Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of being “the midwife of Brexit” after failing to call a no-confidence vote in the government.
The Labour leader tabled a motion calling on MPs to declare they have “no confidence in the prime minister due to her failure to allow the House of Commons to have a meaningful vote straight away” on the Brexit deal.
But the motion focuses on Theresa May personally rather than the government – meaning there is no statutory requirement for it to be debated and voted on.
Speaking during an emergency debate on the EU Withdrawal Agreement, Westminster SNP leader Ian Blackford said: “The leader of the opposition has become the midwife for Brexit.
“The leader of the opposition is letting the government off the hook – he has it in his gift to bring a forward a no confidence motion that will test the will of the House and, crucially, will allow his party to move onto the issue of a People’s Vote.
“Yesterday’s stunt was an embarrassment. The SNP and others sought to amend his motion and I am asking him to do what he spectacularly failed to do yesterday and bring forward a motion of no confidence in the Government.”
Tory former minister Sir Edward Leigh, raising a point of order, said: “The Fixed Term Parliament Act is absolutely clear that if Her Majesty’s Opposition table a motion of no confidence in the government an immediate debate has to be held and, indeed, if the opposition had tabled such a motion last night, we would now be discussing a motion of no confidence in the government.
“The problem for the leader of the Labour Party is that he does not want an immediate motion of no confidence because if, as is likely it was lost, he’d be forced by his party to go for a referendum, so they’re playing games.”
Speaker John Bercow, responding to an earlier point of order from shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz, said: “I should make it clear that there is a strong convention the government provides time at an early opportunity for a no confidence motion in Her Majesty’s Government if tabled by the official opposition, however, and this is important, no such convention applies in relation to this particular motion, which is not a conventional no confidence motion, so that’s where things stand.”
SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar), raising a further point of order about Labour’s confidence motion, said: “Is it possible for a backbench MP to table a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Opposition, given the mess they have made of tabling the motion of no confidence, confusing even their own backbenchers?”
“So, two motions of no confidence, one in the government and one in that lot over there,” he added.
Bercow responded by saying he was “not aware of any precedent for what he cheekily suggests”.
Tory former minister Anna Soubry, raising another point of order on the issue, said: “Have you had any communication from Her Majesty’s Opposition to assist them in the correct procedure and is it the case that you and your excellent clerks are always available to Her Majesty’s Opposition should they seek any information or advice on how to conduct themselves as a proper functioning opposition?”
Bercow responded: “The chair is always available to offer advice.”
Blackford ended by calling on the Labour Party to table a motion of no confidence in the government, saying: “Table the correct motion, do it today, the SNP stands ready to end this farce, to end this shambles.”
Brexit secretary Steve Barclay, responding, joked there had been “contradictions” from the beginning to the end of Blackford’s speech.
He said: “Members might be slightly forgiven for slightly having lost the train of his argument.”
Barclay, who faced heckling and numerous interventions as he tried to respond, added: “He went on to talk of honesty, now I don’t think particularly the way to demonstrate honesty, particularly to the young electorate of which he spoke, is to say to that electorate ‘we will give you a choice, we will respect that choice’ and then when that choice is delivered by the electorate, to then say ‘sorry, actually we’re not going to honour that’.”