Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle battles on in face of calls by nearly 70 MPs for him to quit over Gaza vote chaos

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle was urged to quit by the Scottish National Party over the Gaza vote chaos in Parliament as Rishi Sunak criticised his actions as “deeply concerning”.

But a number of senior Tories rallied around the Speaker and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt did not back moves to oust the Speaker.

SNP leader in the Commons, Stephen Flynn, called on the Speaker to go after a SNP Opposition Day debate on the Middle East ended in mayhem on Wednesday evening.

Mr Flynn told the Speaker on Thursday: “It descended into farce because of the decision that you alone made to ignore the advice that was given to you by the clerks.”

Sir Lindsay has come under pressure amid accusations he helped Sir Keir Starmer avoid another damaging revolt over the Middle East issue by selecting Labour's amendment to the SNP motion.Mr Flynn stressed the decision had meant that the SNP had not been able to vote on its own motion for a Gaza ceasefire.

“That quite frankly is not acceptable,” he added.

“We do not on these benches believe that you can continue in your role as Speaker.”

Mr Sunak said the way in which Sir Lindsay had changed the "usual ways in which Parliament works" was "very concerning" and parliamentarians should never be intimidated by “extremists” after the Speaker said he had been motivated in his decision by a desire to protect MPs who faced threats.

He said: "Parliament is an important place for us to have these debates. And just because some people may want to stifle that with intimidation or aggressive behaviour, we should not bend to that and change how Parliament works. That's a very slippery slope."

Ms Mordaunt earlier did not endorse the SNP leader's rejection of the Speaker, noting that many MPs had expressed their support for him in exchanges on Thursday.

She responded: “Given the range of views that have been expressed on the floor of the House today, many interventions being supportive of the Speaker and pointing out the pressuresthat were put on him yesterday, that we take time to reflect. Mr Speaker has said his door is open to all parties and individual members, as is mine.

"But as I said, the Government will listen to this House. I am a servant of this House and I will do its bidding."

The most critical intervention from a government minister appeared to come from Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who reposted a tweet by MP Sir Geoffrey Cox who said the Speaker had either committed “an abuse of his office” or surrendered “to intolerance and tyranny”.

Sir Lindsay offered an emergency debate on the furore under Standing Order 24 and renewed his apologies, while defending his motivation.

“I have a duty of care. If my mistake is looking after Members, I am guilty,” he added, amid the growing threats of violence against MPs refusing to back a Gaza ceasefire.

“It is that protection that led me to make the wrong decision.”

Referring to the murder of MP Sir David Amess and terror attacks on Parliament, Sir Lindsay, his voice faltering, stressed: "I never ever want to go through a situation where I pick up the phone to find a friend, from whatever side, has been murdered by a terrorist. I also don't want another attack on this House.”

Sir Keir Starmer “categorically” denied threatening the Speaker to help Labour avoid a rebellion over its stance on a ceasefire in Gaza.

The Labour leader said he had simply urged Sir Lindsay to break with parliamentary precedent so that MPs could have a broad debate on a range of positions.

But by Thursday afternoon, 67 MPs including senior Tory backbenchers, had signed a motion of no confidence in the Speaker.

They included Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench committee of Tory MPs, as well as other executives of the committee Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown and Bob Blackman.

But former Defence Secretary Ben Wallace intervened to voice his support for Sir Lindsay, tweeting: “I have served under three speakers. Lindsay Hoyle is head and shoulders above the rest. He has my full support.”

At Business Questions, former armed forces minister Mark Francois stressed Sir Lindsay had “gone the extra mile” to help MPs after the murder of veteran parliamentarian Sir David Amess.

He added: “Mr Speaker is a decent man as the Leader said, he is not the villain here...we are lucky to have him.”

He called for the chaos of Thursday night to be “put right” by a re-running of the debate in Government time.

Ms Mordaunt responded: “Can I thank my Honourable Friend for what he has said.

“I think there is no need for me to add to what he has said, he said it very well.”

Ms Mordaunt had unleashed a stinging attack on Sir Keir Starmer but reserved her fire for the Labour leader rather than the Speaker.

Tory grandee Sir Edward Leigh told the Chamber: “The Speaker said he made a mistake.

“The House relies on us having confidence in the Speaker. I think we should move on now and I would recommend that we don’t put in motions of no confidence but actually we restore our reputation as soon as possible by having a proper debate on a Government motion where all amendments can be considered.”

