UK

Sunak criticises Hoyle’s handling of Gaza ceasefire vote as ‘concerning’

The Prime Minister said parliamentarians should never be intimidated by ‘extremists’ after Sir Lindsay Hoyle raised concerns about MPs’ safety.

Rishi Sunak has criticised the Speaker’s handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate
Rishi Sunak and Sir Lindsay Hoyle Rishi Sunak has criticised the Speaker’s handling of the Gaza ceasefire debate (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Rishi Sunak has criticised Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s handling of the Gaza ceasefire vote as “very concerning” and warned parliamentarians should never be intimidated by “extremists”.

The Prime Minister condemned the way the Commons Speaker had changed the “usual ways in which Parliament works” by approving Labour’s bid to amend an SNP motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, a move that unleashed chaos in the chamber.

But Mr Sunak acknowledged that Sir Lindsay had apologised and was “reflecting on what happened”.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle earlier reiterated his apology, emphasising concerns over the security of MPs who have faced threats over their stance on the Middle East conflict.

“I have a duty of care and if my mistake is looking after members, I am guilty,” he told MPs.

“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.”

Speaking during a visit to North Wales on Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister said: “What happened in the House of Commons last night is very concerning.

“It seems that the usual processes and the way that the House of Commons works were changed. Now my understanding is that the Speaker has apologised for that and is going to reflect on what happened.”

Mr Sunak continued: “But I think the important point here is that we should never let extremists intimidate us into changing the way in which Parliament works.

“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.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Government wants to see an ‘immediate humanitarian pause’ in the Gaza war
Rishi Sunak visit to North Wales Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Government wants to see an ‘immediate humanitarian pause’ in the Gaza war (Phil Noble/PA)

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

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.

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

The Labour leader denied pushing him to make the controversial decision, which resulted in Labour’s call for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” being passed unopposed.

Speaking in Sussex, Sir Keir 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.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer insisted he ‘simply urged’ the Speaker to have ‘the broadest possible debate’ on the Middle East conflict
Keir Starmer visit to West Sussex Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer insisted he ‘simply urged’ the Speaker to have ‘the broadest possible debate’ on the Middle East conflict (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

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

But the offer failed to placate SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn, who 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 demanded a confidence vote “at the earliest possible occasion”.

A number of Conservative MPs came out in Sir Lindsay’s defence as they directed their fury at Labour.

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

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