Speculation mounted over the future of Business Secretary Vince Cable on Thursday when he failed to turn up in Parliament to answer questions about Adrian Beecroft's vicious bosses' charter.
Labour MPs protested against his non-appearance and Speaker John Bercow intervened to rap him over the knuckles.
Mr Bercow said it was "highly undesirable" for Mr Cable to fail to appear for his departmental question time.
"It must not become a regular practice," he added.
Left MP Ian Lavery said he was "amazed" at Mr Cable's absence. "It just shows the continuing shambles in the coalition government," he added.
Mr Lavery stood up in the Commons chamber to ask whether Adrian Beecroft was a fit and proper person to determine government policy on workers' rights.
But, instead of putting the question direct to Mr Cable, he found himself facing Minister of State Mark Prisk.
Mr Beecroft was a man "who has donated in excess of £500,000 to the Conservative Party and made more than £100 million in private equity deals," said Mr Lavery.
The minister retorted that Mr Lavery should be "very careful" about the kind of allegations he was making. It was important to have people who "understand the market," he said.
Mr Prisk insisted that Mr Cable was away promoting British business in Germany, but ministers would note the Speaker's "admonishment."
The bruised and battered Mr Cable has been under fire from his Tory allies all week for his strong opposition to parts of the Beecroft report.
Mr Beecroft even accused him publicly of being "a socialist."
A spokesman for the Business Secretary's department said Mr Cable was in Dusseldorf on "a long-standing engagement on government business that has been in the planning for months."
Mr Cable was having a range of meetings with German politicians and businesses, he added.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna seized on revised figures showing that Britain's economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the first three months of this year - more than previously thought.
Amid a double-dip recession with over 2.6 million people unemployed "this shambolic government has been squabbling over a report produced by a millionaire Tory donor that suggests that all would be well were it not for people's rights at work," protested Mr Umunna.
He denounced the Tory-led government as "hopeless and heartless."
The Beecroft report aims at giving bosses free rein to sack workers.
Its 23 recommendations include slashing redundancy rights, curbing unfair dismissal claims and attacking equality rights.
Official inflation figures understate the real extent of rising costs, but even the government's own CPI scheme lays bare the ongoing misery for working people and those dependent on benefits.
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