Tory deputy chairman to quit Parliament

A deputy chairman of the Conservative Party announced today he would be standing down from Parliament at the next general election.

John Maples, a minister in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said he and his family had come to the decision that it was "the right time" for him to step down.

The 66-year-old was first elected to the Commons in 1983. He has been MP for Stratford-Upon-Avon since 1997 and represented Lewisham West between 1983 and 1992.

He has been Tory deputy chairman with responsibility for candidates since 2006.

While he made no mention of the expenses scandal in a letter to his constituency chairman today, Mr Maples attracted controversy when details of his claims emerged last summer.

It was revealed he designated a private members' club in London's Pall Mall as his main home, so he could claim expenses on a constituency home where his family lives.

He was also criticised strongly in late 2008 when he said the recession had to be allowed to "run its course". He subsequently apologised.

Mr Maples is the 126th MP to have publicly declared their intention to quit at the election expected to be held on May 6.

In a letter to Philip Seccombe, chairman of the Stratford-upon-Avon Constituency Association, Mr Maples said he would have been an MP for most of the past 27 years.

"After a great deal of thought I have decided to retire from the House of Commons at the next election," he said.

"This has not been an easy decision, but having gone over it with (his wife) Jane and the family I have come to the conclusion that this is the right time."

Mr Maples said he was an "enthusiastic" supporter of Tory leader David Cameron.

"I expect great things of a Cameron administration and I will continue to give him and the party my complete support," he added.