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Commons chaos as Gaza ceasefire motion passes

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Commons chaos as Gaza ceasefire motion passes

Some MPs walked out of the chamber in protest at Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s handling of the debate

Labour’s amendment calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza has been approved in the House of Commons amid chaotic scenes.

SNP MPs and some Conservatives walked out of the chamber in protest at Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt pulled the Government’s participation, claiming Sir Lindsay had “hijacked” the debate and “undermined the confidence” of the House in its long-standing rules by selecting Labour’s bid to amend the SNP motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war.

The developments meant Sir Keir Starmer avoided another damaging revolt over the Middle East issue.

It had been expected that Sir Lindsay would select just the Government’s amendment seeking an “immediate humanitarian pause” to the Israel-Hamas conflict, which could pave the way for a more permanent stop in fighting.

But instead, he decided that the Commons would first vote on Labour’s calls for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” before moving on to further votes on the SNP’s original motion, and then the Government’s proposals if either of the first two were to fail to garner enough support.

The move sparked fury from the Conservative and SNP benches.

Sir Lindsay, who was first elected as a Labour MP but followed tradition following his election as Speaker by relinquishing his party affiliation, was accused of upending long-standing parliamentary conventions under which rival opposition amendments to an Opposition Day debate are not usually chosen alongside Government amendments.

Conservative MP William Wragg, who called for the Speaker to resign, later tried to make the House of Commons sit in private but MPs rejected the proposal.

Sir Lindsay apologised to the Commons, telling MPs amid shouts of “resign”: “I thought I was doing the right thing and the best thing, and I regret it, and I apologise for how it’s ended up.”

He said he took the decision to allow all sides to “express their views” and that he was “very, very concerned about the security of all members”.

Sir Lindsay also expressed regret that SNP MPs were ultimately unable to vote on their proposition.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said he would take significant convincing that the Speaker’s position was “not now intolerable” and claimed his party had been treated with “complete and utter contempt”.

He told the PA news agency he was disappointed that a “pantomime” in the Commons “is detracting” from the crisis in Gaza.

Mr Flynn also called for an investigation as he appeared to suggest Sir Keir and Labour chief whip Alan Campbell exerted pressure on the Speaker ahead of his decision to pick Labour’s amendment.

Labour’s amendment was approved without any division to be voted on.

Had the Speaker not chosen Labour’s amendment for debate, Labour MPs in favour of a ceasefire could have been pushed to back the Scottish nationalists’ motion, in a repeat of a major rebellion over the Middle East issue in November.

Then, 56 Labour MPs and 10 shadow ministers and parliamentary aides broke ranks to back an SNP motion.

In an apparent attempt to prevent Wednesday’s vote from reopening divisions in the party, the Labour leadership on Tuesday put forward its own wording, calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

After the debate, Labour leader Sir Keir hit out at the Tories and SNP for “choosing political games over serious solutions”, saying only his party “will put country over party and silly political games in order to deliver”.

Labour’s motion emphasises that this involves both sides agreeing to lay down their arms and the return of all hostages taken by Hamas militants, and calls for a diplomatic process for achieving a two-state solution and a lasting peace.

The original SNP motion is shorter, calling for “an immediate ceasefire”, the release of all hostages held by Hamas and “an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people” following Hamas’s October 7 attacks.

The Commons debate took place as thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators took part in a rally in Parliament Square.

The commotion in Parliament drew widespread criticism, with Palestinian ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot telling LBC: “It’s very disgraceful. Today we have seen British politics at its worst.”

ActionAid UK’s chief executive Halima Begum said: “We are extremely disappointed to see the utter paralysis in Parliament this evening. Democracy is a precious commodity and should be treated as such.

“A great disservice has been done to the British people, who expected their political parties and elected representatives to conduct a meaningful debate concerning an issue on which depends the lives of over a hundred Israeli hostages, and hundreds of thousands of Gazans suffering one of the most acute humanitarian crises we have seen in recent times.”

Care International UK’s chief Helen McEachern said: “I am dismayed by the political theatrics we are witnessing in the House of Commons.

“Arguments over parliamentary procedure do nothing to assist the people of Gaza. With nowhere to go, they live without dignity or safety, dying from bombs and disease in their thousands.”

The war began when Hamas-led militants rampaged into southern Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

The Palestinian militant group officially still holds around 130 captives but about a quarter of those are believed to be dead.

Israel has laid waste to much of the Palestinian territory during its retaliation.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry estimates more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed during the conflict.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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