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Prevention of Illegal Protests

Volume 701: debated on Monday 18 October 2021

I will pay my tribute shortly to our dear friend Sir David, but before I respond to the question, I want to echo your words, Mr Speaker, by saying that his killing is a terrible and sad moment in our history. It is an attack on our democracy and an appalling tragedy, and we are all thinking of David and Julia and their family. I also want to echo your words about our dear, dear colleague James Brokenshire, the Member of Parliament for Old Bexley and Sidcup, who bravely battled cancer over the past year. James, Cathy and their children are in all our thoughts.

In response to question No. 1, these protests are extremely dangerous. They have caused great economic harm and caused misery and distress to the law-abiding public. They have also prevented members of the public from going about their daily business.

On Friday we saw the worst type of illegal protest, when my good friend was stabbed as he did his job. Mr Speaker, I hope to catch your eye later and give my own tribute to this most excellent fellow, and I thank you for making this possible. Sadly on this occasion it was one of our colleagues, but will the Government review how we can help to keep safe all those who work in public-facing roles?

I echo the words of my hon. Friend. Of course we have a duty and a responsibility, and there is a great deal of work taking place right now with Mr Speaker and with police forces across the country to do exactly that. There will be further updates over the next few days, particularly for Members of Parliament but also for wider public protection.

Of course, I also pay tribute to Sir David Amess. I never managed to persuade him to support gay marriage, but he always asked after my husband. I think that was the character of the man.

The difficulty is in judging the boundary between legal and illegal protests, because some people who protest online think vile abuse is perfectly justifiable. We seem to have developed a toxic way of doing politics. How do we simply change it so that we become a bit more like Sir David and, for that matter, a bit more like James?

The hon. Gentleman captures the mood of the nation on the discourse we have in public life. Clearly we see far too much cruelty in the online space, and we all have a responsibility and a duty to work together, which is part of the solution here. In this place, in public life and in politics, I would use one word: respect.