Commons Diary: Lindsay Hoyle
Deputy speaker of Parliament Lindsay Hoyle reflects on the week in which Parliament's security was breached.
On Monday I attended the Home Affairs Select Committee with the Parliamentary Security Director to give evidence on hate crime against Members of Parliament. At the meeting I provided a stark update on the work the Consultative Panel on Parliamentary Scrutiny which I chair. The panel was initially established to explore and respond to the growing threat – physical or online – against elected officials.
Less than a year ago colleagues watched in horror as news broke that our colleague and friend Jo Cox MP had been murdered whilst holding her weekly advice surgery. A vital function of our parliamentary democracy.
I suspect that for Jo, that fateful day in June started in much the same way as it did for PC Keith Palmer on Wednesday. Both had families they loved, both had children for whom the morning routine – breakfast and baths – were as familiar as speaking in the House of Commons or bravely guarding Parliament. In this, they echoed millions of families across the country.
So too, the regularity of the parliamentary schedule provides calmness and comfort at Westminster. It helps us navigate the hectic nature of the parliamentary session.
This comfort and security was brutally shattered on Wednesday afternoon.
To sit as deputy speaker is a privilege and comes with responsibilities. But there is none greater than maintaining the security of the chamber and the estate.
I received the news from the clerk and suspended the House. It was news I had dreaded but always knew could come. I have been in the House since 1997 and I know that Westminster has borne the burden of terrorism before. But for us on Wednesday it felt different. It was personal. The village in which we live and work was attacked; and our village policeman was murdered.
A week on, we now know that the attack was over in just 82 seconds, the attacker acted alone, albeit inspired by Islamic Fundamentalism it was not part of a wider assault.
We also know that our defences did hold, Khalid Masood was overcome and the estate was secured. Defences held thanks to the bravery of so many but ultimately the courage of PC Palmer, who ran unarmed towards the attacker, without thought for his own safety. PC Palmer was doing his job, holding the line and in doing so he protected us all.
Outside the chamber there was fear and confusion – it would be glib to suggest otherwise and to overlook the terrifying experiences of members, House staff, press and our parliamentary staff; all of which work together from different walks of life.
I know from the chamber and from colleagues that gentle acts of kindness right across parliament helped people get through the attack.
Outside of parliament, on Westminster Bridge – a bridge that throngs with tourists from across the world – there were further acts of humanity as passers-by tended to the injured as doctors from St Thomas’ Hospital ran to treat people from as far away as the United States and as close to home as a Lancashire college.
On Thursday, the comfort of the parliamentary routine returned, Business Questions followed by a session in the chamber with the prime minister speaking for the nation. After this, brief but raw meeting, colleagues returned to work.
Over coming weeks we will undertake an extensive feedback exercise from all involved. Lessons will be learnt. I encourage everyone to respond frankly and honestly; and to continue talking to each other as we come to terms with last week’s tragic events.
Counselling is also available to all. Practical help is available from PSD for guidance on security away from the estate. One immediate lesson is that all passes must be worn.
I was immensely proud on Wednesday, proud of the kindness and compassion shown by those in fear, proud of the unquestionable heroism of PC Palmer who paid the highest price for defending us.
Lindsay Hoyle is Labour MP for Chorley and deputy speaker of the House of Commons