Ceasefire vote: Labour's Gaza amendment passes amid chaos in UK Commons

MPs walked out of the Commons chamber in an apparent protest over the handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate

Hundreds protest outside the UK parliament demanding a ceasefire

Hundreds protest outside the UK parliament demanding a ceasefire
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A Labour amendment calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza was approved in the Commons on Wednesday evening amid a row over Speaker Lindsay Hoyle’s handling of the debate.

After the debate reached its conclusion, SNP members and some Conservatives walked out of the chamber in an apparent protest at the state of affairs.

By selecting Labour’s bid to amend the SNP motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza, Mr Hoyle had “hijacked” the debate and “undermined the confidence”, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt claimed.

It had been expected that Mr Hoyle would select just the government’s amendment seeking an “immediate humanitarian pause” to the Israel-Gaza 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 the first two failed to gather enough support.

Protest outside UK Parliament calls for Gaza ceasefire - in pictures

SNP members were understood to have moved to the voting lobby after the walkout from the chamber.

Mr Hoyle apologised to the Commons amid shouts of “resign” from some MPs on both sides of the House.

“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.

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

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

The developments meant Labour leader Keir Starmer avoided another revolt over the Middle East issue.

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”.

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 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” after Hamas’s October 7 attacks.

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.

Mr Starmer accused the Tories and the SNP of “choosing political games over serious solutions”.

“Today was a chance for Parliament to unite and speak with one voice on the horrendous situation in Gaza and Israel," he said in a statement.

“It was in that spirit that Labour put forward an amendment calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

"One that will last, that would require both sides to observe it, that would demand hostages are returned, that aid gets into Gaza, that said Israel has a right to be protected against a repeat of October 7 and – crucially – that requires a road map for a two-state solution.

"It is a serious plan for such an incredibly serious situation.

“Unfortunately, the Conservatives and the SNP decided to walk out hand-in-hand, refusing to vote on this serious matter, yet again choosing political games over serious solutions."

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy accused the government of playing games.

"Tonight Labour’s amendment allowed Parliament to come together to support an immediate humanitarian ceasefire," Mr Lammy said on X.

"Instead of backing it like many of their MPs wanted, the Tories walked out.

"As the government played games, Labour gave the public a voice on the world stage."

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

Updated: February 22, 2024, 6:49 AM