The surprise resignation, the third within a month and handed to Downing Street on Friday, brings to 15 the roll-call of exits from Government for non-political reasons during John Major's administration.
Mr Hughes, a Major loyalist, would have been the first to accede to the current unspoken convention that ministers in trouble should go quickly and with the minimum of fuss and embarrassment to the Prime Minister. Mr Hughes insisted no one had found out about the affair - said to have been with a Commons secretary - which ended six months ago. "This was my decision," he said.
It was Mr Major's choice of replacement - John Horam, 56 today and now serving his third political party - that aroused almost equivalent interest at Westminster yesterday.
Mr Hughes, a former television journalist, was elected in 1987, and served as an assistant whip for two years from 1992. He could have reached middle- ministerial ranks had he survived.
Mrs Hughes said she loved her husband and was standing by him. "We are a very happy and united family and intend to remain that way."
Inside Parliament, page 9Reuse content