YORK'S outgoing MP has spoken of his astonishment at receiving a knighthood.

In his first interview since the coveted accolade was announced, Sir Hugh Bayley, the long-serving York Central MP, told of his delight after he was recognised for his diplomatic work with NATO, the World Bank and international development.

Sir Hugh is stepping down as an MP in the next election and recently left his post as the President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly after two years.

During this time he rubbed shoulders with President Obama at the NATO Summit in South Wales, increased the organisation's transparency and played a huge role in keeping American troops in Europe.

He said: "I'm flabbergasted.

"I was elected into the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and to be recognised in this way is astonishing.

"Two big changes happened during my time as president.

"The first was that I argued NATO should publish its accounts and audits of accounts which is something our Ministry of Defence has done for many years.

"In 2012 there were calls for the US to reduce its commitment to Transatlantic defence and bring troops home from Europe.

"We have now got a complete reversal of the 'Let's Pull Out of Europe' debate and the last time the faction forced a vote in the US was in the middle of 2013."

During his long Parliamentary career Sir Hugh was also a member of the Commons International Development Committee and – briefly in 2010 while permanent deputy speakers were elected – acting Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

During his 22 years in Parliament Mr Bayley has been no stranger to controversy.

The 62-year-old voted in favour of invading Iraq in 2003 and was one of numerous MPs to publish questionable expenses following the 2009 scandal.

He claimed a total of £163,619 in 2008, on top of his basic £60,000 salary.

His pay-out included more than £91,000 for staff costs, £13,472 for travel – and £23,000 in ‘second home allowance’.

However, Sir Hugh believes the electorate is more in touch with politics and politicians now than at any other point in the 22 years he has been an MP.

"MPs have a lot to do to win back public trust after the expenses scandal", he added.

"The way finances are managed now are a lot better than it was.

"It's something I argued for that MPs should have no say over their expenses and I put down a motion.

"I get more people writing to me now expressing their views to me than I have ever had before which suggests to me that despite people's cynicism with politicians, they recognise we make important decisions about people's lives and it's worth talking to them."