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Helicopter Crash (Glasgow)

Volume 571: debated on Monday 2 December 2013

With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement to update the House on the crash of the helicopter in Glasgow on the evening of Friday 29 November.

As the House will be aware, at approximately 10.25 pm on Friday evening, a helicopter operated on behalf of Police Scotland crashed on to the roof of the Clutha bar in Stockwell street, Glasgow. It was reported that about 120 people were in the bar at the time of the accident. Police Scotland has overnight confirmed nine fatalities, including the pilot of the helicopter and the two police officers on board. A further 32 people were injured in the crash and 12 remain in hospital. Three of those casualties are being treated in intensive care, where their condition is described as serious but stable. The search of the building continues, and it remains possible that more casualties will be found.

I am sure the House will wish to recognise the outstanding work of the emergency services for the speed, professionalism and courage of their response on Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday. The police, fire and ambulance services all responded magnificently, working in difficult and dangerous circumstances. In particular, we should recognise that police officers had to deal with the deaths not only of members of the public, but of two of their colleagues, PC Kirsty Nelis and PC Tony Collins.

Some of the most remarkable stories of courage and selflessness from Friday night and Saturday morning have come from staff and customers of the Clutha bar and passersby who came to their assistance in the immediate aftermath of the accident. They responded with no thought for their personal safety. Hon. Members will know that among them was the right hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy), who happened to be one of the first on the scene. He is not in the House today, because he is in the Philippines in the course of his duties as shadow Secretary of State for International Development. He has been characteristically understated in describing his role, but I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that his response, which was instinctive, did him credit.

In addition to meetings with members of all three emergency services in the command centre this morning, I met Councillor Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow city council, at the city chambers, where I also signed the book of condolence. Glasgow city council will now take up much of the burden of caring for and comforting those affected by this incident.

My right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary has been in regular contact and his Department, through its air accidents investigation branch, now has the duty to investigate and report on the causes of the accident. Investigations of that sort are inevitably complex and can be lengthy. I know that all those affected will be looking for answers, but the gathering of evidence, especially at this early stage, will be vital to that investigation. I hope the police and other investigatory agencies will be given time and space to do their job. The House will also wish to know that there has been close contact between Her Majesty’s Government and the Scottish Government since the incident. The Prime Minister spoke to the First Minister on Saturday and offered any assistance from the emergency services or other agencies south of the border, should that be required.

Today, I wear a badge that was given to me this morning by Councillor Matheson. It reads simply: “People make Glasgow.” The response of the people who make Glasgow has demonstrated all the courage and character that has made that city famous throughout the world. We in this House, and the people we represent in communities throughout the United Kingdom, today stand in solidarity with the people of Glasgow as they mourn their loss and start to come to terms with their grief. People make Glasgow, Mr Speaker, and today I wear that badge with pride.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. This has been a dark weekend for Glasgow and our whole country. When we should have woken to celebrate St Andrew’s day on Saturday, we were instead met with unexpected tragedy, and when I attended mass on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition in St Andrew’s cathedral on Saturday, yards from the site, there was a real sense of shock.

I have lived all my life in Glasgow, and I know that when we hurt, we grieve together and we mourn together. Today, all Glasgow and all Scotland are united in grief. I echo the Secretary of State’s tributes to the nine people whose deaths have been confirmed, and the whole House joins together to send a message of deep sympathy to their loved ones. We also remember the people who are still being treated in hospital.

Today, with the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar), I visited the command centre in Glasgow to thank the representatives of the police, fire and rescue and ambulance services. Their response to this tragedy has been exemplary. We also thank staff in Glasgow’s hospitals who provided care and comfort to the injured and their families. I pay tribute to them and to those who are still at the Clutha Vaults bar leading the recovery. I also pay tribute to my right hon. and personal Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy), who assisted at the site on Friday night and was very moved in his television appearances. He has asked me to pass on his apologies today as he is on parliamentary business in the Philippines.

Our minds are still focused on those who died and suffered injuries, but we must establish what happened on Friday night to prevent such tragedies in the future. The Secretary of State noted in his statement that the air accident investigation has begun, and the deputy chief inspector of the air accidents investigation branch has said we can expect an initial report soon. Will the Secretary of State tell the House whether we can expect that report before Christmas?

