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What happened during the Gaza ceasefire vote - and why Lindsay Hoyle is facing calls to resign

Sir Lindsay Hoyle speaking
Sir Lindsay Hoyle at the centre of the Commons row over Gaza

Sir Lindsay Hoyle is facing calls to quit after an extraordinary day when the Commons descended into chaos over a debate on Gaza.

The Speaker enraged the Tories and the Scottish National Party by going against official advice to controversially select a Labour amendment.

His decision got Sir Keir Starmer out of a huge hole, sparing the Labour leader the threat of another huge revolt by dozens of his own MPs.

But it sparked a constitutional crisis with the Conservatives and the SNP storming out of the chamber in protest.

The row erupted after the SNP used one of its opposition days to table a motion calling for Parliament to back an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

Its move caused huge problems for Sir Keir, who suffered a massive revolt last November when 56 MPs defied his orders and backed a truce.

Labour and the Tories both tabled amendments to the original SNP motion, leaving Sir Lindsay with the task of choosing which to pick.

Convention stated he should select the Government one, but he tore up the rulebook and chose both to give MPs “the widest possible range of options”.

What did the Labour amendment say?

Labour’s amendment marked a big shift in position, calling for both an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and an “immediate stop to the fighting”.

But it balanced that out by stipulating that a truce must be conditional on Hamas laying down its weapons and returning the hostages it took on Oct 7.

The text stated that a ceasefire must be “observed by all sides” and that “Israel cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence”.

Sir Keir also added a sweetener for his MPs, inserting a line that Israel should not be able to block the “inalienable right” of Palestinians to their own state.

What did the SNP motion say?

The original motion tabled by the SNP was shorter than Labour’s amendment and contained fewer caveats around the conditions attached to a truce.

It called for an “immediate ceasefire in Gaza and Israel” and accused Israel of attacking “what is now the largest refugee camp in the world”.

It also referred to “the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”, which amounted to an allegation that Israel had committed war crimes.

The motion did call on Hamas to return all the hostages but, unlike Labour’s, did not directly reference Oct 7 or Israel’s right to self-defence.

What did the Tory amendment say?

The Government’s amendment did not go as far as either Labour’s one or the original SNP motion in that it did not call for an immediate ceasefire.

It supported “moves towards a permanent sustainable ceasefire” but made clear that could only happen once Hamas was removed from power.

In the meantime, it proposed “negotiations to agree an immediate humanitarian pause as the best way to stop the fighting and to get aid in and hostages out”.

The Tory amendment specifically backed “Israel’s right to self-defence” and condemned the “slaughter, abuse and gender-based violence” of Oct 7.

Who prevailed upon him?

Sir Keir personally approached Sir Lindsay in order to persuade him to select the Labour amendment, telling the speaker that emotions were running high.

However, the Clerk of the House of Commons told Sir Lindsay he was not following “long-established conventions”.

Tom Goldsmith wrote a letter to Sir Lindsay setting out his concerns about the selection of amendments.

He wrote: “I am today exercising the opportunity to place on record my view that the decision to allow an official opposition spokesperson to speak and to move an amendment before a government minister in response to an SNP spokesperson moving their opposition day motion represents a departure from the long-established convention for dealing with such amendments on opposition days…”

Mr Goldsmith said he recognised Sir Lindsay’s decision was “not specifically precluded by any Standing Order” and the Speaker has “complete discretion regarding the order in which to call Members to speak”.

But he added: “Nevertheless, I know that you understand why I feel compelled to point out that long-established conventions are not being followed in this case.”

Sir Lindsay admitted he was departing from the norm against his clerk’s advice, but described Parliament’s procedures as “outdated”.

What did Sir Lindsay decide?

Faced with the dilemma of having to choose between the Labour and Tory amendments, Sir Lindsay upended convention to select them both.

Explaining his decision, he said that the war in Gaza was a “highly sensitive subject” and MPs deserved “to consider the widest possible range of options”.

To get around parliamentary rules, he ordered that Labour’s amendment be debated first, instead of the Government’s as would be convention.

That meant MPs would definitely vote on the Labour and SNP proposals, but would only do so on the Tory one if Labour’s failed to pass first.

Why was it controversial?

The Speaker’s decision proved instantly controversial because Tory MPs felt he had been cajoled into making it to help Sir Keir out of a political mess.

Conservatives accused him of making a “blatantly partisan” call in favour of Labour and said he had undermined their confidence in his impartiality.

But the SNP was equally enraged and said his decision meant he had effectively hijacked its opposition day to accommodate Sir Keir’s needs.

The Scottish party only gets three opposition days a year on which it can take charge of the order paper and dictate which motions get put to a vote.

How did the Tories react?

There was uproar in the chamber even as Sir Lindsay was announcing his decision, with one MP shouting at him that he was “moving the goalposts”.

At the end of a fractious debate, Penny Mordaunt, the Leader of the Commons, announced the Tories were pulling their amendment in protest.

She told the chamber that, as a result of Sir Lindsay’s decision, the Government did “not have confidence that it will be able to vote on its own motion”.

“Long-established conventions should not be impaired by the current view of a weak leader of the opposition and a divided party,” she said to Tory cheers.

Tory MPs then walked out of the Chamber.

Why was the SNP so angry?

The SNP had immediately challenged Sir Lindsay’s decision with chief whip Owen Thompson asking: “What is the point of an opposition day if it’s going to be done like this?”

The pulling of the Government’s amendment had the effect that the original SNP motion would not be voted on at all if Labour’s amendment was passed first.

That enraged the Scottish party which, along with Conservative MPs, staged a walkout from the Commons in protest at how the situation had been handled.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said he would take significant convincing that the Speaker’s position was “not now intolerable” and claimed his party had been treated with contempt.

Why was there a vote to sit in private and how unusual is that?

William Wragg, the Tory MP, proposed that the Commons sit in private.

It is understood that Mr Wragg believed that if the debate was delayed enough, all the motions would have been dropped.

If the Commons sits “in private”, it means that Hansard is not produced and the public and press galleries are cleared.

Erskine May, the guide to parliamentary procedure, says: “Sittings in private in peacetime are extremely unusual; the last two occasions on which the House sat in private were 18 November 1958 and 4 December 2001.”

The House last sat in private in 2001 to debate the Anti Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill.

MPs voted against sitting in private.

How did Sir Lindsay respond?

He had not been in the chamber all afternoon, but later returned to the Speaker’s chair to respond to the point of order.

“I wanted to do the best, and it was my wish, to do the best by every member of this House,” he said.

He added: “I was very concerned, I am still concerned and that’s why the meetings I’ve had today [were] about the security of members, their families, and the people that are involved. And I’ve got to say I regret how it’s ended up. But it was not my intention.”