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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 19:01 GMT 20:01 UK
Tory frontbencher steps down
Peter Ainsworth
Mr Ainsworth's wife is beginning chemotherapy
Conservative frontbencher Peter Ainsworth has stepped down as shadow environment, food and rural affairs secretary because his wife has cancer.

Father-of-three Mr Ainsworth insisted that he had to put his family first as his wife, Claire, begins a course of chemotherapy.


I felt that my family's priorities must take precedence over frontbench responsibilities

Peter Ainsworth
The East Surrey MP said his decision had "not been easy", but stressed there were no political reasons for it.

Mr Ainsworth said he had asked Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith to let him step down from his post immediately.

At a shadow cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Mr Duncan Smith thanked Mr Ainsworth for his work and wished his wife a speedy recovery.

'Privilege'

Mr Ainsworth said: "Although this has not been an easy decision to reach, the reason is straightforward.

"My wife is shortly to start chemotherapy treatment which is due to last several months and, especially with the school holidays fast approaching, I felt that my family's priorities must take precedence over frontbench responsibilities.

David Lidington
David Lidington takes over from Mr Ainsworth
"There is no sub plot; I believe that the course that Iain is charting for the party is exactly what is required if we are to win back the confidence of the electorate in time for the next general election and it has been a privilege as well as a pleasure to serve in the shadow cabinet under his leadership."

Peter and Claire Ainsworth were married in 1981. They have one son and two daughters.

Mr Ainsworth took his seat in Parliament in 1992. He was a Conservative whip during John Major's administration and was formerly shadow culture secretary.

A party spokesman said Aylesbury MP David Lidington had been appointed to take over the shadow environment, food and rural affairs brief.

See also:

26 Mar 02 | UK Politics
15 Jan 02 | UK Politics
19 Dec 00 | UK Politics
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