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Second Foreign Office minister resigns in the space of a week

By David Hughes

A second Foreign Office minister has resigned in the space of a week as Mark Simmonds quit the Government and announced he will leave Parliament at the next election.

The former Africa minister's departure, blamed on the "intolerable" pressure on his family life, follows Baroness Warsi's decision to quit in protest at Government policy on Gaza.

Downing Street insisted that Mr Simmonds' resignation was not triggered by a dispute over policy, and had been agreed with David Cameron at the time of the reshuffle last month but was delayed to allow him to chair a United Nations meeting on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But Labour seized on the announcement, which followed Lady Warsi's shock exit on August 5, to claim the Government was "characterised by confusion" at a time when the Foreign Office faced major international crises.

Philip Hammond, who took over as Foreign Secretary in last month's reshuffle, insisted that Mr Simmonds' departure was merely a "delayed change" from Mr Cameron's shake-up of his ministerial team.

Father-of-three Mr Simmonds said: "Despite the enjoyment and personal fulfilment I have found in this role, the lack of support available to MPs with families outside of London and the sacrifice to my family life has become intolerable.

"At this stage, I need to focus on providing for my family."

In his resignation letter, the Boston and Skegness MP told Mr Cameron he would "remain supportive of you, your Government and the Conservative Party".

The Prime Minister said Mr Simmonds still had "much more to give" and had been an "incredibly loyal colleague, but also a good friend".

Mr Simmonds held his seat with a majority of 12,426 in 2010, but Ukip has made inroads in the region, with huge gains in Boston in last year's local elections.

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