'Dear Prime Minister,
'As you know, I decided this morning that I should resign. I am deeply touched by your reluctance to let me do so, but I feel sure this is the right thing to do.
'I was very grateful that you and colleagues concluded in July that my folly in becoming embroiled in revelations of an affair did not warrant my leaving the Government.
'I am also very glad that following advice in the normal way, you have been able to make it clear that in relation to subsequent allegations, I have acted within the guidance on the conduct of ministers.
'However, I have concluded that it is too much to expect of my colleagues in government and in Parliament to have to put up with a constant barrage of stories about me in certain tabloid newspapers. Rather than have this turn into a trial of strength between the Government and some sections of the press about my future, I have decided to resolve it myself by resigning. I also have to bear in mind the interests of my wife and family who have been such a wonderful support to me during this particularly trying period for all of us.
'I leave with great regret. I have been privileged to hold office for 11 years in a series of jobs of enormous interest and I believe of some importance, especially in relation to drugs, broadcasting, the NHS and foreign affairs.
'It has been a special privilege to serve under you in the Cabinet as Chief Secretary and as the first Secretary of State for National Heritage. It is an opportunity given to few to lead in the creation of a new department of state, especially one which has so much to contribute to your own vision of improving the quality of life in this country. I would have loved to have been able to do more to turn that vision into reality.
'I shall of course continue to serve as member for Putney. I love my constituency and will do all I can to advance the interests of my constituents from the backbenches. I shall also do everything in my power to support and sustain the Government in the months and years ahead.
'The country is fortunate to have you as our Prime Minister. I am privileged to count you as a dear friend. I do not want to be seen as a liability to you. It is my one great regret about this whole sorry business that at this crucial time in the Government's fortunes, when I should so much have liked to be seen as a tower of strength, I am perceived by some as a point of weakness. I hope I deal with that matter today by taking this step.'
Mr Major's reply reads:
'I was very sorry when you told me this morning of your decision to resign from the Government. As you know, you have always had my warm personal support, and I accepted your decision with deep regret.
'I admire the courage with which you have handled difficult circumstances in recent weeks.
'You have been a valued member of my Cabinet, both as Secretary of State for National Heritage and before that as Chief Secretary. Your knowledge, experience and insight has been invaluable in getting the new Department of National Heritage off to a swift and successful start.
'I know from the messages of support I have received from those in the arts world and elsewhere how much your leadership, interest and enthusiasm will be missed.
'It is a matter of great regret that you will not be overseeing the next stage in the development of the department, but you have laid a sound foundation for the future.
'Before that, you handled the difficult job of Chief Secretary to the Treasury with great skill and determination and made an important contribution in a wide range of other ministerial jobs.
'I will continue to value your friendship and your continued support in the House of Commons. My very best wishes to you and to Judith, who has provided such marvellous support through all this.'