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The discourtesy of being late

Being on time for appointments is a sign of courteous consideration for other people. On Wednesday this week the House of Lords were shocked by a Minister resigning for being two minutes late.

Lord Bates is a Minister at the Treasury and the Department of International Development, roles he fills without salary. He was due to answer a question from Baroness Lister and the Conservative Whip, Lord Lester, had to answer on his behalf. 

Lord Bates offered his apology for being late and said “I am thoroughly ashamed at not being in my place and therefore I shall be offering my resignation to the Prime Minister. During the five years of which it has been my privilege to answer questions from this despatch box on behalf of the Government I have always believed that we rise to the highest possible standards of courtesy and respect in responding on behalf of the Government to the legitimate questions of the legislature”. He then left the chamber as other Peers sought to stop him.

His lateness was a consequence of a timetable change. The Lords were debating the second reading of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and so many Peers wanted to speak that the House met at 10.00 a.m. rather than 3.00 p.m.  Lord Bates seems to have forgotten this and expected Questions to start shortly after Prayers at 3.00. Prayers were said at 10.00 so business began promptly at 3.00.

The Labour Peer, Baroness Smith, said Lord Bates did not need to resign for the “minor discourtesy” and all that was needed was an apology which he had made. His resignation has been refused and the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said “As a hardworking 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.”

It might help to understand Lord Bates response to his mistake to know that he is a committed Christian. Before the 2012 London Olympics he walked nearly 2000 miles from Mount Olympus to the Stratford Olympic arena to promote the Olympic Truce for peoples and nations at war. In 2016 he walked from Buenos Aires to Rio before the Olympic Games there and raised £250,000 in sponsorship for UNICEF. He obviously takes his faith very seriously.

So how seriously do I take my faith in the way I show respect to other people? Being late for meetings shows a lack of respect unless it is caused by factors beyond one’s control. St Peter urges us to “show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God , honour the King” Michael Bates takes that seriously, do we?

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With - Ben Vane

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