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Christian Aid criticises Commons for wrangling over ceasefire motion

22 February 2024

Parliament TV

The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, addresses the House of Commons on Wednesday

The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, addresses the House of Commons on Wednesday

PEOPLE are suffering and dying in Gaza while UK politics descends into “complete chaos”, Christian Aid warned MPs after a Commons debate on calls for a Israel-Hamas ceasefire took an unexpected turn on Wednesday.

Before the session, the aid agency had told MPs to “put aside politics” and imagine it were their own family “trapped in Gaza facing injury or death”.

SNP and Conservative MPs walked out of the Chamber on Wednesday, however, after the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, broke with convention to allow a vote on a Labour motion calling for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”. This amendment to the original SNP’s “immediate ceasefire” motion was passed with shouts of “aye” — without a formal vote — after the Government refused to take part, in protest.

This meant that there was no vote on the SNP motion, which also called for an end to the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people”. In November, only 56 Labour MPs had backed the SNP’s calls. Labour’s amendment argued that Israel “cannot be expected to cease fighting if Hamas continues with violence” and called for a diplomatic process to deliver “a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state”.

Sir Lindsay, a former Labour MP, apologised for his decision, saying that he had thought that he was doing “the right thing and the best thing, and I regret it, and I apologise for how it’s ended up.” But more than 50 MPs — SNPs and Conservatives – have since signed a motion of no confidence in him.

The Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt, said that Sir Lindsay had “undermined the confidence” of the House by allowing the debate to be “hijacked” by Labour.

Responding to the events on Wednesday night, Christian Aid’s head of UK advocacy and campaigns, Jennifer Larbie, said: “What we witnessed in the House of Commons this evening was complete chaos. Every minute spent pontificating on points of order, Palestinians were being killed.

“Our colleague Nour, a lawyer with our partner organisation, was killed in an air strike in Rafah yesterday, along with seven members of her family, including her two-year-old daughter.

“History will judge us all for what we did in the face of the slaughter and brutality in Gaza. Ultimately, the suffering won’t end until we have an immediate and permanent ceasefire.”

The outcome of the Labour vote, however, was welcomed by CAFOD. The agency’s representative for the Middle East, Elizabeth Funnell, said: “We are pleased that Parliament this evening passed the motion calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, because an immediate and permanent ceasefire is the only way to ensure the release of all hostages, to make sure the huge amount of humanitarian aid that is needed can make its way into Gaza, and to protect all civilians. As Pope Francis tells us, arms alone will never achieve the peace that Israelis and Palestinians deserve.

“At a time when tens of thousands of children have already been killed, we need our political leaders to step up and show real leadership and support a lasting peace.”

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators were gathered in Parliament Square during the debate.

AlamyPeace plea: Demonstrators in Jerusalem on Monday call on the Israeli government to reach a deal with Hamas to secure the return of the remaining hostages

“Mass casualties” warning. The UN’s Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), which coordinates the heads of UN humanitarian entities and NGOs, released a statement on Wednesday calling on world leaders to help to prevent further deterioration of the crisis in Gaza.

“Diseases are rampant. Famine is looming. Water is at a trickle. Basic infrastructure has been decimated. Food production has come to a halt. Hospitals have turned into battlefields. One million children face daily traumas,” the statement says.

The situation was particularly dire in Rafah, the IASC reported. “Further escalation of violence in this densely populated area would cause mass casualties. It could also deal a death blow to a humanitarian response that is already on its knees.”

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