The terrorist attack in Westminster on Wednesday last week murdered the lives of innocent people in the name of an undefined cause. Once again, people’s response to those tragic events as they unfolded showed Britain at its best.
At 2.40pm that afternoon I was walking, along with a group of around 20 MPs to vote in a division in the House of Commons on the Pensions Bill, which had just been called. On this occasion it involved making my way from my office in Portcullis House, through the underpass towards the Palace of Westminster and then into the cloister which runs along east side of New Palace Yard. As we walked along the cloister, there was suddenly very loud shouting coming from a location which was just out of site, followed by the sound of three gun shots. First response armed policemen then arrived immediately on the scene and yelled to all us in the cloister to get down on the ground. We unquestionably did as we were instructed, and after a short time were then told to get up and to go back to Portcullis House.
In a few seconds a scene that was perfectly normal had been transformed by the actions of a terrorist. From my position at that moment in time, it was clear that something terrible had happened, but we didn’t know exactly what it was, or whether there would be any further attacks. In that situation you must admire the bravery and professionalism of the first response police officers whose actions stopped the attack in New Palace Yard. At the first sign of danger, they run towards it in order to protect the lives of others.
An unarmed police officer, PC Keith Palmer, was murdered as he tried to stop the attacker at the gates of the Palace of Westminster. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family in their grief. The other officers who arrived and acted at the scene, saved lives and did their duty without a thought for how great the danger would be. There were then the emergency services who responded magnificently, including the paramedics who ran across Westminster Bridge from St Thomas hospital to come to the aid of the victims of the attack. My parliamentary colleague, Tobias Ellwood, who was one of the first people to arrive at the scene in New Palace Yard, after the attack, instinctively used his military training to try and save the life of PC Keith Palmer.
The attack on Westminster Bridge that had occurred moments before was particularly cruel and indiscriminate. At that time of the day, the bridge is full of people, mostly international visitors and Londoners going about their routine business. The casualties of the attacker included tourists, students, and a mother going to collect her young children from school.
The following day, I joined MPs in the chamber of the House of Commons, as we held a minute’s silence for the victims of the attack. Terrible though the events on Wednesday had been, it was important for us to pay our respects, and show that our way of life and our parliamentary democracy, cannot be halted by the actions of a terrorist.