SNP and Conservative MPs walk out of Commons chamber in protest in chaotic scenes at Gaza debate

21 February 2024, 18:55 | Updated: 21 February 2024, 19:05

MPs walk out of the Commons chamber in protest
MPs walk out of the Commons chamber in protest. Picture: Parliament

By Asher McShane

There were chaotic scenes in the Commons this evening as Sir Lindsay Hoyle sparked a walkout during a terse debate over calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

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Tory MPs walked out of the commons in protest at Sir Lindsay Hoyle who accused him of ‘undermining the confidence’ of the House.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle controversially allowed MPs a vote on Labour’s amendment to an SNP motion calling for an “immediate ceasefire”.

He took the highly unusual step of selecting both a Labour amendment as well as a Government amendment to an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The decision to select the Labour amendment was greeted in the Commons by Tory cries of “shameful”.

Natasha Clark on scenes in House of Commons

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The move, which came in for criticism from the Conservatives and the SNP, means Labour MPs will be able to vote for Sir Keir's stance, announced on Tuesday, calling for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in the Israel-Hamas war.

Such an outcome could have pushed those Labour MPs in favour of a ceasefire towards backing the SNP motion, in a repeat of a damaging rebellion that was witnessed in the autumn on the Middle East issue.

In the chamber, there was uproar at Sir Lindsay's decision to choose the Labour amendment for debate.

There were cries of "shameful" and "bring back Bercow" - a reference to the former speaker, Sir John Bercow, who was found guilty of bullying following a parliamentary investigation - as Sir Lindsay set out his reasoning behind selecting both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition's amendments to the SNP motion.

Sir Lindsay explained that he wanted MPs to have the "widest possible range" of options on what he said was "a highly sensitive subject on which feelings are running high".

MPs then halted the debate to vote on whether the House of Commons should sit in private but the motion did not pass, with 20 for and 212 against.

The House of Commons and its procedures have "descended into absolute chaos", SNP former Westminster leader Ian Blackford said.

"They've descended into chaos simply because of a decision taken by the Speaker earlier today.

"Is it too much to ask Madame Deputy Speaker that the Speaker is asked to come to this House and explain exactly why he took those decisions, the consequences of those decisions and how he intends to get this House out of the mess it currently finds itself in, and what reason, Madame Deputy Speaker, would you not suspend the House in order for the Speaker to come here and sort this mess out," he said.

Deputy Speaker Dame Rosie Winterton replied: "I said twice already that the Speaker set out this morning in detail why he'd made his decision and he will be in his place tomorrow."