Questions are beginning to be asked in Glasgow, and families and others need answers. Will investigations now under way cover the manufacture and operation of this helicopter, including the circumstances of the incident but also implication for its future and further use? I recognise that the Secretary of State has embraced a strong cross-party approach to this issue, which I appreciate. Will he continue the cross-governmental and cross-party work that I think has united our country in showing that, whatever divides us, in moments such as this, we are prepared to work together?

Finally, the Secretary of State indicated that Glasgow city council and the Scottish Government have already offered practical support to the residents of the city, particularly to those most involved. What support will the UK Government offer to Glasgow and to the families of the victims of the crash?

The whole city of Glasgow and the people across Scotland and the United Kingdom are joined together in grief and shock. It has been a dark weekend, but as we heard at the Church of Scotland sermon at Glasgow cathedral on Sunday:

“Darkness shall not snatch everything from us.”

I know the people of my city of Glasgow. Out of this weekend, I know that it is not the darkness that will live on; it is the spirit of the people who did not turn and run from the Clutha Vaults pub, but who ran towards the danger and worked arm in arm to lift men and women to safety. Out of this tragedy, that is the most powerful tribute.

I commend the hon. Lady for her response and for the approach that she has taken. We have been in close contact throughout the course of this weekend and I very much expect that to continue. If I may say so, the ability of the Government, the Opposition and the Scottish National party to work together is the very least we can do in these circumstances. To take any other approach would be wholly inappropriate, given the magnificent response we have seen from the people of Glasgow.

On the question of the early report of the air accidents investigation branch, it would be impossible to give any undertakings at the moment. I can say that the earliest possible publication of the interim report will be made. I very much hope that in the course of the investigation any information that can be supplied to the families will be supplied. Should there be any difficulties in that regard, my office, and I am sure the office of the Secretary of State for Transport will stand ready to address any issues.

On the support to be given by Glasgow city council, the council is best placed to deliver that support. It has all the facilities in the communities and knows best where to find the people who need assistance and comfort. I am in regular contact with the leader of Glasgow city council and I value the strength of the working relationship between his office and mine. I am confident that should there be need for assistance from Her Majesty’s Government in Westminster, he will not be slow in asking. We will do everything within our power to give him the assistance he needs.

On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I thank the Secretary of State for Scotland for his well-judged comments and for the content of his statement, which we all endorse completely. He and I share a strong empathy and ongoing attachment to the city, through the university of Glasgow. I am sure he and others will agree that the sentiment and sense of the song popular down the generations, “I Belong to Glasgow”, had a particularly poignant ring to it in the heart of every Scot around the world during this sad St Andrew’s weekend.

In rightly paying tribute to the emergency services and to ordinary citizens for what they have achieved, and are continuing to achieve, at considerable risk to themselves as a result of these appalling events, I ask my right hon. Friend to thank one other branch of public life that we, across the political spectrum, do not always praise in this House: the media. The broadcast media—BBC Scotland, in particular, but the commercial sector in Glasgow and the west of Scotland in general—and the print media have shown great responsibility and sensitivity to those involved, particularly to those who have lost loved ones. We hope that that will be maintained, and that the privacy of those who are having their loved ones returned to them will be respected in the future, too.

My right hon. Friend reminds me that he and I share the experience of having gone from the west highlands in our latter teenage years to be students at the university of Glasgow. I revisited my own time there recently and carry with me to this day fond memories of the warmth of welcome that was given to me and the strength of community I found as a west highlander arriving in Glasgow in the early 1980s. I am sure my right hon. Friend’s experience was the same, and I am certain that it is the strength of the community that has produced the remarkable response we have seen in the course of the last three or four days.

With regard to the self-denying ordinance of the media outlets, I think my right hon. Friend is correct to draw attention to the restraint exhibited thus far, and I am sure that he shares my hope that that approach will continue.

We will all have been shocked by the tragic scenes in my constituency at the heart of the great city of Glasgow on Friday night. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those individuals and families suffering at this really difficult time. Although we have seen the saddest of scenes, we have also seen the best of our citizens, with people not running away from the scene but running to it to help their fellow citizens—the perfect illustration of human kindness and human decency. I pay tribute to the brave men and women of our emergency services, who risk their own lives to protect the lives of others. We cannot even begin to thank them enough.

On behalf of the people of Glasgow, I would also like to thank people for the kind messages of support we have had from people right across the UK—whether it be from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester or London—all saying that this weekend “We were all Glaswegians.” Will the Secretary of State tell us what additional support his Government will give to the people affected by this incident to ensure that they get the love, care, support, and also the answers, that they need?

