Two ministers and deputy speaker Eleanor Laing join ranks of Tory MPs not standing in general election

Two Tory ministers and deputy speaker Dame Eleanor Laing have confirmed they will not stand in next month's general election.

Transport minister Huw Merriman was the latest Conservative MP to say he will not seek re-election after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the country will go to the polls on 4 July.

The Bexhill and Battle MP said in a statement he has "loved being an MP" and is departing with "a heavy heart". He did not give a reason for choosing to stand down.

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Mr Merriman, who has been in parliament for nine years, has a majority of 26,059 votes, winning over 63.6% of the vote in 2019.

His announcement came hours after that of fellow Tory minister Jo Churchill.

The work and pensions minister and Bury St Edmunds MP said she had reached the decision for "family reasons".

Meanwhile, Dame Eleanor said in a statement she had informed Mr Sunak of her intention to stand down "several days ago".

'It is very difficult to give up a job that you love'

The Conservative MP for Epping Forest said: "It is very difficult to give up a job that you love.

"I have come to the conclusion, however, that it is now time for me to move aside and give others the opportunities that I have been so fortunate to have."

She has served as MP for Epping Forest for 27 years.

Read more:
The MPs who have announced they are standing down
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A fourth Tory MP, James Grundy, who entered parliament in 2019, also confirmed he will not contest the Leigh and Atherton seat.

A total of 69 Conservative MPs have now confirmed they will not contest their seats.

They include senior figures Theresa May, Ben Wallace, Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab.

One familiar face has confirmed today, however, that she will fight her South West Norfolk seat.

Former prime minister Liz Truss said she would be running on her local record, saying she was "looking forward to getting across the constituency... over the coming weeks".

The record number of Tory MPs to stand down at an election was 75 in 1997.