Henley MP Michael Heseltine is to stand down from Parliament at the next General Election, he announced today.

The former Deputy Prime Minister said he had told the chairman of his constituency association of his decision yesterday.

When a man's got to go, he's got to go, he added.

The former Tory leadership contender, who lives at Thenford House, near Banbury, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he did not want to stay on the backbenches.

In what may be interpreted as a snub, he said he had not warned or consulted party leader William Hague before announcing his Commons retirement.

But Mr Hague today paid tribute to Mr Heseltine's "immensely distinguished political career in the House of Commons". He highlighted his achievements as Defence Secretary and in regenerating Merseyside's docklands when Environment Secretary.

They were the achievements of "an extremely talented and capable minister".

Mr Hague said his only disagreement with Mr Heseltine was over Europe and that he had always had "extremely good" personal relations with him.

Mr Heseltine studied at Pembroke College, Oxford, and is a former President of the Oxford Union. He has been an MP since 1966.

A life in politics: See tomorrow's Oxford Mail.