A SECOND Foreign Office minister has resigned in the space of a week as Mark Simmonds quit the government and announced he will leave Parliament at the next election.
The former Africa minister blamed his departure on changes to MPs’ allowances, leading to “intolerable” pressure on his family life.
His decision to quit follows Baroness Warsi’s resignation in protest at government policy on Gaza. However, Mr Simmonds said his decision was related to the expenses system.
He said: “The allowances that enable Members of Parliament to stay in London while they are away from their families – my family lives in Lincolnshire in my constituency – does not allow me to rent a flat which can accommodate my family, so I very rarely see my family and I have to put family life first.”
Mr Simmonds said the idea of spending another five years rarely seeing his children and staying in a different hotel room each night “fills me with horror”.
Downing Street said Mr Simmonds’ resignation had been agreed with David Cameron at the time of a reshuffle last month but was delayed to allow him to chair a United Nations meeting on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But Labour seized on the announcement, which followed Lady Warsi’s shock exit on 5 August, to claim the government was “characterised by confusion” at a time when the Foreign Office faced major international crises.
Philip Hammond, who took over as Foreign Secretary in last month’s reshuffle, insisted that Mr Simmonds’ departure was merely a “delayed change” from Mr Cameron’s shake-up of his ministerial team.
Father-of-three Mr Simmonds said: “Despite the enjoyment and personal fulfilment I have found in this role, the lack of support available to MPs with families outside London and the sacrifice to my family life has become intolerable. At this stage, I need to focus on providing for my family.”
In his resignation letter, the Boston and Skegness MP told Mr Cameron he would “remain supportive of you, your government and the Conservative Party”.
The Prime Minister said Mr Simmonds still had “much more to give” and had been an “incredibly loyal colleague, but also a good friend”.
Mr Simmonds held his seat with a majority of 12,426 in 2010, but Ukip has made inroads in the region, with huge gains in Boston in last year’s local elections.
In a letter to Ruth Street, who chairs the Boston and Skegness Conservative Association, Mr Simmonds added: “I have been concerned for some time about the view of many in the constituency that it is incompatible to be a government minister and the local MP.”
A No 10 spokeswoman insisted that Mr Cameron was “very confident” in the team at the Foreign Office, with James Duddridge replacing Mr Simmonds.
She said Mr Duddridge, who served on the International Development Select Committee from 2006 to 2008, “had experience of dealing with international issues”.