Former Farming Minister David Heath to stand down at next election
Liberal Democrat MP and former Farming Minister David Heath yesterday announced that he is to stand down as MP for Somerton and Frome at the next election.
Widely respected across the political divide, Mr Heath has been an MP for the highly marginal constituency since 1997.
Before being elected to Parliament he was a leading presence in local government at national level and a chairman of Avon & Somerset Police Authority.
Since the coalition Government was formed in 2010, Mr Heath has served in two ministerial positions, as Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and more recently as Minister for Farming and Food. His decision is not connected with his sacking as Farming Minister in this week’s reshuffle.
Tuesday 9th & Wednesday 10th. Carol (with over 16yrs experience) has 10% off - facials. Pedicures. Manicures. Body wraps. Spray tans. Waxing. Tinting. Perming
Terms: For 2 days only. With therapist Carol. Please quote "2 day special offer".
Contact: 01271 440617
Valid until: Thursday, December 12 2013
Speaking to a meeting of local Liberal Democrats at Davis Hall, West Camel, last night Mr Heath said he had promised his wife at the last election that he would not stand again. After representing the area in public office for 30 years, the last 18 of which will have been as member of Parliament, it was now time to move on to new challenges.
Lib Dem Sam Phripp said that there: "was not a dry eye in the house" at the meeting.
Mr Heath has been Farming Minister during some of the most testing times for the industry, particularly in the Westcountry, which have included the controversial badger cull. He has worked extremely hard to support farmers in the aftermath of the devastating floods on the Somerset Levels, and brought his understanding of the complexities of life in a largely rural constituency to the centre of Government.
Of his loss of the post he has said: “I am sad to leave a job that I hugely enjoyed, and where I think I was making a difference, but it was very clear that there was a need for other people to have opportunities in Government too.”
Mr Heath told the meeting at West Camel: “It is always difficult to call time on something that has been such a large part of one’s life over so many years, but I think the right moment to do so is now approaching. By the time of the next election I will be 61 years old, and I will have represented Frome and Somerset for 30 years. This is not a recent decision. I promised my wife at the last election that I would not stand again, and I intend to keep that promise. I have hugely enjoyed the privilege of representing my community over the many years I have been involved, and I like to think I have made a difference, but now may be the right time for someone else to take on that responsibility.”
“I would like to thank everyone who has given me their support over the years. I assure my constituents I will continue to represent them as well as I am able to over the next eighteen months.”
A former pupil of independent Millfield School, at Street, Mr Heath has known Somerset all his life. He was first elected to Somerset County Council in 1985 to represent Frome North and was immediately elected as leader, at 31 years of age the youngest ever leader of a county council.
He was elected as Member of Parliament for Somerton & Frome in 1997 – by only 130 votes, and has held the constituency at three subsequent general elections, each time increasing his majority. His current majority is 1,819.
In opposition he served in a number of capacities on his party’s front bench, and was repeatedly shortlisted as backbench MP of the Year. In March 2008 he defied a party order to abstain from voting on a call for a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, and stepped down from his front bench role to vote in favour.
Paying tribute to Mr Heath last night Paddy Ashdown, former Liberal Democrat leader and former MP for Yeovil, said: “David has been a formidable voice for Somerset in Parliament and an outstanding constituency MP for Somerton and Frome. His voice in Parliament will be much missed locally, but knowing him, I am sure he will go on making a major contribution to both local and national politics.”