Jeremy Hunt has apologised after accidentally not voting with the government on a bill designed to block a no-deal Brexit.
The government fell to a resounding defeat today as one minister quit and many other cabinet members abstained during a vote to bring MPs immediately back to parliament if the Commons is suspended before the October Brexit deadline.
Hunt, the foreign secretary in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, did not vote with the government against the bill, and neither did he abstain like Treasury chief Philip Hammond.
Instead, Hunt said he mistakenly thought he was “slipped” – a process that means you have the whips’ permission to miss a vote.
Any such agreement must be registered with the Whips Office beforehand.
“I missed votes today because I thought I was slipped and it turns out I was not,” Hunt tweeted later.
“Apologies to my colleagues & Whips Office. My position is that parliament should NOT restrict the hands of an incoming govt in this way & I remain opposed to how parl voted.”
The vote means that if parliament is suspended, MPs will be recalled by a minister to update the Commons on talks to restart the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland.
The measure is designed to avert the threat of a no-deal Brexit after Boris Johnson – the Tory leadership frontrunner – refused to rule out suspending parliament in order to pull the UK out of the EU.
Parliament has previously signalled its opposition to such a move, but Johnson has pledged a “do or die” Brexit in which the UK must leave the EU regardless of whether a deal has been agreed by 31 October.
Digital minister Margot James today resigned her post in order to oppose the government.
Hammond, business secretary Greg Clark, justice secretary David Gauke and development secretary Rory Stewart abstained from the vote.
A total of 17 Conservatives voted against the government.
Prime Minister May, who has just six days left in power, declined to dismiss any ministers who helped defeat against the government.
However, her spokesman noted: “No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government.”
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