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Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle faces fury over Gaza ceasefire motion

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle | Alamy

Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle faces fury over Gaza ceasefire motion

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle is under pressure to resign following chaotic scenes during the vote on a ceasefire in Gaza. 

Sir Lindsay upset both the Conservatives and SNP by allowing a vote on a Labour amendment, which was later passed. It's understood Labour leader Keir Starmer had faced a rebellion of around 100 MPs had his party's amendment not been selected by the Speaker.

Amid chaotic scenes in the Common, Sir Lindsay made an apology, saying he “regretted” what had happened. 

But SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, angry that the Labour motion had been chosen, told the Speaker: “I will take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable.”

Speaking afterwards, Flynn said: Today’s shameful events show Westminster is utterly broken.

“This should have been the chance for the UK Parliament to do the right thing and vote for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel - instead it turned into a Westminster circus.

“It is a disgrace that Sir Keir Starmer and the Speaker colluded to block Parliament voting on the SNP motion for an immediate ceasefire and against the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

“More than 29,000 Palestinian children, women and men have been killed - and huge swathes of Gaza have been obliterated while Westminster equivocates.

“People in Gaza and Israel, and voters in Scotland, have been badly let down - they deserve so much better than this.

“The SNP will continue to press the UK government and parliament to back an immediate ceasefire. The time for equivocation is over.”

But Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said it had been the SNP's behaviour which was “disgraceful”.

He said: “Tonight Labour’s amendment calling for an immediate ceasefire, with a clear pathway to peace, has passed in the House of Commons.

“It was a chance for the House of Commons to unite and speak with one voice in demanding the fighting in the Middle East stop now.

“It was in that spirit that Labour put forward an amendment calling for: an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the immediate release of hostages, immediate aid for Gaza, a road map for a two state solution, and recognition of a Palestinian state alongside a secure state of Israel.

“Labour expected that all those who wanted to see the fighting stop would want to maximise the number of MPs voting for an immediate ceasefire.

“Unfortunately, disgraceful behaviour from both the SNP and the Conservatives has seen what could have been a moment of unity in the House of Commons, on an issue of such importance, descend into farce.”

The SNP had put forward an opposition day motion calling for “an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel”. It specifically stated a desire to see an end to the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”. 

Labour, which was keen to avert a rebellion in which its own MPs voted for the SNP's motion, put forward its own amendment calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” that is “observed by all sides”, which the SNP has subsequently agreed to back. On Tuesday night the government had complicated matters by adding its own amendment, urging an “immediate humanitarian pause” with “moves towards a permanent sustainable ceasefire”. 

Ordinarily, any government amendment would take priority but an unusual decision by the Commons speaker to select both the Tory and Labour amendments promoted shouts in the chamber over his controversial break with precedent. 

The backlash has been swift, with Conservative backbencher William Wragg tabling an early day motion declaring no confidence in the Speaker and the Clerk of the House, Tom Goldsmith, explicitly criticising Hoyle's decision.  

Early Day Motions (EDMs) are submitted for debate in the House of Commons, and can be used to demonstrate the level of parliamentary support for a particular issue. Enough signatories on Wragg's EDM could pose a serious challenge to Hoyle's position, with a number of Tory and SNP figures already expressing their support. 

Pete Wishart, a former whip for the SNP in Westminster, described the Speaker’s ruling as “absolutely ridiculous”. He said Hoyle “has totally lost it and this will come back to haunt him”. 

“He talks about precedent but this has practically never happened,” Wishart posted on social media. “He has changed Commons precedent to save Labour an embarrassing rebellion.” 

Hoyle told MPs in the Commons he thinks it is “important on this occasion that the House is able to consider the widest possible range of options” given the strength of feeling on the issue. 

Clerk of the House Goldsmith told the Speaker that “long-established conventions are not being followed in this case”. 

In a letter to Hoyle, he said that “the decision to allow an official opposition spokesperson to speak and to move an amendment before a government minister in response to an SNP spokesperson moving their opposition day motion represents a departure from the long-established convention for dealing with such amendments on opposition days.” 

With reporting by Politics Home.

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