Home Secretary James Cleverly gave his personal backing to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle despite criticism of his handling of a Gaza ceasefire debate.

The Speaker gained the support of the senior Cabinet minister even as he faced continued pressure to step down.

More than 70 MPs, more than a tenth of the Commons, have signed a motion proposed by senior Conservative William Wragg expressing no confidence in him after Wednesday’s SNP Opposition Day vote descended into chaos.

Sir Lindsay has apologised for his “mistake” and offered an emergency debate on the Scottish Nationalists’ motion calling for a ceasefire in a bid to calm their fury over their proposal being sidelined.

Mr Cleverly told Sky News on Friday: “I think the Speaker has done a fantastic job. I think he’s been a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor.

“He made a mistake. He’s apologised for the mistake.

“My view is that I’m supportive of him.”

Mr Cleverly stressed it was his personal view because the selection of the Speaker is “House business” rather than for Government ministers to decide.

James Cleverly
Home Secretary James Cleverly defended the Commons Speaker (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Rishi Sunak reiterated his view that Sir Lindsay’s choice over the Gaza debate was “concerning”, but suggested he was willing to draw a line under the episode by pointing to the Speaker’s apology.

During a visit to North Wales on Friday, the Prime Minister told reporters: “What happened in Parliament earlier this week was concerning.

“The usual ways in which Parliament works, the usual processes which govern how Parliament works, were changed.

“Now, the Speaker subsequently apologised for that and said that he made the wrong decision.”

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in Conwy during a visit to North Wales (Peter Byrne/PA)

Sir Lindsay’s explanation that he was motivated by concerns about MPs’ security has sparked further debate about the impact of threats and intimidation around the work of Parliament.

Mr Sunak on Thursday warned that it was a “slippery slope” to let “extremists intimidate us into changing the way in which Parliament works”.

Mr Cleverly echoed that by saying: “Members of Parliament and indeed elected officials through all layers of Government have got to act without fear or favour.”

His predecessor Suella Braverman went further, writing in Friday’s Daily Telegraph that the events of Wednesday had “undermined the integrity of Parliament”, adding: “The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now.”

Mr Cleverly said he did not “always agree with everything” Ms Braverman said.

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(PA Graphics)

“But it is absolutely the case that we must make sure that we crack down on extremist behaviour, it’s absolutely the case that we must not let our democracy be distorted through fear or intimidation,” he added.

If further signatures are added to Mr Wragg’s motion, Sir Lindsay will face additional pressure to go.

There is no formal procedure for removing a speaker, but in 2009 Michael Martin resigned from the post after it became clear he had lost the confidence of MPs across the Commons.

Some Conservatives have been reluctant to blame the Speaker for Wednesday’s events, instead pointing the finger at Sir Keir Starmer.

The Labour leader has denied suggestions he pressured Sir Lindsay into selecting a Labour amendment to the SNP motion in a bid to avert a potential rebellion by Labour MPs.

Sir Keir insisted he “simply urged” him to have “the broadest possible debate” by putting a number of options in front of MPs.