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who has been an exceptionally eloquent advocate for his constituents and community over the course of this weekend. As to his question about extra support, as I said earlier, if the leadership of Glasgow city council sees an opportunity for us to assist, I stand open to do so in any way, within our capability. I know that the city council leader will doubtless be in contact with us.

Like everyone else in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we are deeply saddened by what happened in Glasgow, which happens to be my father’s home town. Does the Secretary of State agree that, whatever happened to that helicopter, the pilot will have tried his level best to put it down safely and that it was probably a traumatic incident that disallowed him from putting it into the river or on a flat piece of ground?

The hon. Gentleman, of course, has a distinguished service history, which doubtless informs his views. Obviously, the purpose of having an air accidents investigation branch is to have people who can carry out these investigations. It would probably be ill advised of me at this juncture to speculate about the actual circumstances, which will doubtless become clear in the fullness of time.

I associate myself with the comments made across the House; my thoughts have clearly been with the emergency services, the victims and their families. Understandably, it is taking a lot of time safely and thoroughly to search the remains of the Clutha. Sadly, that leaves many families in limbo. Has the Secretary of State had assurances that the emergency services had all the equipment and expertise they required to ensure that no one was left alive in the Clutha in the immediate aftermath of the crash?

As I indicated in my statement, I understand that the search of the bar continues. The helicopter was removed from the roof while the hon. Member for Glasgow East (Margaret Curran) and I were at the command centre this morning—we were able to watch it happening. The ongoing investigation will, of course, require a very delicate and detailed search. I completely understand the difficulties and frustration that that will cause for many people who remain anxiously waiting for news of their loved ones. In the long term, however, what we all want is to get to the truth of the matter. I know from my former professional experience, having worked at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service early in my career, that the early stages of evidence gathering are the most important and can have a significant bearing on the ability to establish the cause of these incidents. I have no reason to believe—and nobody has suggested—that there was any under-resourcing of the emergency services operation. In fact, I would be astonished if that turned out to be the case.

The helicopter that came down so tragically has been described as a Scottish police helicopter. Will the Government, or the police, be able to add to any assistance that may be requested from Glasgow city council by helping Scotland to meet its operational requirement, either through the national service or with helicopters from England and Wales?

I understand that an offer of that sort has already been made, and that, in the meantime, cover is being provided from a variety of different loci until a replacement helicopter comes into service later this week.

I am sure that the Secretary of State will wish to join me in paying tribute to the chaplains of the police and fire and rescue services, the Rev. Neil Galbraith and Father Jim Thomson, who did an outstanding job in offering comfort and spiritual support not only to officers but to the families of victims.

Have the Government, or, indeed, the air accident investigators, a view in terms of risks versus value on the policy of requiring police helicopters to take part in routine air patrols over densely populated areas, rather than being deployed to deal with specific incidents?

I echo the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the chaplains. Today, I met social workers in Glasgow who have also been closely involved in giving comfort and counselling to those who need it, and I hope that they too may in time be able to avail themselves of any support that they may need. There is often a cost to those who have to give the counsel and the comfort, and not just to those who are most directly involved.

Use of the helicopter is an operational matter for the chief constable of Police Scotland, who would be accountable for his decision to the Justice Secretary in the Scottish Government.

I associate myself entirely with the remarks of both the Secretary of State and his shadow. Rescuing victims from collapsed buildings is an extremely complicated task, which in this case is being made far worse by the fact that a very heavy upside-down helicopter is on top of the rubble. A few years ago, through the fire service parliamentary scheme, I had the privilege of visiting the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh and observing the specialist training given to fire officers to enable them to go into collapsed rubble, locate victims and extract them. Does the Secretary of State agree that we are fortunate indeed to have in our United Kingdom some of the very best specialist skills in the world to deal with incidents such as this?

Indeed. Not only is there training of that sort, but rehearsals are conducted regularly by the city council, the various rescue services, the Procurator Fiscal Service, and all the other agencies. Since Friday night, we have seen the value of the work that is done in that regard. I am not familiar with the facility to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but in recent days we have observed the benefit of all the training that has been given to our emergency services.

As a Glaswegian, may I thank everybody for all their kind words, particularly the two Front Benchers? Perhaps a book of condolence in this place might not be a bad idea, so that we can show solidarity as a nation with the people of Glasgow.

