Sir Lindsay Hoyle issues apology to MPs as he faces resignation calls over Gaza ceasefire debate 'chaos'

Chorley MP and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has apologised for a decision he took during a debate on the Gaza conflict which led to chaotic scenes at the heart of Westminster.
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The veteran politician was accused by the government of hijacking Wednesday’s proceedings - and even faced calls to resign when he later returned to the chamber to say sorry and explain to MPs that he had thought he had been doing the right thing.

By mid-evening, 33 Conservative and Scottish National Party (SNP) members had tabled a motion of no confidence in him.

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The SNP had earlier walked out of the Commons en masse amid growing acrimony over a ruling made by the Speaker during the party’s opposition day debate to press for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Labour responded by putting forward an amendment to that motion, while the government also laid down its own.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle making an apologetic statement in the Commons over his Gaza debate decision (image:  House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire)Sir Lindsay Hoyle making an apologetic statement in the Commons over his Gaza debate decision (image:  House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire)
Sir Lindsay Hoyle making an apologetic statement in the Commons over his Gaza debate decision (image: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire)

Sir Lindsay said he wanted MPs to consider the "widest possible range of options" and announced at the start of the debate that he would be selecting both the Labour and government proposals.

While he acknowledged the move was an exceptional one, his decision provoked uproar in the chamber - with cries of "shame" coming from the SNP and Conservative benches.

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.

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But instead, he ruled 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 proposal if either of the first two were to fail to win enough support.

In doing so, he was accused of upending longstanding parliamentary conventions under which rival opposition amendments to an opposition day debate are not usually chosen alongside government amendments.

Sir Lindsay apologised to the Commons, telling MPs: "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".

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

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Stephen Flynn, said he would take significant convincing that the Speaker's position was "not now intolerable".

Sir Lindsay has offered to meet Mr Flynn and other key players to discuss the matter.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, a member of the government, suggested the Chorley politician had "hijacked" the debate and said it had become a "political row within the Labour Party".

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She added: “Regrettably, Mr. Speaker has inserted himself into that row with today's decision and undermined the confidence of this House in being able to rely on its long-established standing orders to govern its debates."

Sir Lindsay was first elected as a Labour MP in 1997, but followed tradition by relinquishing his party affiliation when he became Speaker.

Had he not chosen Labour's amendment for debate, Labour MPs in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza could have been pushed to back the SNP motion, leading to a repeat of a major party rebellion over the conflict in November.

After the debate, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer hit out at the Tories and SNP, accusing them of "choosing political games over serious solutions".

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Sir Lindsay started out in politics as the then youngest ever member of Chorley Council in 1980. He ascended to one of the most prominent positions in UK politics when he was elected to the Commons Speaker’s chair in 2019.

WHAT HAPPENED OVER THE GAZA VOTE?

Ms. Mourdant pulled the government's participation in the process after Sir Lindsay’s decision - and Labour's amendment was approved.

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

The Labour amendment also sought an immediate ceasefire, but emphasised that that involved both sides agreeing to lay down their arms and the return of all hostages taken by Hamas. It also called for a diplomatic process for achieving a two-state solution and a lasting peace.

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Meanwhile, the government’s amendment pushed for an "immediate humanitarian pause" in the fighting, before supporting "moves towards a permanent sustainable ceasefire" - involving Hamas freeing all hostages and relinquishing control of Gaza - and international efforts to create a two-state solution.