FORMER Labour minister Hazel Blears is to stand down as an MP at next year's general election.

Ms Blears entered Parliament as MP for Salford in 1997, served as a minister in the Department of Health and the Home Office, and as chair of the Labour Party under Tony Blair between 2001 and 2007, before joining Gordon Brown's cabinet as Communities and Local Government Secretary from 2007 to 2009.

She resigned from the government on the eve of crucial European and local elections in 2009 in what was seen at the time as an indication of Blairite discontent with Mr Brown's leadership, and went on to win the Salford and Eccles constituency in 2010 after boundaries were redrawn.

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In a statement after informing her local constituency party, Ms Blears said she had taken the decision to stand down after 18 years in Parliament with "a heavy heart".

She said she wanted to spend more time with her family, including her mother Dorothy, who has dementia, her father Arthur, who is his wife's main carer, and her husband Michael.

She said: "It is a huge privilege to represent the place where I was born, brought up and have lived all my life, so I have taken this decision with a heavy heart."