UK

Minister refuses to back Speaker after Gaza vote chaos

Maria Caulfield said she would ‘struggle to support’ him after he upended parliamentary convention by selecting Labour’s bid to amend an SNP motion.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is under pressure over his handling of the opposition day debate
Sir Lindsay Hoyle Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is under pressure over his handling of the opposition day debate (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

A Government minister has refused to back Sir Lindsay Hoyle as Commons Speaker following an evening of parliamentary chaos over a vote on Gaza.

Maria Caulfield said she would “struggle to support” him after he upended parliamentary convention by selecting Labour’s bid to amend an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The health minister urged Sir Lindsay to “come clean” about what discussions were had before the vote amid Tory and SNP suggestions that the Opposition sought to influence his decision.

“I would struggle now to support him but let’s see what happens in the next 24-48 hours,” she told Sky News.

“He knows he did wrong and he has apologised. Let’s see what he proposes to fix the situation.”

Ms Caulfield said the issue is for individual MPs to consider rather than Government as it relates to matters of the House.

Sir Lindsay issued an apology after a day of acrimony that saw MPs pass Labour’s amendment to the opposition day motion as Conservative and SNP politicians walked out of the debate in protest.

SNP and Conservative MPs walked out of the Commons chamber in an apparent protest over Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate
Commons Gaza ceasefire motion SNP and Conservative MPs walked out of the Commons chamber in an apparent protest over Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

He is in the Speaker’s Chair as usual and it is understood he is not planning to resign despite some 57 MPs signing a motion of no confidence in him.

Sir Lindsay is now set to meet Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, who accused him of having “undermined the confidence” of the House in an attack over the proceedings on Wednesday.

He had decided the Commons would first vote on Labour’s amendment before moving on to further votes on the SNP’s original motion, and then a Government proposal seeking an “immediate humanitarian pause”.

The Speaker disregarded warnings from the House of Commons Clerk over the unprecedented nature of the move, which provoked uproar in the chamber.

His decision sparked fury from the Conservative and SNP benches, who accused him of helping Sir Keir Starmer avoid another damaging revolt over the Middle East issue.

The chaotic Commons scenes overshadowed the debate on whether there should be a ceasefire in Gaza as fighting continued overnight and thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered outside in Parliament Square.

More than 50 MPs have signed a so-called early day motion tabled by a Tory MP declaring no confidence in the Speaker.

Ms Caulfield accused Sir Lindsay, a former Labour MP, of playing “party politics” amid suggestions from SNP and Conservative figures that pressure was exerted by Sir Keir’s top team ahead of the vote.

Such parliamentary motions are rarely debated in the Commons but are used by MPs to garner publicity for a cause.

Labour’s ceasefire amendment ended up passing unopposed without a formal vote after the Government pulled its participation.

It marked the first time the Commons formally backed an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, though the Government does not have to adopt the position as the vote is not binding.

The SNP were ultimately unable to vote on their proposition calling for “an immediate ceasefire”, which was meant to be the focus of their Opposition Day.

SNP MPs and some Conservatives staged a walkout in protest at the Speaker’s handling of the matter in extraordinary scenes.

After calls for him to return to the chamber to explain his move, Sir Lindsay apologised to MPs and vowed to hold talks with senior party figures.

Amid shouts of “resign”, he said: “I thought I was doing the right thing and the best thing, and I regret it, and I apologise for how it’s ended up.”

He said he took the decision to allow all sides to “express their views” and after becoming “very, very concerned about the security” of MPs who have received personal threats over their stance on the Gaza conflict.

But 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 “complete and utter contempt”.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has been raging for more than four months (Adel Hana/AP)
Palestinians search rubble The Israel-Hamas conflict has been raging for more than four months (Adel Hana/AP) (Adel Hana/AP)

He also called for an investigation as he appeared to suggest Sir Keir and Labour’s chief whip had sought to influence the Speaker ahead of his decision, which shadow ministers have denied.

Had Sir Lindsay not chosen the Opposition’s amendment, Labour MPs in favour of a ceasefire could have decided to back the SNP motion, in a repeat of a major rebellion against the Labour leadership in November.

Danny Kruger, chairman of the New Conservatives grouping of MPs on the right of the party, later accused Sir Keir of using “the threat of violence for party political ends”.

In a post on X, he wrote: “Starmer is even more culpable. He should be standing for democracy and against mob rule.

“Like the Speaker, I daresay Starmer wants to do the right thing. But like the Speaker he showed weakness and partisanship yesterday. This was a harbinger of what a Labour government would bring: extremists de facto in charge, and the subversion of democracy.”

However, senior Conservative MP Ben Wallace threw his support behind the Speaker, saying: “He is fair, kind and a protector of backbenchers. He is not a bully nor a grandstander nor pompous.”

Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Pat McFadden also defended the Speaker and denied he had been pressured by Labour, instead accusing the Conservatives of boycotting the debate.

“I think he’s taken the blame unfairly for the Tories’ decision not to turn up and to walk away from the debate … There’s no reason why his position should be under threat,” he said.

“He acted in good faith yesterday and he had every right to expect that there would be three votes, and the only reason it wasn’t three votes was because the Tory Party did not have the numbers on their side and that completely upended the plan that he had put forward.”