SNP warn the Speaker his position could be 'intolerable' as ceasefire vote descends into farce

MPs passed a motion supporting a ceasefire on Wednesday evening

A vote by MPs on a ceasefire in Gaza descended into chaos as Speaker Lindsay Hoyle came under fire from both the government and the SNP and apologised for his handling of the debate.

In angry scenes, House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt claimed Sir Lindsay had “hijacked” the debate while the SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn warned he would need convincing the Speaker’s position was not now “intolerable”.

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There was also an accusation that the Speaker had been told he could be ousted by Labour if he did not pick their amendment, something he and the party vehemently deny.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the SNP's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn during a tumultuous session in the House of Commons. Picture: House of Commons/PASpeaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the SNP's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn during a tumultuous session in the House of Commons. Picture: House of Commons/PA
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and the SNP's Westminster leader Stephen Flynn during a tumultuous session in the House of Commons. Picture: House of Commons/PA

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.

However, he decided that MPs 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.

His actions saw Tory MPs walk out in protest, therefore missing the chance to speak against the Labour amendment in the chamber, allowing it to pass.SNP MPs were understood to have headed to the voting lobby after they walked out from the chamber.

So angry were MPs, that Sir Lindsay returned to the House of Commons later in the session to apologise, and was greeted with shouts of “resign”.

He said: “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.

“I do take responsibility for my actions, and that’s why I want to meet with the key players who have been involved.”

Sir Lindsay described the vote as “exceptional in its intensity”, and insisted he wanted to do “the best by every member of this House.”

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He continued: “I regret how it’s ended up. It was not my intention. I wanted all to ensure they could express their views and all sides of the House could vote. As it was, in particular the SNP were ultimately unable to vote on their proposition.

“That was never my intention for it to end like this. I was absolutely convinced that the decision was done with the right intentions. I recognise the strength of feeling of members on this issue.”

His words did little to calm the SNP Westminster leader, who said he would take significant convincing that the Speaker’s position was “not now intolerable” and claimed his party had been treated with contempt.

Mr Flynn told the Commons: “Can I firstly begin by echoing your sentiments in relation to the debate that was had in the Chamber in relation to the most important of matters with regard to the safety of civilians in Gaza and indeed those in Israel.

“There has been a difference of view in the House today, but I think that difference of view has been expressed in a way that we can agree has been in a positive fashion in the best fitting way of any democracy, any functioning democracy.

“Mr Speaker, whilst I acknowledge your apology, the reality is that you were warned by the clerks of the House that your decision could lead to the SNP not having a vote on our very own Opposition Day. As a result, we have seen the SNP Opposition Day turn into a Labour Party Opposition Day.

“I am afraid that that is treating myself and my colleagues in the Scottish National Party with complete and utter contempt. I will take significant convincing that your position is not now intolerable.”

Several former ministers tried to demand the vote be run again.In a point of order to Deputy Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton, North West Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse said: “Bluntly, you seem to have rammed through two divisions that were quite important to quite a lot of Members, in which no individual vote will have been recorded.“A number of us had though quite carefully about how we were going to vote in those divisions, and we were essentially – forgive me – taken by surprise by those two divisions being rammed through.“I wondered if it would be possible to either void them or run them again.”Dame Rosie replied: “The fact is I put the question. Nobody called against it.”

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Earlier, Ms Mordaunt suggested the government would take no part in votes on the SNP-led Opposition Day Debate on Gaza.

She said MPs should be able to have their say, noting Opposition Day debate motions can be “engineered to have the greatest possible backlash” against other MPs.

Ms Mordaunt said: “It also appears from the advice of his clerk that the decision is taken against the longstanding and established processes and procedures of this House and that the consequences may be that Government is not able to respond to Opposition Day motions and as such the Government does not have confidence that it will be able to vote on its own motion. For that reason the Government will play no further part in the decision this House takes on today’s proceedings.”

Conservative MP William Wragg, who called for Sir Lindsay to resign, later tried to make the House of Commons sit in private.

SNP MP Pete Wishart also called for the Speaker to resign. He said: “I cannot see a route for him to be able to command the respect of the whole of the House which will enable (him) to be in that chair.”

The farce ultimately saw Sir Keir Stamer avoid a damaging second rebellion in three months after Labour’s amendment calling for a Gaza ceasefire was passed by the Commons.

Labour’s motion emphasised 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.

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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 damaging rebellion over the Middle East issue in November.

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

Advice from the Commons Clerk Mr Goldsmith had suggested that the way in which the Speaker had chosen to proceed may mean it is “possible that the House will not be able to vote on the SNP motion (nor on the Government’s alternative proposition)”.

The Commons most senior official acknowledged in a letter to Sir Lindsay that he was attempting to give the “widest choice of decisions on alternative propositions, on a subject of immense importance”.

The original SNP motion called for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages held by Hamas and “an end to the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

Differences over whether to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza have previously caused problems for the Labour Party.

The leadership appeared to pre-empt that Wednesday’s vote could reopen those divisions once again by tabling its own ceasefire wording.

Sir Keir had previously called for a “ceasefire that lasts” in the Middle East, but stopped short of using the word “immediate”.

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A similar motion tabled by the SNP in November saw 10 shadow ministers and parliamentary aides rebel to back an immediate ceasefire, with 56 Labour members defying a three-line whip and backing an amendment to the King’s Speech.



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