I know this is an issue that people on both sides care passionately about.
As parliamentarians it is our job to be honest with our constituents, not to offer the false comfort afforded by the path of least resistance but to vote for the best route to lasting peace. That is what my Labour Party colleagues and I have done and will continue to do.
As you may have seen, in Parliament on Wednesday, MPs voted on a number of amendments to the King’s Speech relating to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Labour Party's amendment included particular mention of the need of longer and sustained pauses to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid on a scale that begins to meet the desperate needs of the people of Gaza. It also called on Israel to protect hospitals and lift the siege conditions to allow food, water, electricity, medicine, and fuel into Gaza. I voted in favour of this amendment as I believe it is the best and, more importantly, most-achievable way to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.
However, the amendment which received the most attention was the one tabled by the SNP, calling for an immediate ceasefire. This amendment was not passed – largely due to the lack of tangible steps set out within it on how to achieve this – an issue which many others calling for an immediate ceasefire have also faced.
I could not support this amendment for a number of reasons, not least the fact that Hamas has already broken an existing ceasefire with Israel when they unleashed the barbaric attack on innocent Israelis on 7 October, taking hundreds of them hostage, and have confirmed their intention to repeat this atrocity "again and again".
That being said, and as someone who has personally witnessed the horror of conflicts around the world, and has previously visited Israel and the West Bank, I emphatically believe in the importance of upholding international law. Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas and a duty to do so, but it also has an absolute responsibility to do so within international law. There are no exceptions to this, and it is my fundamental belief that it must be followed unequivocally, at all times, by all parties.
I want to emphasise that I am horrified by the rising number of civilian casualties in Gaza, particularly children, the desperate situation in Gaza's hospitals, and the humanitarian catastrophe throughout the Gaza Strip. Of course, we all want this suffering to end, but we also have to be honest in explaining that a vote on an SNP amendment in the House of Commons cannot and will not achieve this.
Humanitarian pauses are the quickest and most-achievable way of ensuring vital aid gets to those who desperately need it, and provide a means towards bringing this conflict to an end. That is what my Labour Party colleagues and I will continue to urgently work towards in order to prevent further suffering for the people of Palestine and the Israeli hostages.