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UK minister quits after missing a question in Parliament

Lord Michael Bates, a junior minister in the department for international development, stunned his colleagues when he announced his resignation in the House of Lords.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2018 20:49 IST
HT Correspondent
File photo of Lord Michael Bates, the junior minister in the UK department for international development.
File photo of Lord Michael Bates, the junior minister in the UK department for international development.(Twitter)

A British minister dramatically quit in Parliament, saying he was “thoroughly ashamed” as he was not present to answer a question, but his resignation was rejected hours later by Prime Minister Theresa May.

Lord Michael Bates, a junior minister in the department for international development, stunned his colleagues when he announced his resignation in the House of Lords or upper house of Parliament on Wednesday.

He apologised for missing a question from Baroness Lister of Burtersett, a member of the opposition Labour Party, and said he was “offering his resignation” to May.

The prime minister was on a visit to China and her office announced later that Bates’ resignation had been refused.

Bates said: “With the leave of the House I wonder if you would permit me to offer my sincere apologies to Baroness Lister for my discourtesy for not being in my place to answer her question on a very important matter at the beginning of questions.

“During the five years of which it has been my privilege to answer questions from the despatch box on behalf of the government, I have always believed we should rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the government to legitimate questions of the legislature.

“I am thoroughly ashamed at not being in my place. I therefore shall be offering my resignation.”

There were cries of “no” from his colleagues as Bates walked out the upper house following his remarks.

A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said: “With typical sincerity, Lord Bates today offered to tender his resignation after missing the start of an Oral Questions session in the House of Lords, but his resignation was refused as it was judged this was unnecessary.

“As a hard-working and diligent minister, it is typical of his approach that he takes his responsibilities to Parliament so seriously. He has received support from across the House and we are pleased that he has decided to continue in his important roles at the department for international development and HM Treasury.”

Bates was first appointed to the House of Lords in 2008. In 2016, he had quit as home office minister to join a charity trek of more than 3,000 km from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro that raised more than $370,000 pounds for Unicef.

On returning to the government the same year, he was appointed minister of state in the department for international development. He has also served as deputy speaker and deputy chairman of the House of Lords.