As the humanitarian crisis has worsened over recent weeks with the intensification of Israeli military action in southern Gaza, where so many Palestinians have been forced to flee, Parliament debated the situation again yesterday. Sadly, the procedural chaos at the end of the debate distracted from the appalling situation in Gaza and obscured the decision to back an immediate ceasefire – so I thought it might be helpful to clarify what happened and my view.

Using their Opposition Day debate, the SNP had tabled a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire and release of hostages, to which Labour tabled an amendment also backing an immediate ceasefire and release of hostages, but going further on several other points, and the Government tabled a weakening amendment calling for a humanitarian pause (you can read the text of all the amendments here).

At the start of the debate the Speaker ruled that there would be votes on all three amendments and, although there was some discussion on the procedure, we went ahead on that basis. But just before we voted, the Government said they were boycotting the vote (apparently because they thought their amendment would be lost) and the SNP objected to proceeding with only our amendment left. In the ensuing procedural dispute, the SNP walked out in protest. Labour’s amendment was then moved and agreed without opposition.

I have consistently called for a ceasefire since last October and voted for it in November. So I was pleased to add my name to Labour’s amendment because, in a significant change of position, it called for an immediate ceasefire – and strengthened the SNP motion by adding opposition to a ground offensive in Rafah, demanding rapid humanitarian relief, urging Israel to comply with the International Court of Justice ruling, calling for an end to settlement expansion and settler violence in the West Bank, seeking intensified international efforts for a two-state solution, and recognition of a Palestinian state.

The procedural chaos shamed Parliament because action to end the horror in Gaza should have been everybody’s sole focus, but I hope we can now come together around Parliament’s call for an immediate ceasefire.

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