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House of Lords Hansard
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23 March 2017
Volume 782

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My Lords, I want to say a few words on behalf of the House in response to yesterday’s tragic events. People from all over the world visit our capital city and this iconic building, the centre of our democracy. As is already beginning to become clear, the horror of yesterday’s events will be felt not just in this country but across the globe. We know that victims included citizens from Romania and South Korea and children from France on a school trip.

What yesterday’s rapid and effective response has shown is that the Metropolitan Police, the fire service, the ambulance service and the staff of both Houses have been well prepared for such a terrible event.

Yesterday was a shocking day for everyone who works within the Palace of Westminster, but what has shone through is the support and care that Members and staff showed for each other. I would like to thank all noble Lords for their patience and co-operation as events unfolded. All of us join together to extend our heartfelt sympathy to those who have tragically lost their lives, those who have been injured, and to their families. The thoughts of the whole country will be with them.

I am sure that all noble Lords will also want to join me in expressing our admiration and gratitude to the police and the security staff who selflessly put our safety before their own each and every day, especially those injured during yesterday’s devastating events. It is a reminder to us all of the risks they take in order to protect us and members of the public. In particular, our thoughts are with the family and friends of PC Keith Palmer. We will never forget his bravery and sacrifice.

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My Lords, I endorse the Leader of the House’s comments. After the numerous meetings we had yesterday, I also thank her for the personal leadership that she has shown. I also thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds for leading us in Prayers today. I think all of us feel the need to join in collective recognition of what London and our country have faced.

Last night as we returned home we were very grateful—not just because of the shocking and tragic events of the day but simply because we could return home and others would never do so. As the noble Baroness said, those injured and killed on Westminster Bridge were visitors and locals of our great global city. They were just going about their everyday business and enjoying their day. For many of the survivors, life will never be the same.

Each and every day, our police and security staff come to work not knowing what challenges and risks they may face. We all hope for the best—but their training, experience and commitment prepares them for the worst. They never know when they will be called upon to protect the public and those who work in the Palace of Westminster—and, indeed, protect the very home of our parliamentary democracy and all that it represents.

In doing so, police officer Keith Palmer lost his life. Every instinct he had was to protect others. There are no words that can do justice to the sense of loss felt by his family and friends, and by everybody across the Palace of Westminster—his parliamentary family.

In the Statement that follows we can perhaps look forwards to some of the wider issues, but now our thoughts are only for those affected in any way yesterday. It is hard to express the level of gratitude and appreciation due to all of those involved in the security and care operation. We pay tribute to the police, the medical and ambulance services, those staff at St Thomas’ who ran out to help those on Westminster Bridge, the fire and rescue service, our own Westminster security staff, and all staff and members of the public who sought to support those affected by these truly shocking events. In the worst of circumstances, they have given their best.

Lives have been lost and some lives will never be the same. Friends and families will share the pain and distress, as do we.

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My Lords, I begin by associating myself with the remarks made by the Leader and the Leader of the Opposition. From these Benches, our thoughts and prayers are also with the families of those who lost their lives yesterday and our profound sympathies are with the innocent victims—members of the public who were on Westminster Bridge and also subject to this senseless attack.

I of course also pay tribute to PC Keith Palmer, who lost his life yesterday—an extremely brave man—and to all the police and security staff who do so much every day to protect all who come to Parliament to work or visit. I also pay tribute to all those from the emergency services who attended the scene yesterday and who worked with such bravery and professionalism. In particular, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Thomas of Winchester and others, I thank those who helped Members of your Lordships’ House who are disabled and who needed particular help in being taken to a place of safety. Finally, I thank the Dean of Westminster Abbey and his staff, who opened their doors as a place of sanctuary to MPs, Peers and staff.

This morning we stand together against those who want to diminish our democratic freedoms. We are an open, tolerant country and we will never let those who spread terror and fear win—and we will not let them divide us.

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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, has reminded us, many of us were taken to the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey or to Westminster Hall as events unfolded yesterday afternoon. The Dean of Westminster invited those in the Abbey to join him in a prayer for the deceased, the injured and their families. Such information as we had at that stage gave us little idea of the enormity of what had happened—of the horror and brutality of the attack—until we saw the reality later on television. We on these Benches join with everyone else in this House in expressing our deepest sympathy to the family of PC Keith Palmer, so tragically taken from us as he sought to deter the attacker.

We remember, too, the families and friends of the members of the public who were killed and all those who were injured, including the students from France whose visit to our city was so devastated by what happened. The fact that the incident did not develop into something very much worse owes much to the teams of security personnel and police officers who guard us every day. Like others, I pay tribute to their courage and dedication as we seek to follow their example of standing firm against attacks of this kind, from wherever they may come. I pay tribute, too, to others in the security services up and down the country who work so hard in the service of this country’s peace and security. For that, amid so much sadness, we must all be grateful.

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My Lords, I associate myself with the thanks and tributes paid today, and especially our prayers and thoughts for PC Keith Palmer and for his family. I also acknowledge the work of so many members of the public who pitched in and did what they needed to do when faced with things for which they had never been trained or prepared. Yesterday afternoon one of our own security staff at Lambeth Palace, a Muslim, arrived at the gate having been very narrowly missed by the vehicle and having spent time helping those who had been injured. It was typical of this community and this country that he refused to go home until the end of his shift and simply spent the time doing his job as he expected.

This was typical of so many in this city, including the emergency services who contained the incident within six minutes and the staff at this extraordinary place who give so much of themselves on both normal occasions and extraordinary occasions. Especially in our hearts today are those who wait at bedsides, who are suddenly caught up in things for which they could never have been prepared and which they never expected. Our prayers continue for them on this day. Much shock has been expressed, but we know from the reactions we saw yesterday that we have the strength to persevere through it. We will talk more generally about that later.

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My Lords, perhaps I may add my condolences to those already expressed today to those affected by these tragic events. A book of condolence has been placed in the Royal Gallery and in Westminster Hall. The usual channels have agreed to take the Statement on yesterday’s events before Questions. Before that Statement I reassure the House that the House of Lords Commission, which I chair, and our Commons counterpart will be reviewing with the police and other stakeholders the arrangements in Parliament relating to yesterday’s incident to see whether there are any lessons for the future. Above all, I reiterate the thanks of this House to those who work to protect us, and the others who work in Parliament, for their brave actions yesterday to keep us safe.