UK: Fallon resigns saying conduct 'fell short'

By BBC News
The PM said she appreciated the "serious manner" in which Sir Michael had considered his Cabinet role.
Sir Michael Fallon resigns, saying his conduct 'fell short'

LONDON, UK - Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has resigned, saying his behavior may have "fallen short" of the standards expected by the UK military.

He told the BBC that what had been "acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now".

He is the first politician to quit following recently revealed claims of serious sexual abuse in Parliament.

The PM said she appreciated the "serious manner" in which Sir Michael had considered his Cabinet role.

Theresa May also praised the "particular example you wish to set servicemen and women and others".

In his resignation letter, Sir Michael said: "A number of allegations have surfaced about MPs in recent days, including some about my previous conduct.

"Many of these have been false but I accept that in the past I have fallen below the high standards that we require of the Armed Forces that I have the honor to represent."

Sir Michael told the BBC it "was right" for him to resign and said: "The culture has changed over the years, what might have been acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now.

"Parliament now has to look at itself and the prime minister has made very clear that conduct needs to be improved and we need to protect the staff of Westminster against any particular allegations of harassment."

When asked if he thought he should apologize, Mr. Fallon said: "I think we've all got to look back now at the past, there are always things you regret, you would have done differently."

He added that it had been a "privilege" to have been defense secretary over the past three and a half years.

In response, Mrs. May accepted his resignation and paid tribute to "a long and impressive ministerial career - serving in four Departments of State under four prime ministers".

The resignation comes a day after a spokesman for Sir Michael confirmed that he was once rebuked by a journalist, Julia Hartley-Brewer, for putting his hand on her knee during a dinner in 2002.

The spokesman said Sir Michael apologized when it happened.

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth told the BBC: "I think we're all very shocked this evening, however, we've got to look at what happens next. For me, it's who is going to replace him, how quickly.

"There's a lot going on and this is not the time for instability at the top of the Ministry of Defence."

General Sir Mike Jackson, former head of the British Army, said members of the armed forces would be "sad" to see Sir Michael go.

He told the BBC: "It's clearly a personal decision he's come to, and so be it."

Following a range of recent allegations, including claims of a lack of support for those making complaints, Mrs. May has written to party leaders calling for the "serious, swift, cross-party response this issue demands".

The prime minister said a "common, transparent independent grievance procedure" for all those who work in Parliament was needed and that it "cannot be right" for policies to vary between parties.

A dedicated support team should be available to all staff, she said, and it should recommend all criminal allegations be reported to the police.