The question of a book of condolence in this place would initially be a matter for the House authorities. It seems to me to be an entirely appropriate suggestion and anything I can do to assist it, I will happily do.

May I thank the Secretary of State for this very difficult statement and for allowing me early sight of it this afternoon? May I also join him, from these Benches, in paying tribute to the magnificent response from the emergency services? I do not think any of us will forget the deepening chill we felt on Friday evening as the true horror of these events became apparent. The response from the people of Glasgow to this tragedy has been nothing short of tremendous—people rushing to the scene of the accident instead of running away, the many instances of human kindness we have witnessed throughout the weekend, and the way this tragedy has united us and brought us together in adversity. Will the Minister join me in expressing gratitude to the people of Glasgow for the way they have responded and offer condolences to those who have been bereaved by this tragedy?

I have no hesitation in joining the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in expressing that view. What he says about the instances of human kindness in Glasgow is absolutely correct. In Glasgow this morning, I met police officers who told me about instances where colleagues of theirs simply going about their duty, or even off-duty, were approached by ordinary members of the public in supermarkets, on the street or wherever to simply ask how they were. At its most basic level, that is the sort of warmth and concern that typifies the people of Glasgow, and we have seen it at its best in the last few days.

May I join those who have offered their commiserations to the victims and their families and friends, and who have expressed their gratitude to the emergency services who contributed to responding to the sad events of this weekend? No one could have predicted that something like this would happen within 10 miles of my own constituency, with the appalling repercussions. I would like to add to the tributes and, if I may, I would like to express the view that public representatives from all backgrounds behaved impeccably, none more so than our right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy). It is both poignant and appropriate that he is now in the Philippines witnessing aspects of another terrible tragedy. Glasgow itself contributed magnificently to the appeal for the Philippines, because it is a kind-hearted and a great-hearted city, and it knows that this House will be with it in good times and in bad.

There really is nothing I can add to the comments concerning the right hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy). It struck me when the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) was speaking that his constituency and mine are just about as different as it is possible to get, but I am sure, knowing that helicopter incidents are by no means unknown in my constituency, that there would have been a shared experience and reaction to the news that broke on Friday night from Shetland all the way to the Mull of Galloway. It was something that united communities across Scotland.

On behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends, may I express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the bereaved and our best wishes for a speedy recovery to those who have been injured? May I tell the Secretary of State and the House that, given the very close bonds that exist between the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland in particular, this morning in the Northern Ireland Assembly all the parties and all their representatives stood together in paying tribute to the emergency services and offering their deepest sympathies and best wishes to the people of Glasgow and Scotland?

The right hon. Gentleman brings to our attention a very important aspect. The relationship between the west central belt of Scotland and Northern Ireland is a long and historic one which is not always the easiest, but it does bring with it links and connections that, at a time like this, are of great importance. It was for that reason that I was particularly pleased to receive a telephone call this morning from David Ford, the Justice Minister in Northern Ireland, expressing exactly the sentiments the right hon. Gentleman has just expressed.

The great cities of Liverpool and Glasgow stand together in times of adversity, and once again the people of my city stand shoulder to shoulder with those suffering loss, trauma or injury from the tragic events over the weekend. One of the lessons we have learned from disasters affecting our citizens is the need to provide ongoing counselling and support. Despite this being primarily a role for Glasgow city council, can the Secretary of State ensure that resources are made available, should they be requested?

On the ability of Governments, be it here or in Edinburgh—or at local government level in Glasgow—to provide the facilities that are necessary, that is the very least that can be done, given the magnificence of the response we have seen from the people. The need for counselling is well understood and appreciated—as I have seen from my own professional experience—even in relation to the investigation of a much less dramatic road traffic accident. Such incidents can change the life of the police officer or ambulance person who has to attend them. That is well understood.

As someone who has had the privilege of working and living in Glasgow, the humanity and heroism demonstrated by Glaswegians came as no surprise to me, but my constituents would want me to add their prayers and condolences to mine. It is a cliché but a none the less powerful one: Glasgow is a candle in the dark.

I fear that I may soon run out of superlatives when it comes to describing the behaviour of the people of Glasgow. I am sure that the hon. Lady’s words will have been heard in the city and very much appreciated.

