Minister condemns 'shambles' in House of Commons as Speaker holds crisis talks and over 50 MPs call for him to go

22 February 2024, 08:41 | Updated: 22 February 2024, 09:57

Sir Lindsay Hoyle is fighting for his future
Sir Lindsay Hoyle is fighting for his future. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Will Taylor

A minister has told LBC that the Commons descended into a "shambles" as speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle faces crunch talks over his future.

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Sir Lindsay is fighting for his political future after chaos broke out among MPs who accused him of allowing Labour to "hijack" the vote on a ceasefire on Wednesday evening.

Sir Lindsay broke with convention to allow a vote on a Labour amendment calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, prompting a mass walk out from furious Tory and SNP MPs.

More than 40 Tory and SNP MPs tabled a motion of no confidence calling for him to quit.

He is due to meet with Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, and chiefs whips later today, according to minister Maria Caulfield.

Ms Caulfield, the minister for women's health strategy, told LBC's Nick Ferrari: "We just felt as you saw the scenes unfold we just couldn't take part in it.

Watch Again: Nick Ferrari speaks to Women's Health Strategy Maria Caulfield

"It wasn't fair on the SNP and I'm not the SNP’s biggest supporter but to be fair to them they had a right to have a vote on their debate.

"I had hundreds of emails from my own constituents wanting me to vote one way or the other, and it was clear that this was not going to be a fair vote and we felt we just could not take part in it, and we wanted to walk away from the shambles that were ensuing.

"There's hostages still captured, there's a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, they are the issues that we should have been debating last night."

She added that it was "completely out of character" for Sir Lindsay and added: "He was absent from the chamber for most of the morning.

"It was clear there were some negotiations going on, some heated debates in the corridors around the chamber.

"And whether pressure was put on him by Labour, who were going to lose their vote, I don't know. But he went against the advice of the clerks of the House, that is a bit of a red line, but let's see what he says when he meets the leader of the House and the chief whips today."

The motion against him reads: "That this House has no confidence in Mr Speaker."

This motion has previously seen speakers leave the role, with one famous example including former speaker Michael Martin who resigned in 2009 in anticipation of losing the vote.

Natasha Clark joins Andrew Marr to discuss the fallout from the House of Commons today

SNP'S Ian Blackford admits that what transpired in the Commons today was 'shameful'

Stephen Flynn, leader of the SNP in the Commons, said he feared the Speaker's position is untenable, though he refused to call for him to resign.

Richard Thomson, MP for Gordon, told Nick that the Speaker's authority was "significantly diminished".

He said: "What we should be talking about is the 30,000 dead, the plight of the hostages, the collective punishment."

He added that the discussion should not be about a "procedural wrangle" and Sir Lindsay's future.

The vote was meant to held on the SNP's call for an immediate ceasefire that would "stop the slaughter of innocent civilians" in Gaza. It also made reference to the "collective punishment" of Palestinians, which could effectively accuse Israel of a war crime.

The SNP was allowed to hold the vote because Wednesday was an "opposition day", where Labour or the SNP can decide what is debated.

Labour had concerns about the wording and amid fears that forcing its MPs to abstain on the SNP motion - knowing several of its politicians wanted to vote for it - could lead to resignations, the party tabled an amendment calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire".

The Conservatives tabled their own amendment calling for a pause, instead of a ceasefire. Usual procedure for opposition days says only government amendments should be selected by the speaker.

But Sir Lindsay made the unusual move of allowing another opposition party's amendment to be put to a vote.

The Labour Party amendment was passed by the House - though it followed a mass walk out in process at Sir Lindsay.

Apologising to MPs and seemingly on the verge of tears, told MPs that Wednesday's debate was "exceptional in its intensity with which all parties wished to secure a vote on their own propositions".

He said he accepted all three amendments in an attempt to reflect "the widest range of propositions on which to express a view" and also because he had become "very, very concerned about the security of all members".

But Sir Lindsay went on to admit that what he intended had not happened and said he recognised the "strength of feelings of members on this issue".

'The idea that somehow he could be bullied into taking a decision is completely wrong.'

There was uproar in the Commons on Wednesday.
There was uproar in the Commons on Wednesday. Picture: Alamy

Reports emerged overnight that Sir Lindsay had been pressured into allowing a vote on Labour's amendment by the party's leadership. Labour has denied this.

Asked whether she believed Sue Gray, the former civil servant and "Partygate" inquisitor, could have been involved, Ms Caulfield said: "She was definitely in conversation with heated conversations with Labour MPs who are wanted to vote for the SNP's motion.

"It's very, very surprising to see someone who's not an MP such as Sue Gray influencing MPs just ahead of a vote like that.

"You could hear quite raised voices, you could hear huddles going on, very unusual to see scenes like that. There was clearly an issue that the Labour party had with that vote and the rumours are that Sir Keir Starmer went to see the speaker to have a discussion with him."

Geoff Hoon, a former Labour chief whip, leader of the House, and defence secretary told Nick: "The idea that somehow the Speaker of the House of Commons could be bullied into taking a decision is completely wrong."

He added that "any attempt at bullying would be counter-productive."

In his previous roles Mr Hoon had regular meetings with the Speaker to decide Commons business, "and there was always someone else present," he said.

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