The human cost in Israel and Gaza is immense and what we are seeing in the news and online is truly heart-breaking. Nobody wanted this bloodshed and this is a deep tragedy. It’s truly sickening and devastating to see.
If we as the Government voted in favour of any amendments to the King’s Speech, the opposition parties would be able to control the Parliamentary Order Paper. This is the sort of Parliamentary process that is confusing and as former Government Whip, I am very aware it is hard to understand and often not reflected in the reporting or on social media.
The votes on the King’s Speech are confidence votes and the Opposition parties have chosen deliberately emotive and divisive issues to table amendments on. I voted to support the Government’s legislative agenda, and this is what the vote will in reality be on.
Sadly, simply voting for a motion in the House of Commons or saying ‘I call for an immediate ceasefire’ is not going to achieve that aim. The SNP tabled an amendment to the King’s Speech which called for a ceasefire in order to expose divisions within the Labour party. The votes were on the King’s Speech and what is contained in the Government’s legislative agenda which have nothing directly to do with the horrifying events in Gaza and I therefore voted to support the Government’s legislative programme unamended. No matter what amendments are proposed you cannot vote to alter your own Government’s agenda.
I welcome that on 9 October the UK Government, joined by France, Germany, Italy and the United States of America, reiterated that the terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy and must be universally condemned.
Ministers and I recognise the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, but Hamas does not represent those aspirations. It offers nothing more for the Palestinian people other than more terror and more bloodshed.
As the Prime Minister has consistently said, and again yesterday at PMQs, the Government supports Israel’s right to defend itself, to go after Hamas and take back the hostages, to deter further incursions and strengthen its security for the long term. However, he has also been clear and strident that this must be done in line with international humanitarian law, recognising that Israel faces an enemy in Hamas which embeds itself behind civilians and that Israel must take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians and try to bring stability back to the region and limits the bloodshed. Nobody would want any different.
The loss of every innocent life is a tragedy, and while acknowledging that Hamas has enmeshed itself amidst the civilian population of Gaza, the UK Government has called on and will continue to call on Israel to take every possible precaution to avoid harming civilians. This will never change.
We all share the deep desire for an end to the conflict. Our only difference is the best way to bring that about. Voting in Parliament in the King's Speech for a ceasefire is, of course, possible, but as I have outlined above, this will sadly in reality achieve little.
The UK is however working via all diplomatic channels—bilaterally and collectively in the region—to ensure that this conflict, which has cost so many lives already, can be brought to a halt. You will have seen by the appointment of David Cameron as Foreign Secretary his experience, knowledge, network and dedication to improving this area situation is why he’s been returned to such a key role by the PM at such a grave time.
However, the reality is that Hamas - as terrorists - have no interest in a ceasefire and stopping the bloodshed and violence. They have no interest in resolution, have never attempted to engage in a two-state solution and have made every attempt to collapse the Oslo process. Furthermore, a unilateral and unconditional ceasefire would simply allow Hamas to entrench their position and continue their attacks. Indeed, Hamas have reiterated their intentions, stating clearly that "we will repeat the October 7 attack time and time again until Israel are annihilated".
I believe bringing about a ceasefire through careful diplomacy via key humanitarian pauses, or a series of such pauses and negotiating the release of hostages, is a more viable option. For the families with loved ones in this situation it’s a key part of what’s needed.
Looking to the medium and longer term, we must never lose sight of how essential the two-state solution is. The UK will continue to work with our international partners to bring renewed energy and creativity to that effort. Calling for the unachievable now – no matter how much we want it to be reality – may harm the longer-term objective of bringing a stable peace to the region.
I will keep you updated on further as matters progress. I do hope this has explained further what is happening and the absolute focus we are giving and why we all determined to do more than ever to make a difference, bring the hostages home and deliver a long-term outcome while never giving into terrorism.