Written by Lahiru Fernando
01 Feb, 2018 | 6:21 pm
A British government minister has resigned from his job for not being present to answer a question.
The minister in question, Lord Michael Bates, is a minister at the Department for International Development and has been in the Lords for the past 11 years.
Lord Bates was absent from the House of Lords when he should have been there to answer a question from opposing Labour party politician Ruth Lister.
Bates had been due in the chamber at 3 pm on Wednesday (January 31) to answer a scheduled question from Lister on ‘income inequality’. However, he arrived just a few minutes late.
In his absence, the question was answered by the Lords chief whip, John Taylor.
Speaking immediately upon his arrival, Lord Bates offered his sincere apologies to Baroness Ruth Lister for his “discourtesy”.
“I’ve always believed that we should rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the government to the legitimate questions of the legislature.
“I’m thoroughly ashamed at not being in my place and therefore I shall be offering my resignation to the prime minister with immediate effect. I do apologise.”
Lord Bates then walked out of the chamber amid loud shouts of “no!” from his peers in the House of Lords.
“Of all the ministers I’d want to cause to resign, he’d be the last,” – This is what Baroness Ruth Lister told the media following the incident.
Lister had also written a note to Bates saying ‘she hoped he would reconsider’.
“I made the point that he was one of the most courteous of ministers when he’s answering questions at the dispatch box. Although I didn’t put it in the letter, many ministers show us much greater discourtesy by evading the questions we’re asking, whereas he always tries to answer them.”, said Ruth Lister.
Baroness Lister said she assumed Bates had resigned as “he felt it was the right thing to do”.
She added: “The response from our benches was a sort of spontaneous ‘no’. I’m not sure we’d respond to many other ministers in that way.”
A spokesperson from Downing Street 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.”
Michael Bates was an MP for Langbaurgh from 1992 to 1997. He has held a series of junior ministerial roles since entering the Lords.
“As a hard-working and diligent minister, it is typical of his approach that he takes his responsibilities to Parliament so seriously.” said a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May.
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