UK Politics

Lord Bates quits as government minister after arriving late

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Media captionMinister Lord Bates 'quits' for being late to debate

A member of the House of Lords has stunned colleagues by resigning because he was late to the chamber.

Lord Bates said he was "ashamed" to not be in his place to answer a question from Labour's Baroness Lister.

He apologised for his "discourtesy" and said he would be offering his resignation as a minister to the PM, before walking out of the chamber.

Peers urged him in vain not to go, and Labour's leader in the Lords said an apology would have sufficed.

Lord Bates, an international development minister and former Conservative MP, was meant to be in the House of Lords chamber for the start of oral questions at 15:00 GMT.

His frontbench colleague, Lord Taylor, appeared to be caught off guard at having to answer the first question in his absence.

Lord Bates, who arrived about one minute late, stood up at the the end of the half hour session to deliver his apology.

"During the five years it's been my privilege to answer questions from this despatch box on behalf of the government," he told peers.

"I've always believed we should offer, 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 of not being in my place and therefore I shall be offering my resignation to the prime minister with immediate effect. I do apologise."

Peers cried "no" as he walked past them on his way out of the chamber, leaving puzzled looks in his wake.

'Minor discourtesy'

Baroness Smith, Labour's leader in the Lords, said, to cries of "hear, hear": "An apology from the noble Lord Bates is perfectly sufficient.

"It was a minor discourtesy of which any of us could be guilty of on occasion."

Lord Hague, who was next to speak as proceedings moved on to debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, told peers: "I was going to say it was a pleasure to open this debate.

"I hope my noble friend, who has given 20 years of strong public service, will resume his place on the frontbench."

Conservative whips are understood to be speaking to Lord Bates in an effort to get him to remain in his post.

The oral questions started a few minutes earlier than normal on Wednesday as part of a knock-on effect from changes to allow more time for debate on the EU bill.

Lord Bates returned to government in October 2016, after quitting as a Home Office minister earlier that year to take part in a charity trek across South America.

He walked almost 2,000 miles from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro raising more than £260,000 for children's charity Unicef.

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