UK

Commons Speaker apologises for Gaza vote chaos as Starmer denies pressuring him

Downing Street repeatedly refused to say whether Rishi Sunak has confidence in Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has again said sorry after chaos in the Gaza ceasefire debate
Sir Lindsay Hoyle Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has again said sorry after chaos in the Gaza ceasefire debate (House of Commons/UK Parliament//PA)

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has reiterated his apology for his handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate, while Sir Keir Starmer “categorically” denied threatening him to select Labour’s amendment in a move that unleashed chaos.

Sir Lindsay came under pressure amid accusations he helped the Labour leader avoid another damaging revolt over the Middle East issue by upending parliamentary convention in approving Labour’s bid to alter an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Downing Street repeatedly refused to say whether Rishi Sunak has confidence in the Speaker, while the SNP has called for a vote of no confidence in him.

Issuing a further apology on Thursday, Sir Lindsay emphasised concerns over the security of MPs who have faced threats over their stance on the Gaza conflict, saying: “I have a duty of care and if my mistake is looking after members, I am guilty.”

In a bid to calm tensions, he offered the SNP the chance of an emergency debate after they were unable to vote on their proposition amid Wednesday’s turmoil.

The Speaker told the Commons: “I will reiterate I made a judgment call that didn’t end up in the position where I expected it to.

“I regret it. I apologise to the SNP… I apologise and I apologise to the House. I made a mistake. We do make mistakes. I own up to mine.”

His voice faltering, he added: “And it has been said, both sides, I never ever want to go through a situation where I pick up a phone to find a friend, of whatever side, has been murdered by terrorists.”

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn called for a vote of no confidence in Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Flynn SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn called for a vote of no confidence in Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

But SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn told the Speaker he no longer had confidence in him.

He said the debate “descended into farce because of a decision that you made” and that it “ultimately turned into a Labour opposition day”.

“We do not on these benches therefore believe that you can continue in your role as Speaker,” Mr Flynn said, demanding a confidence vote “at the earliest possible occasion”.

Questions have been mounting about what discussions were had before the vote amid Tory and SNP suggestions that the Opposition sought to influence Sir Lindsay’s controversial decision to approve Labour’s bid to alter the SNP’s motion.

But Sir Keir insisted he “simply urged” the Speaker to have “the broadest possible debate” by putting a number of options in front of MPs during the debate.

Speaking in Sussex, the Labour leader said: “I can categorically tell you that I did not threaten the Speaker in any way whatsoever.

“I simply urged to ensure that we have the broadest possible debate so that actually the most important thing, which is what do we do about the situation in Gaza, could be properly discussed by MPs with a number of options in front of them.”

He said Sir Lindsay “did the right thing in making sure the debate was broad” as he denounced SNP and Tory tactics.

Sir Keir added: “The tragedy is the SNP walked off the pitch because they wanted to divide the Labour Party and they couldn’t, and the Government walked off the pitch because it thought it was going to lose a vote…

“We should have had a proper debate and a proper resolution with all three propositions being put to a vote.”

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer
King Charles III coronation Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

Meanwhile, No 10 declined to say whether the Prime Minister retains confidence in Sir Lindsay.

His official spokesman said on Thursday: “The Prime Minister’s focus is on addressing the situation in the Middle East.

“And as I say, that is what he’s spending his time focused on. Matters for the House, as I say, are matters for the House.”

Nearly 60 MPs have signed a so-called early day motion tabled by a Tory MP declaring no confidence in the Speaker.

But a number of Conservative MPs came out in his defence as they directed their fury at Labour.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, who launched a blistering attack on Sir Lindsay as the commotion unfolded in the chamber, defended him on Thursday as a “decent man” as she criticised Sir Keir.

The senior Cabinet minister told MPs that Wednesday’s “shameful events” were nothing “other than party politics on behalf of the Labour Party”.

She added: “We have seen into the heart of Labour’s leadership. Nothing is more important than the interests of the Labour Party. The Labour Party before principle, the Labour Party before individual rights, the Labour Party before the reputation and honour of the decent man that sits in Speaker’s chair. The Labour Party before fairness, integrity and democracy.”

Former ministers Sir Edward Leigh and Mark Francois advised MPs against seeking to force out the Speaker and said he was “not the villain here”.

Senior Tory Ben Wallace said: “He is fair, kind and a protector of backbenchers. He is not a bully nor a grandstander nor pompous.”