House of Commons
MPs have agreed to recognise PalestineParliament.gov

The House of Commons has backed a motion to recognise Palestine as an independent state by a large margin of 274 votes to 12.

The motion, put forward by Labour MP Grahame Morris with an amendment by Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary, stated: "That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two state solution."

Although the motion is symbolic - the government says it won't change diplomatic relations in the short term - Morris said he put the motion forward in a bid to clear the current impasse between Palestine and Israel in the wake of the latest war in Gaza, in which over 2,100 people died, mostly Palestinians.

palestinian parkour
A Palestinian youth practices his parkour skills on the ruins of houses that were destroyed during the seven-week Israeli offensive, in the Shejaia neighbourhood of Gaza City(Reuters)

The motion was divisive within the House, with MPs from all sides having equally strong views. Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior Ministers abstained from voting following the six hour debate.

The prime minister's spokesman said ahead of the debate: "The government's position is very clear and hasn't changed, so I think that is a very clear indication of the British government's approach. The government's approach is a long-standing one and is in support of a two-state solution and we will continue to work with a range of international partners - Israel, the Palestinian Authority - in support of that."

However former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind was more scathing about the motion: "You do not recognise a state which has not yet got the fundamental ingredients that a state requires if it's going to carry out its international functions and therefore, at the very least, I would respectfully suggest this motion is premature."

Some Labour MPs were said to be furious with leader Ed Miliband after he demanded Labour MPs present at the debate vote in favour of the motion. Some Labour MPs, including Ian Austin, Louise Ellman and John Woodcock, are strongly pro-Israel.

Meanwhile the maverick MP George Galloway stayed away from the debate, because it also recognised the state of Israel. During the recent conflict he declared: "We reject this illegal, barbarous, savage state that calls itself Israel. And you have to do the same."

In 2012 at the UN general assembly 138 countries voted to award Palestine "non-observer" member status. Britain was one of 40 countries which abstained.