THE former Conservative party chairman and Marquess of Lothian, Michael Ancram, has become the most senior member of his party to announce he is standing down from Westminster at the next general election.
Mr Ancram, who is the MP for Devizes in Wiltshire, is leaving parliament for health reasons, his constituency party said yesterday.
The former Northern Ireland minister, whose interventions paved the way for the Good Friday Agreement, was also believed to be frustrated with his party leader David Cameron's hardline approach to the expenses debacle.
Yesterday he made clear, however, that it was his health that made him step down.
He said: "It is with genuine sadness that I have decided to stand down from parliament at the coming general election.
"This decision has been forced upon me by considerations of health. I have for the past six years successfully been on medication for coronary problems. I have, however, recently had to consider the effects of the pressures of another five years of parliamentary and constituency duties upon my health.
"I have reluctantly concluded that for the sake of my family and myself the time has come for me to stand down."
Mr Ancram became embroiled in the expenses controversy after he was forced to repay just under 100 for claims relating to swimming pool repairs.
The multi-millionaire hereditary peer has always maintained he left a lucrative career in law to serve in politics, rather than profiteer from the change.