Ms Mordaunt praised his comments and their “tone”, adding: “The Speaker came to this House last night, he took responsibility for his actions, he apologised, he is reflecting on what has happened and he is meeting with all parties.

“And I hope that everyone who was involved in those events yesterday and the consequences of them will also reflect on their actions.”

The Prime Minister's official spokesman declined repeatedly to back the Commons Speaker.

Asked whether Mr Sunak has confidence in Sir Lindsay, the spokesman told reporters: “The Prime Minister’s focus is on addressing the situation in the Middle East.

“Matters for the House are matters for the House,” he said.

Earlier, on the morning media round, health minister Maria Caulfield refused to back Sir Lindsay staying in post and said he was in a “difficult position”.

But Ms Mordaunt also faced questions over why the Government suddenly pulled Tory participation in a series of votes on the conflict in the Middle East.

Sir Keir Starmer had faced the threat of a major revolt by Labour MPs who were ready to back a motion by the SNP motion on a ceasefire in Gaza.

But this looming rebellion was defused when Sir Lindsay allowed a Labour amendment to be called which also called for a ceasefire, but was not nearly as critical of Israel.

The Speaker’s decision, which was a departure from parliamentary procedure, a fact highlighted by the Commons clerk, sparked fury from Tory and SNP MPs.

After angry and chaotic scenes in the Commons, the Labour amendment was passed without a vote and the SNP motion was not put to a division.

Sir Lindsay apologised for how the day had unravelled but stressed he had allow votes on Labour, the SNP and the Government’s position on Gaza to try to get the widest possible views, and also to try to defuse threats of violence against MPs who have so far failed to vote for a Gaza ceasefire.

He was due to meet party leaders to try to allay their concerns, including allegations that he had bowed to pressure from Labour to allow its amendment, a claim which he denies.

Labour, though, accused the Conservatives of leaving Sir Lindsay to “take the rap” over their decision to pull out of the votes.

National campaign coordinator Pat McFadden MP told Times Radio: “Who would have thought the Tories, the Government of the day, would stand up and say in effect, ‘we don’t think we’ve got the numbers to back our own proposition here, so we’re going to pull out of this’.”

But Ms Caulfield flatly rejected the claim, telling Nick Ferrari’s LBC Show: “That is definitely not true.”

A Tory source added: “It was all to do with procedural uncertainty, not to do with numbers.”

There were reportedly concerns that there might not be sufficient time to vote on the Tory amendment.

But some Conservative MPs made clear that they were preparing to vote for a ceasefire, defying the Government’s position.

Former minister Kit Malthouse tweeted on Thursday: “I intended to vote for the SNP motion yesterday. The bloodshed must stop immediately and the serious talking must begin.”

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow messaged on Thursday: “Today I tried to do the right thing - for me, my constituents, and for innocent people in Gaza and Israel. I wanted to vote for a ceasefire.“But to protect wobbly Labour MPs - the SNP ceasefire motion was binned.” Former health minister Neil O’Brien also appeared to signal that he wanted to vote for the SNP motion.

The extraordinary scenes in the Commons risked further damaging Parliament’s reputation and were criticised by aid charities.

Halima Begum, chief executive of ActionAid UK, said: “We are extremely disappointed to see the utter paralysis in Parliament.

“A great disservice has been done to the British people, who expected their political parties and elected representatives to conduct a meaningful debate concerning an issue on which depends the lives of over a hundred Israeli hostages, and hundreds of thousands of Gazans suffering one of the most acute humanitarian crises we have seen in recent times.

In the startling showdown last night, Tory and SNP MPs walked out of the Commons in apparent protest.

As anger boiled over, MPs then divided to vote on whether the House of Commons should sit in private. The proposal was moved by Conservative William Wragg.

MPs had called for the Speaker to return to the House of Commons to explain his decisions ahead of a walkout by SNP and Tory MPs before the vote on whether the Chamber should sit in private, which would mean excluding the press and public.

But this attempt was rejected by 212 votes to 20 and the Speaker then returned to the Chair.

A clearly emotional Sir Lindsay told MPs: “I have tried to do what I thought was the right thing for all sides of this House.”

He added: “I regret it and I apologise for how it has ended up.”

But Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s Westminster leader, cast doubt on whether Sir Lindsay would retain the support of his party.

He said he felt his party had been treated with “complete and utter contempt”.