ANDOVER MP Sir George Young has stood down as Government Chief Whip.

Sir George, who is 72 and a veteran of the Thatcher and Major Governments in the 1980s and ’90s, has already said he will not be seeking re-election at next May’s General Election, and more than a month ago he informed the Prime Minister that he wanted to return to the back benches for his last session.

Two years ago, Sir George made a brief return to the back benches but was recalled within weeks when David C a m e r o n needed a safe pair of hands as Chief Whip following the “plebgate” affair and the resignation of Andrew Mitchell.

Mr Cameron referred to this matter in a letter of appreciation to Sir George on Tuesday.

He said: “We have been here before...your safe passage to the relative calm of the back benches in 2012 in the end never materialised.

“Indeed, when I wrote to you to thank you for your past outstanding contribution to our Government, neither of us thought I would be writing a further letter two years later.

“You stepped in as Chief Whip at a very sensitive time and have given e x e m p l a r y service in this role, as I knew you would.”

He added: “You have been the most loyal and dependable presence at the heart of Government. I will always appreciate your sage and reliable advice.

“Forty years since you first entered Parliament and 38 years since your first front bench role, you have every right to look forward to your retirement from the House next year.”

Sir George has released the text of a letter sent to the Prime Minister in June.

He said: “It has been a real pleasure to help put the Government’s legislative programme on the statute book and to lead a first-rate team of Conservative Whips, ably supported by my special adviser, my principal private secretary and the entire team.”

He added: “Since rejoining the Government, I have announced my decision to retire from Parliament at the next election. Therefore, given the wide range of talent on the back benches, I believe it makes sense for me to leave the Government now and to allow others to have the chance I had, when I first joined the whips’ office in 1976.”

Former education minister Michael Gove will now take on the role of Chief Whip in the Coalition Government.