Jeremy Hunt, who has been campaigning to be the next prime minister, has tweeted an apology saying he accidentally missed a crucial vote.
The foreign secretary made a hastily-composed tweet saying: “I missed votes today because I thought I was slipped and it turns out I was not. Apologies to my colleagues & whips office.”
Hunt said he believed he had been paired, a time-saving practice in which MPs on opposite sides of the debate pair up and mutually agree not to show up to vote.
He said he would have voted against the amendment because “parliament should NOT restrict the hands of an incoming [government] in this way”.
All Conservatives were under a three-line whip for the vote on an amendment to a Northern Ireland bill, which aimed to prevent the prorogation of parliament in coming weeks. Both Hunt and his leadership rival Boris Johnson have refused to rule out the measure, which would theoretically allow them to force through a no-deal Brexit.
I missed votes today because I thought I was slipped and it turns out I was not.Apologies to my colleagues & Whips https://t.co/Nlm1Yaen8R position is that parliament should NOT restrict the hands of an incoming govt in this way & I remain opposed to how parl voted— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) July 18, 2019
MORE: Anti-Brexit MPs score major victory in preventing a forced no-dealUnder normal circumstances, a cabinet minister who defies a three-line whip is expected to resign from their post. An MP who votes against their government can also expect to have the whip removed – ie, to be excluded from their party.
Hunt seems to have unwittingly joined six other ministers who defied the whip to approve the amendment. David Gauke, Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, Caroline Noakes, Karen Bradley and Rory Stewart are all unstood to have abstained.
However, Downing Street has so far held off making any moves to reprimand the rebels.
The vote was carried against the government by a majority of 41.