JOAN Ruddock, who has spent 25 years as an MP, will stand down at the next election, she has confirmed.

The Lewisham Deptford representative, who was made a dame in 2012, told News Shopper: "The early announcement is because I want the constituency party to have the longest possible time in which to find a successor."

"I just think that it will be time for a new person to take over. It's always important to have new and fresh ideas, commitment and energy.

"It will be the right time for me to think about a slightly different pace of life."

This week the MP pressed Prime Minister David Cameron over the closure of the A&E and she will join other south east London MPs for a meeting with the Health Secretary on Monday evening.

She said: "My greatest priority now is saving the A&E and maternity services for Lewisham Hospital.

"Nothing could be more important for my constituents and the issue on which there's been the greatest public response in the whole of my 25 years in Parliament."

The MP claims she has taken most pride in the opening of a new Deptford station last year following years of campaigning, along with getting a second inquest into the 1981 New Cross fire, where 13 young people lost their lives.

She said: "We did not get the result we wanted but it actually did bring out a lot of the detail of what had happened. That was tremendously important."

A passionate campaigner on the environment and women's rights, Ms Ruddock was first elected in 1987, serving as a minister in both the Blair and Brown Governments before returning to the backbenches in 2010.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Parliament will really miss her wise words, her formidable campaigning skills and her huge knowledge across a wide  range of areas, especially equality issues.

"Joan has been a passionate advocate for the Labour Party over many years and I know she will continue to care deeply about the people of Lewisham Deptford.

"I personally will miss Joan’s good humour and friendship from the Labour benches."