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Labour Amendment On Gaza Ceasefire Passes After Chaotic Day In Commons

Protests outside parliament as MPs vote on Gaza ceasefire (Alamy)

4 min read

MPs have passed a Labour amendment calling for an "humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza after a dramatic day in Westminster which saw SNP MPs walk out of the chamber.

The day began with House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle breaking with convention and selecting both Labour and the government’s amendment to the SNP’s opposition day motion for a ceasefire, which proved to be a divisive move. 

In the ensuing chaos, leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt announced that the government would no longer be participating in the vote despite having tabled an amendment of their own. 

But as agitated MPs prepared to head to the voting lobbies, Hoyle was nowhere to be seen. Westminster SNP leader Stephen Flynn made a point of order three times to ask the deputy speaker Rosie Winterton where Hoyle was, and insisted the SNP's motion should be voted on before Labour's amendment. Earlier it was made clear that if Labour’s amendment passed, the SNP’s original motion would be amended before being voted on.

Outside parliament thousands of people gathered to protest, as public pressure for the UK to call for a ceasefire in Gaza continues to intensify. 

In his third point of order, Flynn eventually asked for the House of Commons to be suspended until Hoyle returned to the chamber – to furious shouts of support from MPs frustrated with Hoyle’s decision. When it became clear Flynn's requests would not be acted upon, the SNP appeared to walk out of the chamber in protest before later returning. 

After multiple points of order from MPs from all parties, which saw Winterton struggle to control MPs as they shouted over each other, a vote was held on whether the house should sit in private – with access to the public and press galleries in the House of Commons closed and cameras switched off. MPs voted against sitting privately. 

Hoyle subsequently returned to the chamber, and issued an apology for the way events had unfolded – saying the reasoning behind his decision was out of concern "about the security of members, their families and the people that are involved".

"It was my wish to do the best by every member of this House," he said. 

Labour's amendment was set to be voted on first, then the government's, and then the SNPs original ceasefire motion – all of which come ahead of Israel's planned offensive in Rafah, the only part of Gaza still under Hamas control and where more than one million Gazans are seeking refuge from the fighting. 

According to the Hamas-run health ministry, almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war, which began after Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israelis in a largescale terror attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

The key difference between Labour's amendment and the SNP's motion was Labour specifying any ceasefire as "humanitarian". Labour also does not mention “collective punishment” of the Palestinians, whereas the SNP motion does. The difference between Labour's amendment and the government's was clearer, with the government calling for a "humanitarian pause" with a view towards "a permanent sustainable ceasefire" in Gaza. 

Had Hoyle stuck to convention – which dictates the government's amendment should take precedent – Labour's amendment may not have been chosen at all, forcing Labour MPs who still wanted to vote for a ceasefire to break their party whip, which was to abstain, and vote for the SNP's motion.

PoliticsHome understands one of the arguments made to Hoyle by Labour figures was concern about backlash from the public if its amendment wasn't included as an option for Labour MPs. 

However, the Speaker's decision has triggered anger among some MPs – with senior Tory MP William Wragg to submitting an Early Day Motion expressing no confidence in the Speaker, and a senior Tory MP telling PoliticsHome they are considering supporting his motion. 

Labour MP Ian Lavery expressed unhappiness that his name had been included on the order paper for Labour's amendment without his "consent". 

Ahead of the vote, a Labour source told PoliticsHome multiple Tory MPs were considering rebelling and supporting a Labour amendment ahead of the vote. 

Senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood also told PoliticsHome ahead of the vote he did not need to vote to state his support for "a workable ceasefire", describing the days events as "painful". 

Responding to parliament voting to support a ceasefire, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said: “The Liberal Democrats have been calling for an immediate bilateral ceasefire for months now, in order to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, get the hostages out and provide the space for a path towards a two-state solution.

“Today’s debate should have been about Parliament coming together with one voice on this horrific conflict. Instead it’s turned into an embarrassing row about the selection of amendments.

“A ceasefire is urgently needed so that there is time to facilitate the delivery of aid into Gaza, the opportunity to release the hostages, and provide space to intensify diplomacy so that Hamas is out of Gaza, a two state solution is agreed and a lasting peace.”

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