Chaos in House of Commons as SNP MPs walk out

Protest over the lack of time given to debate devolution issues connected to Brexit

There was chaos in the House of Commons after SNP MPs walked out en masse as part of a protest over the lack of time given to debate devolution issues connected to Brexit. Video: Parliament TV


Prime minister’s questions descended into pandemonium in the House of Commons on Wednesday after SNP MPs walked out en masse as part of a protest over the lack of time given to debate devolution issues connected to Brexit.

In chaotic scenes, the party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, was ejected for repeatedly refusing to sit down after the speaker, John Bercow, declined his request for an immediate vote on holding a new debate on the Brexit issue.

With Mr Bercow struggling to keep control of the rowdy chamber, he ordered Mr Blackford to be barred from the Commons for the remainder of the day, citing his “persistent and repeated” refusal to sit down and let Theresa May answer more questions.

After a brief further standoff, in a pre-planned move the entire contingent of SNP MPs marched out of the chamber in protest, to sarcastic cheers of “Bye!” from the government benches. One SNP MP, Mhairi Black, angrily jabbed her finger towards the speaker as she left.

Once they had gone, after a further pause, Ms May stood up again and was able to resume the session.

‘Sheer ineptitude’

The uproar came about 20 minutes into an already noisy PMQs during which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn again taunted Ms May over what he said was the “sheer ineptitude” of the government’s Brexit plans.

The SNP outrage was prompted by the timetabling of the Commons’s consideration of Lords amendments to the EU withdrawal bill, the first session of which took place on Tuesday.

Three hours were set aside for consideration of one series of amendments, among them the call for a meaningful vote by MPs on a final deal, where Ms May avoided defeat by offering last-minute concessions.

Three hours more had been set aside for debate about issues on the Bill connected to devolution, and for an amendment on Northern Ireland.

But because the 11 votes on the first session were treated as part of the six-hour total, in the end there was less than half an hour left for the devolution issues, with only one speaker, cabinet office minister David Lidington.

Mr Blackford, who is granted two questions at PMQs after Mr Corbyn, told Ms May he was outraged at what had happened, saying: “The prime minister gave a commitment that she would treat Scotland as part of a union of equals. Yet last night she pressed ahead with a power grab in direct opposition to Scotland’s elected parliament.”

Under the vote following the brief session, powers “are being grabbed back and the MPs from Scotland were not given the courtesy of even debating it last night”, he said, adding: “It is a democratic outrage. The people of Scotland will not be disrespected by this parliament.”

‘Resume your seat!’

Mr Blackford ended his second question by demanding an immediate vote on devoting more time to debate the devolution issues. Mr Bercow said this could only happen after PMQs, prompting the deadlock, repeatedly yelling: “Mr Blackford, resume your seat!”

The chaos overshadowed another contest between Ms May and Mr Corbyn devoted to Brexit. The Labour leader began by mocking the PM over comments made by Boris Johnson at a dinner, in which he said Donald Trump might do a better job at delivering Brexit.

“When the prime minister met President Donald Trump last week, did she do as the foreign secretary suggested and ask him to take over the Brexit negotiations?” Mr Corbyn asked, bringing loud laughter in the Commons.

He later accused Ms May of presiding over a cabinet that is divided and “briefing against each other”.

He said: “And the prime minister has been left with no White Paper on which to negotiate; last week the transition period was delayed by a year in the space of 24 hours, and yesterday a deal with her backbenchers was reneged on within hours.”

Ms May replied by insisting it was Labour that was split over Brexit, also accusing the opposition of seeking to frustrate the referendum result. – Guardian