PMQs: Caroline Lucas takes Rishi Sunak to task over Gaza ceasefire

'What will it take for him to back a permanent, bilateral ceasefire?'

Caroline Lucas speaking at PMQs

Rishi Sunak faced MPs in parliament today at the latest Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). He fielded questions from the Labour leader Keir Starmer on the Rwanda scheme and the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn on the cost of living crisis.

But one of the most dramatic moments in the exchanges came as a result of a question from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. She asked Sunak “what will it take for him to back a permanent, bilateral ceasefire?”

Speaking in the House of Commons, Lucas said: “Until the UK government calls for an immediate ceasefire, it is complicit in Gaza. Not my words, but those of the head of Oxfam, who like every single agency trying to operate on the ground is clear: that aid can’t be effectively delivered while fighting continues. More UK aid is, of course, welcome, but even when it does get through, it can result in what one Palestinian aid worker calls ‘bombing us on full stomachs’.

“24,000 people have already been killed. So can he tell us what will it take for him to back a permanent, bilateral ceasefire?”

Sunak responded by saying that he wanted to see a “peaceful resolution to this conflict”, and that a ceasefire would “of course be the best way forward”. However, he said that in order for this to happen, “Hamas would have to agree to release all the hostages, Hamas would no longer have to be in charge of Gaza and the threat of more rocket attacks from Hamas into Israel would have to end, and the Palestinian Authority – boosted with assistance would need to return to Gaza in order to provide governance and aid.”

Lucas later said that in his response Sunak “abdicated all responsibility – again”.

In November 2023, MPs voted on whether to call for a ceasefire. The vote fell, but 125 MPs voted for it.

The following month, the United Nations General Assembly voted for a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. 153 of the 193 members of the UN voted for the resolution, with the UK abstaining. Aid agencies including Oxfam and Action Aid have also called for a ceasefire.

In the more than 100 days since Israel’s assault on Gaza, more than 24,000 people have been killed and almost 2 million Palestinians have been displaced. The astonishing death toll means that one in every 100 people in Gaza have been killed.

As a result of the siege and assault on Gaza, UN human rights experts have warned: “Currently every single person in Gaza is hungry, a quarter of the population are starving and struggling to find food and drinkable water, and famine is imminent. Pregnant women are not receiving adequate nutrition and healthcare, putting their lives at risk. In addition all children under five – 335,000 – are at high risk of severe malnutrition as the risk of famine conditions continues to increase, a whole generation is now in danger of suffering from stunting”.

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

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