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Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): The Secretary of State will be aware of my long association with the

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district in which the community of Dunblane lies. When I spoke to my friends in Dunblane about attempting to make a statement here, they said, "How can one put into words the silent scream that went through the community of Dunblane yesterday?" Like the Secretary of Stateand my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton(Mr. Robertson), I have often shared in the joys of that dynamic community in the past. I am certain that I speak for everyone in the House when I say that we attempt to reach out to the people of Dunblane to offer to share some of the burden that has now been laid upon them.

In particular, I ask the House to send our condolences to families who have lost children and grandchildren, to the family and colleagues of the teacher who was murdered yesterday, and to the community which, as one of my friends from Dunblane said, has had the heart and soul torn from it in this terrible and violent tragedy.

I have been in constant contact with my friends and former colleagues in Dunblane yesterday and today, and they are already deeply touched by the messages sent by many people from all round the country, including those in Aberfan who have faxed messages to them.

Will the Secretary of State pass on to the Prime Minister the community's thanks that he will visit the town tomorrow, in a non-political, all-party manner, to carry the wishes of the House to them for a speedy recovery from this terrible tragedy?

Mr. Forsyth: The hon. Gentleman and I are sparring partners of old, but today we are united in our grief. I am sure that the people of Dunblane will appreciate his words today. In the Scottish Office, we have received telegrams and messages from all over the world. This is a tragedy that has struck a chord with parents everywhere, and the hon. Gentleman's remarks will be much appreciated by the people of Dunblane.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr): Will my right hon. Friend accept the great concern and good wishes of my constituents, from whom, over the past 24 hours, I have taken a number of calls? One of them, Mrs. Ray of Ayr, has asked me to suggest to the House that we stand for one minute's silence. Whether that is possible under the rules of the House, I am not sure; if not, perhaps what the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) suggested might be considered at a later date.

Mr. Forsyth: I am sure that all of us will find our own ways of recognising this tragedy--some in prayer, some by keeping silences, some by contemplating what has happened. I believe that the message from this House could not be clearer to the people of this country: we all share the grief that the parents who have lost children in Dunblane feel, and in their grieving we stand as one with them.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland): The moving expressions of tribute by the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) could not be bettered. They have spoken for the whole House, and I will not elaborate on them. I merely hope that what cannot be said will itself speak volumes. Many of us cannot put into words what we actually feel.

I welcome the appointment of such a distinguished judge as Lord Cullen. Can the Secretary of State confirm that his inquiry will have a wider remit than a fatal accident inquiry

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would? Obviously, we want the investigation to be as thorough as possible. Will it be possible to commence the inquiry in the not too distant future?

The Secretary of State has said that anything we say will be inadequate, but will he relay to his constituents on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends and of the people of the United Kingdom the thought that, although our words may be inadequate, we shall give the people of Dunblane what we can in terms of our love, support and prayers?

Mr. Forsyth: I agree with the hon. Gentleman's last sentiment. The hon. Gentleman is a lawyer, and as such he has the advantage of me, but he will know that, under Scots law, there has to be a fatal accident inquiry, usually led by the sheriff in the area concerned. The Lord Advocate and I felt that the circumstances surrounding this tragedy were so serious that it was right to have a senior and distinguished judge of Lord Cullen's rank to carry out the inquiry. We were extremely grateful to him for agreeing to do it so promptly.

If the House will permit me to, I should like to make a further statement on how the inquiry will be carried out once the Lord Advocate has had an opportunity to discuss with Lord Cullen his views on the matter, which are an important aspect of any consideration.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): Great grief is never great at talking; it is not words, but tears and a sob and a heartbreak. This House has today reflected that more than I have ever seen in the many years I have sat in it. When I heard about the tragedy, I thought of the text of scripture that says:

Today I think of those who weep for their children and cannot be comforted because they are not. That text comes from Old Testament prophecy and it holds out a great hope.

Over against the wickedness of this crime I hear the words of the Saviour, who said:

I trust that that faith and that hope will cast a beautiful rainbow over this terrible valley of tears.

I would associate the people of Northern Ireland in sympathy with the people of Dunblane. We have walked our valleys; we too have known the anguish; we too have felt the pain. Deep today calls unto deep from Northern Ireland to those who sorrow in Scotland.

Mr. Forsyth: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. If there is one hope for the future, it lies in the nature of the community of Dunblane. It is a strong, God-fearing community, well served by voluntary organisations. I am sure that they will rally round to meet this tragedy; but nothing we can say or do, or they can do in Dunblane, can remove what was done yesterday. I hope that there will never be another day when this House has to contemplate such an act.

Sir James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley): As one who had the privilege of visiting Dunblane only a few months ago, may I associate my hon. Friends with what has been said already? As the Prime Minister rightly said, at such

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a time words can be extremely inadequate. But we would all want the grieving families and all who have suffered to know that they will be very much in our thoughts and prayers in the coming days and weeks.

Mr. Forsyth: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Hamilton and I found that we could not find adequate words. We could only show solidarity with the community by being there and showing the people that we felt for them, as the hon. Gentleman and the House have done this afternoon.

Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood): My right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) have told the House that it and the country have united in horror and grief at what happened. On a practical point, is my right hon. Friend able to assure the House that he will tell us as soon as possible what the approximate timetable will be for the welcome inquiry by Lord Cullen?

Mr. Forsyth: Yes, I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. I am sure that he will understand that it is necessary for us to consult Lord Cullen before being in a position to do what my hon. Friend asks.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): May I convey the deep sorrow of the Scottish all-party children's group for the families and people of Dunblane? It is not that long since all the parties in this place co-operated in legislating for children in Scotland. The group very much welcomes the Secretary of State's promptness in instigating an inquiry, and Lord Cullen's acceptance of the task. I can only say now that I am sure that we shall all co-operate in any necessary future legislation or action that seems to be helpful following any of Lord Cullen's recommendations.

Mr. Forsyth: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I am aware of the interest that she takes in matters involving children's policy. I must say that it is hard to think of legislation that we could pass that would in its implementation act against the sort of irrational act of madness which we saw carried out yesterday.

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): I have three young daughters of primary school age, and my heart goes out to those who have been devastated by what happened yesterday. The Secretary of State will probably not be aware that that man Thomas Hamilton was running a youth club for primary children in Bishopbriggs in my constituency. I would be grateful if the Secretary of State were to ensure that Lord Cullen's inquiry will examine Hamilton's activities in my constituency.

Mr. Forsyth: I am sure that all Members, including me, will want to make available to the inquiry any information they have. I am sure that the proper place or stage at which these matters should be examined is during Lord Cullen's inquiry. I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing the matter to my attention.

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