HE served at the heart of Government under three prime ministers and now former North West Hampshire MP Sir George Young has looked back on his 41-year career.

Sir George has stood down as the North West Hampshire MP after 18 years in the constituency which covers areas including Overton, Tadley and Whitchurch.

The 73-year-old first became an MP for Ealing Acton in 1974, and after his constituency ceased to exist due to boundary changes, he was elected as a local MP for North West Hampshire in 1997.

Sir George had earlier tried to stand for Parliament in Maidenhead, where his family and his wife were living, but this did not work out so he applied for the next available seat which was up for grabs – North West Hampshire.

He told The Gazette: “It has been a fantastic seat. In a sense it is sad because I really enjoyed being the local MP. It is a fantastic constituency with really friendly people, organisations and lovely towns such as Andover, Whitchurch and Tadley, and living here, I have really got to know the area very well.

“I will miss a lot of the friendships and contacts and also I will miss the ability to help people who have problems which is the most important thing an MP can do.”

The father-of-four has enjoyed a glittering career which has seen him occupy a number of ministerial roles such as Secretary of State for Transport between 1995 and 1997, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence between 1997 and 1998, Leader of the House of Commons between 2010 and 2012 and Chief Whip between 2012 and 2014, working alongside three different Prime Ministers – Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron.

Sir George made the tough decision to not stand for re-election in 2013.

The 73-year-old, who earned the nickname the “bicycling baronet” in 1982 after his public campaign to get more people on their bikes, said the five-year fixed term parliament prompted his decision, saying: “At the end of the last Parliament I was in the Shadow Cabinet and therefore likely to be in the Cabinet if we won.

"But I left voluntarily about a year ago and I am not sure I was going to do another five years as a backbencher.

“It’s a privilege to serve one’s country and to be invited by the Prime Minister to join Government. I have served three prime ministers all with different styles.

“If you are a minister as well as a local MP, there are quite big demands for time.

"People in North West Hampshire might be interested to know I am a minister but what they want is full time Member of Parliament who will hold advice bureaux, answer their emails and do the important functions.”

One thing that did elude the successful MP was the role of Speaker of the House of Commons, and he lost out twice to Michael Martin in 2000 and current Speaker John Bercow in 2009.

Sir George said: “If you stand for any election, you want to win and so it was a disappointment but there was a consolation prize when I didn’t become a Speaker the second time.

“David Cameron asked me to come back into the Shadow Cabinet and that meant I could be Leader of the House and Chief Whip which I obviously wouldn’t have done if I was Speaker.”

Sir George is optimistic for the future of the Conservative party and Tory candidate Kit Malthouse, adding: “Thank you for electing me and re-electing me four times and for the privilege of representing you in Parliament. I think he will be a great MP but we are not taking anything for granted.”

Today also marks the end of the political life for the former North East Hampshire MP, James Arbuthnot.

Like Sir George, Mr Arbuthnot served his constituency for 18 years and became a familiar sight at events in villages such as Odiham and Hartley Wintney.

Most notably, Mr Arbuthnot was the chairman of the Defence Select Committee between 2005 and 2014.

He said his proudest moment was the exoneration of RAF Odiham pilots Flight Lieutenants Richard Cook and Jonathan Tapper over the Mull of Kintyre disaster.

They were flying a Mark 2 Chinook from Northern Ireland to Inverness in Scotland on June 2, 1994, when it crashed into the hillside and killed 19 people, including the pilots themselves.

Mr Arbuthnot was one of the MPs who fought to change the official verdict – that the crash was down to pilot error.

In 2011 he watched on in Parliament when the results from an independent review were read out, clearing the pilots' names.

He said: "It has been a great privilege to have represented North East Hampshire for the last 18 years.

"My constituents have been generous, supportive and have taught me so much.

"Now, for the first time since 1987, I'll have time to go to the theatre, to play the guitar and to walk the dogs."