” A “new, frank and honest relationship between Government and industry” is needed and Mr Fox will signal that change must come.
In March 2011 Fox defended the decision to make 11,000 redundancies in the armed forces, insisting that personnel who have recently returned from Afghanistan will not be sacked. Cameron has conceded that axing around 5,000 personnel from the army, 3,300 from the Navy and 2,700 from the RAF will be difficult for those affected. Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) set out plans for reducing the size of the armed forces by 17,000 in total. Some of that number will be met by not replacing people who were retiring or leaving for other reasons. Defence officials said 11,000 personnel still face being redundant on a compulsory or voluntary basis. Dr Fox said it was essential that service personnel were made "fully aware of the options available and the timescales involved". "That means that a timetable needs to be adhered to for the sake of themselves and their families," he said. "It would simply be wrong to alter that timetable for the convenience of the Government.
In light of the 2011 Libyan protests Fox warned that Libya could end up split in two as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi unleashed the full fury of his military arsenal, sending warplanes and ground troops to attack rebel-held positions across the country. "We could see the Gaddafi forces centred around Tripoli," Dr Fox said. "We could see a de facto partition of the country."
Defence and Security ReviewIn a speech on the future of the Armed Forces to the House of Commons on 19 October 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron set out plans that would mean cuts 7,000 jobs go in the British Army; 5,000 in the Royal Navy; 5,000 in the Royal Air Force; and 25,000 civilian jobs at the Ministry of Defence. In terms of equipment, the RAF will lose the Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft programme, the entire Harrier jump-jet fleet will be scrapped, and bases will be turned over to the Army. The Army will have its tanks and heavy artillery cut by 40%, and half of the soldiers in Germany will return to the UK by 2015, with the rest brought home by 2030 and housed in former RAF bases. The Navy will have its destroyer and Frigate fleet cut from 23 to 19 (by cutting the type 22 frigates) and will be provided with less expensive frigates. It will also be affected by the loss of the Harriers. Overall, the defence budget is to be cut by 8% but Mr Cameron insisted that Britain would continue to meet the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence. In the same speech Cameron announced a national cyber security programme, costing £500m, "to fix shortfalls in cyber infrastructure", while more focus will be given to tackling terrorists such as Al Qaeda and dissident Irish republicans in what he said would be "continuing investment in our world class intelligence agencies". Army numbers will fall to 95,500 by 2015 - 7,000 fewer than today - but ground forces will continue to have vital operational role in the future, he said.
ExpensesIn March 2010 Fox appealed Sir Thomas Legg's decision that he had over claimed £22,476 in mortgage interest payments. Fox immediately repaid the money, then appealed the decision. Fox's appeal was rejected and the decision was upheld by Sir Paul Kennedy, a former high court judge.
Fox stated that his decision to remortgage his second home to pay for redecorations and claim the higher interest repayments on his expenses represented value for money because he could have charged the taxpayer for the decorating bills directly. In his response, Sir Paul Kennedy stated: "What you claimed was not recoverable under the rules then in force. I entirely accept that, like many others, you could have made other claims if the fees office had rejected your claims for mortgage interest, and that you may well have spent some of what you raised by increasing your mortgage on your constituency home, but the evidence is imprecise, and my terms of reference only allow me to interfere if I find special reasons in your individual case showing that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment, either at all or at the level recommended." This reportedly made him the Conservative Shadow Cabinet member with the largest over-claim on expenses, and as a result, he has been forced to repay the most money.
It was reported in June 2009 that Fox claimed expenses of more than £19,000 over the last four years for his mobile phone. Fox claimed the high bill was due to regular trips overseas, in his capacity as Shadow Defence Secretary and said he was looking for a cheaper tariff.
Breaches of parliamentary rulesIn March 2010, Fox admitted breaking parliamentary rules on two occasions by visiting Sri Lanka on a trip paid for by the Sri Lankan government without declaring the trip in the Register of Members' Financial Interests in the required time of 30 days and failing to declare an interest in Sri Lanka when asking ministers how much UK aid had been given to Sri Lanka. In fact, Fox has declared all of his trips to Sri Lanka paid for by the Sri Lankan government in the Register of Members' Financial Interests. However, one trip he took in November 2007 was declared two months late. Fox blamed a "changeover of staffing responsibilities" for this error. Regarding his failure to declare an interest when asking a minister about Sri Lanka Fox said, "I should have noted an interest and will be writing to the registrar to make this clear."
Of the five trips to Sri Lanka mentioned in the BBC article only three were paid for fully by the Sri Lankan government. Those not paid in full by the Sri Lankan government were paid for by the Sri Lankan Development Trust.
In a statement, Dr Fox said: "I have been involved in attempts to promote peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, involving all sides of the ethnic divide, since I was a foreign minister in 1997. During my most recent visit I spoke at a press conference to outline my reasons for being there. The declaration of the visit you refer to in November 2007 was highlighted in an end-of-year audit following a changeover of staffing responsibilities. The registrar was immediately notified and my register entry was updated accordingly. All visits have been fully declared on the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests and are therefore public knowledge and entirely legitimate.I do, however, recognise that when asking one question in 2008, I should have noted an interest and will be writing to the registrar to make this clear.
FinancesDr Fox is a registered shareholder of the medical educational firm Arrest Ltd. His estimated wealth is £1m.
Fox accepted a £50,000 donation from Jon Moulton, whose investment firm, Better Capital, later went on to own Gardner Aerospace, an aerospace metallic manufactured details supplier which includes component parts for both military and civilian aircraft. This potentially exposed Dr Fox to conflict of interest but neither Fox nor Moulton violated any rules with this donation. Since all Members of Parliament are required to state in what capacity they receive any donation Fox stated in his entry in the Register of Members’ Interests that he accepted the cash “in my capacity as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence”.