Theresa May refuses to sack Cabinet rebels despite humiliating Brexit defeat
Theresa May has refused to sack the rebels in her Cabinet after four senior ministers refused to vote with the Government against a bid to block a no-deal Brexit.
Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke and Greg Clark all broke a three-line Tory whip by abstaining an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill.
The amendment, which is aimed at preventing Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit if he becomes Prime Minister - was passed by 315 votes to 274.
Mr Hammond explained his decision on Twitter, writing: “The Conservative Party has always, at its core, had a fundamental belief in the importance of strong institutions – and in a representative democracy there can be no more vital institution than it’s Parliament.
“It should not be controversial to believe that Parliament be allowed to sit, and have a say, during a key period in our country’s history.”
And Mr Clark told BBC News: "I couldn't support the idea that we would allow the doors of Parliament to be locked against MPs at this crucially important time.
“I think that would be a constitutional outrage, and we should not participate in that.”
But despite the mass rebellion, a spokesman for Mrs May confirmed that she would not be taking any disciplinary action.
He said: "The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of Ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division.
"No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government."
In a further sign of Mrs May's waning authority as she prepares to quit as Prime Minister, a total of 17 Tory MPs voted against the Government.
They included Margot James, who immediately quit as culture minister, saying: “Over the course of the last few months I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable about the way the rhetoric is developing on Brexit.”
She told BBC’s Newsnight although her constituents in Stourbridge strongly backed Leave, she has “become more and more worried” about a no-deal Brexit, and: “The fact that Boris Johnson…is not ruling out proroguing parliament, I felt that this time that rather than just abstain I would vote for the amendments that will make it more difficult.”
In a major embarrassment, Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt also failed to vote after mistakenly thinking he had been given permission not to take part.
He tweeted: "Missed votes today because I thought I was slipped and it turns out I was not.
"Apologies to my colleagues and Whips Office. My position is that parliament should NOT restrict the hands of an incoming govt in this way and I remain opposed to how Parliament voted."
The change to the legislation would mean a minister would have to appear in the Commons every two weeks to discuss progress on breaking the deadlock at Stormont, which has not sat for more than two years.
This would prevent the new man in Downing Street from suspending - or proroguing - Parliament in the run up to the 31 October deadline.