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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 March, 2005, 12:11 GMT
MP in cancer fight to stand down
Debra Shipley, MP
Debra Shipley will have a double mastectomy next month
A Labour MP who has led a campaign against the marketing of unhealthy foods to children is to step down after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Debra Shipley, MP for Stourbridge, said she had been receiving treatment for six weeks and is due to undergo a double mastectomy operation next month.

Ms Shipley, 47, lost her husband Simon Molesworth to cancer last year.

Her private members' bill calls for a ban on the sale of unhealthy food in school vending machines.

The Children's Food Bill, which has the support of more than 100 organisations, also calls for regulations to improve school meals.

Her departure will be a loss to the Labour Party and I know that people in the party and in her constituency will be very saddened
Bob Ainsworth MP

The issue was taken up by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in his Channel 4 series Jamie's School Dinners.

In a statement, Ms Shipley said it was with "huge sadness" she had decided to stand down.

"For the last six weeks I have been in and out of hospital and I have been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

"My husband was diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and died last year.

"Throughout his illness I have been grateful for the support and understanding of my constituents and neighbours in Stourbridge and colleagues in Westminster."

The highlight of her political career was the introduction of the Protection of Children Act, which established a register of child abusers that must be checked by childcare organisations taking on new staff.

Marginal seat

She said: "I am proud to have been responsible for the Protection of Children Act and the Children's Food Bill, both of which I sincerely hope will have a lasting effect on the health and well-being of all our children."

Ms Shipley's seat is a marginal with a majority of 3,812.

In a statement issued by the Labour Party, Bob Ainsworth, the Labour MP for Coventry North East and deputy chief whip in the House of Commons, said: "We fully understand Debra's decision.

"Her departure will be a loss to the Labour Party and I know that people in the party and in her constituency will be very saddened."

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