FROME MP David Heath has announced he will stand down at the next election after 18 years in office.
The news comes following his departure from the cabinet role of Defra minister.
Speaking at a Liberal Democrats meeting in West Camel last week, Mr Heath said that after representing the area in public office for 30 years it was time to move on to new challenges.
He said: "It's 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 18 months."
Mr Heath was first elected to Somerset County Council in 1985 to represent Frome North. He was immediately elected as leader of the county council, and at 31 was the youngest ever leader of a county council.
He was subsequently chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Authority, and leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government at national level.
In 1997 Mr Heath was elected as Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome, and has held the constituency at three subsequent General Elections, each time increasing his majority in what has been a highly marginal seat.
In opposition he has served in a number of capacities on his party's front bench, and was repeatedly shortlisted as Backbench MP of the Year.
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 Faming and Food.
Former Liberal Democrat leader and good friend Paddy Ashdown 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 that he will go on making a major contribution to both local and national politics."
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said: "David Heath has been a huge figure in the Liberal Democrats in Somerset and Westminster for a long time.
"He is that rare kind of politician that is genuinely liked and admired on all sides of the House.
"David's combination of brilliant oratory and brightly coloured socks visible on the front bench will be missed by people from all parties in Westminster.
"As well as being a fantastic constituency MP and passionate advocate of Somerton and Frome and Somerset as a whole, I am sure that David will be best remembered for his unrivalled commitment to and mastery of Westminster's finest parliamentary traditions."
Man in Westminster, page 10