Robert Halfon becomes latest minister to resign as James Heappey makes official exit from government

Education Minister Robert Halfon has resigned from government, confirming he will be the 63rd Conservative MP to stand down at the next election.

The MP for Harlow, who has been in parliament since 2010, said "political life, while fulfilling, has its ups and downs", and he felt it was "time for me to step down".

He will be replaced in the Department for Education by Luke Hall, the MP for Thornbury and Yate near Bristol.

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Quoting the wizard Gandalf from Lord of the Rings in his resignation letter to the prime minister, and having been a Tory candidate for almost 25 years, Mr Halfon said: "My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so.

"And as for you, my dear friends, you will need no help... among the great you are, and I have no longer any fear at all for any of you."

Rishi Sunak responded by saying he was "very sorry to hear" of his decision, but added: "I respect your reasons for doing so."

The announcement from Mr Halfon - who has also served as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and chair of the education select committee - came on the same day Armed Forces minister James Heappey officially left his post in government.

He will be replaced by the former junior Foreign Office minister and MP for Aldershot in Hampshire, Leo Docherty, who previously served as Minister for Defence People and Veterans under Boris Johnson.

Earlier this month, a source close to the MP for the Wells constituency in Somerset said he had decided to leave parliament because of personal reasons, and his ministerial resignation was expected to coincide with Easter recess.

But the timing was significant as there had been growing disquiet among Conservative MPs and military insiders at a failure by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to announce new funding for the armed forces in his spring budget.

However, the source said said while "of course he thinks there should be more money", it was not why Mr Heappey was resigning.

Confirming his departure on X, Mr Heappy said he "loved every minute" of his job, but added: "The work isn't done.

"Ukraine needs our support now as much as ever. Perhaps even more so. Theirs is a fight for the future of Euro-Atlantic security and so we must continue to lead the world in the breadth [and] bravery of our support."

In a letter to the now former minister, Mr Sunak thanked him for his "outstanding service and contribution to our party, parliament and country".

As part of the mini-reshuffle, former education minister under Liz Truss, Jonathan Gullis, has been made a deputy chairman of the Tory party, along with MP for Guildford Angela Richardson.

Nus Ghani has been made minister for Europe, leaving her roles at the Department for Business and Trade and the Cabinet Office, being replaced by Havant MP Alan Mak.

And Kevin Hollinrake, who has overseen the Post Office during recent turbulence, has been promoted to minister of state for business.

Meanwhile, Labour has promoted a number of its by-election winning MPs into frontbench positions.

Selby and Ainsty victor Keir Mather will join the shadow whips office, Gen Kitchen will go to the shadow Home Office, Tamworth MP Sarah Edwards will become part of the environment team and Kingswood's Damien Egan will join the education team.

Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater will also move roles from the whips to join the shadow health team.