In recent years I have become a regular customer in the Clutha Vaults. In fact, last Saturday afternoon I was scheduled to meet some comrades there. I say “comrades” deliberately, because it was that kind of place. On many a Saturday afternoon, I solved the world’s problems in the Clutha—only to wake up on a Sunday morning to discover they were still there.

Just recently, I met some firefighters in the Clutha Vaults who were expressing concern about the terms and conditions of their jobs. I hazard a guess that it was the same firefighters, and other emergency workers, who responded so quickly to what happened.

The first victim of the tragedy was a man from Paisley, Gary Arthur, and I am sure that the shadow Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander), will join me in passing on our condolences to Gary’s family. I want also to mention my right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy). He does not often frequent pubs, and I am sure he would be the first to admit that the Clutha Vaults would not have been on his list of priorities as a place to visit. But the important thing was that, although he could have driven by without anybody knowing, instead, he reacted. For me, that is a measure of the man.

Glasgow needs a Clutha, so I ask the Secretary of State to work with the commercial sector to rebuild the Clutha Vaults from the ashes, because Glasgow dearly needs it.

I was privileged to meet the owner of the bar in Glasgow city chambers today, by happenstance as much as anything else, and he described to me the quite magnificent bar that I have heard described by others, which was famous in the city for being friendly and welcoming and for providing some great music and other sorts of entertainment. In fact, that is what was happening at the point when disaster struck. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would have been an adornment to it, and, like him, I want to see it resurrected.

Naturally, our thoughts and prayers extend to the people of Glasgow at this time, including those who have lost loved ones or whose loved ones are injured in hospital. Inverclyde is sharing in Glasgow’s grief because we too have lost a member of our community. I speak of PC Kirsty Nelis, who lived in Inverkip in my constituency. Kirsty served with distinction as an officer in my constituency, and she had been commended for her bravery. Her family must be feeling a tremendous loss, and the community is grieving for her loss. She was well respected and a very good officer.

When I was at the command centre this morning, I briefly met Sir Stephen House, the chief constable of Police Scotland, who had come directly from meeting members of the families of the two officers who were killed. He was clearly very affected by that meeting, and it struck me that the police exist very much as a family. That is why I thought it appropriate to make reference in my statement to the fact that the police in Glasgow are dealing not only with the loss suffered by members of the public, but with the loss of members of their own community and family. For that reason, their response, at a professional and an emotional level, deserves recognition. I am sure that they will get all the support they need from their chief constable and other senior officers in coming to terms with their loss.

It was my privilege earlier this year to spend some of my police parliamentary scheme placement with the Police Scotland helicopter branch. Indeed, I spent time with colleagues of those who have sadly lost their lives. I saw at first hand the incredibly important work that the branch does in urban and rural areas, often saving lives. We should not forget that today. While the Secretary of State for Transport is still in his place, may I also make a point about the air accidents investigation branch? It has been pointed out that the branch has a large amount of work to deal with on other incidents as well as this one. Can the House be assured that all the resources and support that the branch needs will be forthcoming?

Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. Should he have any concerns about that at any stage, I would ask him to come directly to me or to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to let us know about them.

I echo all the sentiments of condolence that have been expressed so far. My constituents from West Lothian in east Scotland, and from the Falkirk district of central Scotland, share the sense of shock at this tragedy that was thrust with violence into the scene of celebration at the Clutha Vaults in Glasgow on Friday night. We also share the appreciation of and pride in the courageous response of the citizens. In fact, I saw a clip on television in which I was sure I could see my right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy) in the doorway of the pub, handing people out who had been injured. The people who helped in that way did so without regard to the danger to themselves. I also pay tribute to the ongoing work of the police and rescue services.

Will the Secretary of State make every effort to ensure that the full information is given at the earliest opportunity to the families of the injured and deceased, including to the families of those who were missing for some time? I say that because I had a close family member who was involved in the terrible tragedy at Dunblane, and the lack of information at the time caused a great deal of hurt and anger. Will he also pass on to the editor of one Scottish newspaper what I hope will be the unhappiness of the House at the distasteful suggestion in his paper today that an act of malice involving a laser pen might have been part of the cause of the tragedy? That suggestion is distasteful and should be deprecated.

Speculation at this stage of the proceedings serves no purpose, and I absolutely deprecate any suggestion of the kind that the hon. Gentleman has just outlined. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Mr Kennedy) said earlier, the media response so far has, by and large, been responsible and commendable, and I hope that that will continue.

