HYNDBURN MP Greg Pope will quit at the next General Election, the Observer can reveal.
The Labour backbencher, who was last week caught up in the MPs’ expenses scandal, said he was stepping down after 17 years in Parliament for "personal reasons".
Speaking exclusively to the Observer, he said: "Changes in my family circumstances combined with the length of time I have served mean that now is the right time for me to move on.
"This is not a sudden decision but one I have contemplated with my family for a considerable period of time.
"The changes in my personal life leading to this decision include the death of my mother at Christmas, my wife securing a new job in Durham and my youngest son turning 18, making me realise that I have been living most of the working week in London since he was one year old.
"The way I see it, leaving now allows me to spend more time with my family, to pursue a new career while I’m young enough to do so and to leave on a positive note."
The father-of-three, who grew up in Church Street, Great Harwood, was the subject of newspaper reports last week which revealed he had claimed £560 for two abstract paintings and £1,590 for a shopping spree at John Lewis.
Mr Pope denied this, or a lack of support for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, was behind his decision to quit.
He said: "It has been really difficult to find a good time to announce that I am moving on, especially with all the buzz around the expenses scandal.
"But as things went quiet this week I thought it was a good opportunity. My decision is nothing to do with the expenses row or Gordon Brown, it is simply a personal decision."
"I have stood for five elections in a row, the four I won for Hyndburn and the one I lost in the Ribble Valley and it takes a lot out of you."
The 48-year-old, who now lives in Blackburn with his wife Kate, has three children, Roisin, 28, Sam, 23 and Conor, 18.
After Mr Brown appeared to win the backing of Labour MPs this week, Greg believes there will not be a General Election until May, by which time he would have represented his constituency for 18 years, making him the longest-serving Hyndburn MP.
Speaking about his future plans, he said: "Ideally, I would like to take up art and live on the coast of Ireland but I think my wife would prefer me to get a proper job.
"I will miss the pride I have felt representing my home town in the House of Commons over the years but I honestly believe it is the right time for someone new to take over and I will support them 100 per cent.
"I have great affection for the people of Hyndburn and I want to thank them most sincerely for electing me to represent them four times. I promise I will continue to work as hard as I can until the election, and during that time the Labour government will have my strong support in the Commons."
See more on this story in this week's Observer