Veteran Conservative MP and arch Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash has announced he will step down at the next election and retire from political life.
Sir Bill, chairman of the House of Commons European scrutiny committee, said it would be a “big wrench” to leave Parliament after four decades as an MP.
He was first elected in 1984 and, at 83, is the oldest member of the House of Commons. He is the member for Stone in Staffordshire.
In a statement published on Stone Conservatives’ website, Sir Bill said: “It has been the greatest honour of my life to serve as the MP for Stone for the past 26 years and for Stafford before that for 13 years.
“I have made the decision to retire at the next general election.
“I am now 83 years old and will therefore have served in Parliament for 40 years by the next general election.
“Retiring is a big wrench because I love the House of Commons and my constituents.
“I have done my best over the time, and I thank everyone for what they have done for me.”
‘Proud’ of role in Brexit
Sir Bill, who was re-elected in 2019 with a majority of almost 20,000, paid tribute to his wife Biddy for her “continuous advice and support”. He also thanked his constituents for “their loyalty to me and their common sense”.
The politician has been one of the most outspoken and longstanding Tory Brexit supporters, having been a Maastricht Treaty rebel in the early 1990s during Sir John Major’s time in Downing Street.
In his statement, Sir Bill said he was “proud” to have played a part as a backbencher in securing 2016’s referendum on Brexit.
“Regaining sovereignty is the most precious historic, constitutional restoration of democratic self-government for our people,” he said.
“It means that our own voters, through our own elected MPs, can decide the laws by which we are governed.”
Sir Bill, who is said to be a distant cousin of Johnny Cash, the US country music singer, was knighted in 2014 for political services.
Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, made him an Order of the Companions of Honour in his resignation honours – which was published on Friday only hours before the former prime minister quit as an MP.
Referencing the award, Sir Bill, a qualified solicitor, said he was “profoundly and deeply privileged” to have been recognised by the former Tory leader.
While Sir Bill is the oldest MP, he is not the longest-serving.
The longest continuously serving member, known as Father of the House, is a position currently held by fellow Conservative, Sir Peter Bottomley, who has been in Parliament since 1975.
Sir Bill joins a slew of MPs to have announced their intention not to contest the next election, which is expected to be held next year.
More than 50 are calling a close to their parliamentary careers, including Ian Blackford, the former SNP Westminster leader; Matt Hancock, the former health secretary; and Dame Rosie Winterton, the Labour MP and deputy Commons speaker.