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of passing information on to the families most directly concerned. I do not like coming back constantly to my professional experience, but I know how important that is because I have been there and seen the difference that that flow of information makes to families who are having to come to terms with their grief and loss. However, all the professionals must strike a balance between providing information at an early stage and providing information that they can be sure is accurate. That is not an easy balance, but I am sure it will be met by the air accidents investigation branch and the members of the Procurator Fiscal Service in the west of Scotland, who will doubtless have, at some stage, to conduct a fatal accident inquiry into this matter.

This follows on from the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (Pamela Nash). I know that the Secretary of State appreciates the frustration and distress of families who were waiting over the weekend for news of their missing relatives, so can he provide an assurance that the search and rescue and recovery operation, which clearly was undertaken with great professionalism, was carried out as quickly as possible? If he is not in a position to give that assurance just now, will he do so at some point?

What I can tell the hon. Lady is that that was very much at the heart of the discussions that the hon. Member for Glasgow East and I had with senior police officers at the command centre today. They must be scrupulous in the way in which they follow protocol, because, obviously, the consequences of their getting it wrong would be simply unthinkable. However, I can give the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle) the assurance that they very much understood the importance of getting information out to families at the earliest possible opportunity.

First, may I add my condolences to the friends and families of those who have lost their lives? Many years ago, along with the then convenor of police in Strathclyde, Jimmy Jennings, I fought hard for the maintenance of the helicopter service, so I would not want any possibility of a knee-jerk reaction grounding of these pieces of kit. As someone who has operated with that piece of kit, I can tell the Secretary of State that it is the best piece of kit that any police force can have. I would not want any knee-jerk reaction to ground any of the helicopters, even though this is the third accident within Strathclyde.

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that in other parts of the United Kingdom that helicopter remains in service. It is a helicopter that is widely used not just in this country, but elsewhere in the world, for this very sort of work—for police, ambulance service and other sorts of work. I might be wrong, but I think I am correct in saying that the Scottish ambulance service continues to use this same helicopter. Obviously, should the investigations of the AAIB disclose something that would require it to be grounded, I am certain that it would be. It is not that long since, on the same precautionary principle, there was a grounding for a very short period, which would be appropriate.

My mother and father grew up in the Gorbals area of Glasgow. They said it was where they learnt the meaning of the word “community”, and my goodness we have seen the strength of that community since the awful events of Friday. I am aware that the Secretary of State has had the opportunity to sign a book of condolence in Glasgow. May I add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (John Robertson) in asking for a book of condolence to be opened here too, so that not only members in this place and the other place, but the whole Westminster community has the opportunity to send their condolences to all those people whose lives were shattered on Friday night and to express our admiration for that sense of community, and our gratitude and respect for the emergency services?

As I said to the hon. Member for Glasgow North West, I very much welcome the idea, but it is a matter for the House authorities. Should there be any difficulty with that, I would be more than happy to make Dover house available for the same purpose.

Just before I call the hon. Gentleman, I simply mention that I have heard what has been said and I can see no difficulty whatever with the idea. It makes a great deal of sense and should be capable of being introduced without delay. My understanding from past precedent is that ordinarily such a book of condolence would be lodged in the Library, and that might suit Members. An alternative might be that it could be lodged in my office. If we are agreed on the principle, it is simply a case of facilitating it in practice, and I will attend to that.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear!

Mr Cunningham: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

On behalf of the people of Coventry, may I offer our condolences and support to the people of Glasgow? Coventry is no stranger to these situations, as we have seen from the war. More importantly, about 15 or 16 years ago, an aircraft came down on a Willenhall council estate and killed five people. Anybody who has experienced such an accident, particularly if they are an MP or a member of the public, will know that it is very traumatic and that it takes a long time to recover from, so the area needs all the help that it can get.

I will, if I may, tie the hon. Gentleman’s comments to your own, Mr Speaker. It is apparent that this is a shared experience. Across the United Kingdom, there are communities that have suffered loss and grief from similar such incidents. I know from the conversations I had with police officers in Glasgow this morning that they have been contacted by officers from other parts of the country. It is clear that the incident affects the whole of the United Kingdom. It is not for me to suggest how the House authorities make such decisions, but as a Member of this House, I personally would be very pleased if they were prepared to proceed in such a way.

I thank the Secretary of State and colleagues both for what they have said and for the way in which they have said it.