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Mr. Clarke: I am grateful for the wholehearted and powerfully expressed support of the Opposition. First, I appreciate the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman; they are in the spirit that I would expect. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman is right to pay tribute to the vast range of men and women who are working to keep the city working as it should at this time, and to their personal heroism and courage in often difficult circumstances. Thirdly, when I spoke to the Prime Minister this morning about this, he was keen to make it clear that his colleagues at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles were, first, sympathetic and supportive to us in this situation, and secondly, exactly as the right hon. Gentleman said, they feel that it is very important that the important work of the G8 is continued, and that is very strongly the Prime Minister's view. I want to express publicly my appreciation for the approach of the other Governments.
Let me respond to the right hon. Gentleman's specific questions. I can confirm that we have very detailed analysis of the situation in other cities. Information is going to police forces throughout the country. The Association of Chief Police Officers is represented in the Cobra meetings that I have been chairing, precisely in order to deal with the concerns that he expresses.
We will continue to provide public information in a very coherent way. It is difficultI will be candid with the Housebecause there are a large number of rumours and uncertainties going around, for perfectly understandable reasons; I make no criticism of that. As
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the right hon. Gentleman says, that means that it is incumbent on me as Home Secretary, and the Government as a whole, clearly to communicate what is fact and not get drawn down too many speculative routes. That is why I have kept my statement to this relatively short set of remarks.
I can confirm that we will be very happy to give a full statement to the House next week. As I discussed with you a moment ago, Mr. Speaker, if it is necessary to make further statements before next Monday as the situation evolves, I stand ready to do so.
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): This is a sombre moment for the House and for the country. Let me first, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, convey our condolences to the families and friends of those who have died and our sympathies to those who have been injured. I, too, acknowledge the magnificent response of the emergency services, who have once again displayed their professionalism and dedication.
There is an understandable temptation on these occasions to speculate and to attempt to draw early conclusions. Does the Home Secretary agree that that temptation should be resisted at all costs? Nothing would be worse than a rush to judgment based on incomplete information. It is inevitable in these matters that the primary responsibility will rest with the Government. In discharging that responsibility, they have our unqualified support.
Mr. Clarke: I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the very clear and strong support that he has given, with which I completely associate myself. His remarks about speculation are entirely correct. An immense wealth of speculation can go into these events, and my determination, even as early as the meetings this morning, is to ensure that our decisions are taken on the basis of what is known, not what is speculated about.
In response to both Front-Bench spokesmen, the community as a whole, in my opinion, should seek to respond to these events in a calm and considered waynot to rush to judgment, but to make a decision based on the information that we are able to give, when we are able to give it, about what has actually happened, rather than on the sometimes fevered remarks that can be made.
Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab):
I join my right hon. Friend and the other two Members who have spoken in condemning this terrible outrage, which has occurred partly in my own constituency, where people have been killed and injured. I join them in paying tribute to the emergency services. It would perhaps be right to note that when danger arises, while most of the rest of us run away from it, the police, the fire service, the ambulance service, transport staff and doctors and nurses run towards that danger to try to reduce it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that those people do that not because they seek any financial reward or incentive, but because they are motivated by the public service ethic and a sense of duty to their fellow citizens.
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Mr. Clarke: My right hon. Friend is entirely correct. As a former Secretary of State for Health, he knows better than most in this House of the extreme professionalism and preparedness of the health services to which he refers. The Secretary of State for Health, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt), and I have been keeping in close touch during the course of the morning, and she has had detailed accounts of what has happened that entirely substantiate the observations made by my right hon. Friend about the courage and commitment of those emergency services and of the other emergency services with which we are dealing.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): I should like to identify myself and associate my party and the people of Northern Ireland with what has been said. We salute those who have, in the midst of this trouble, taken it upon themselves to carry out their duties in such a patient and practical wayand in such a way as to have brought comfort, no doubt, to those whom they have sought to help.
I should like to ask one thing of the Home Secretary. Will he try, if he can, to ensure that the nearest of kin get the message first? In Northern Ireland in the early days of our troubles, the press, the media and other outsiders rang up homes and said, "We've rung to say how sorry we are that your brother has been killed", and the people did not even know that their brother had been killed. That brought extra pain and sorrow, as I am sure that the Home Secretary will agree. I know that he cannot ensure that that is done, but he can take steps to ensure that the attempt is made to do it, so that further sorrow will not be piled on existing sorrow.
On his question, yes, we will seek to ensure that the communication goes to the families directly. There is a well established procedure in place to try to ensure that that happens. It is a difficult process. Of course, I wish that I could guarantee that we would succeed on all occasions, but we will certainly do our very best.
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West) (Lab): The whole House will join me in unreservedly condemning this cowardly and calculated targeting of innocent civilians. Sadly, it is tragic proof that the warnings of terrorist attacks on London were not exaggerated; we can only wish that they were. The thoughts of the House, inevitably, are with the families of the casualties and the emergency services that are trying to help them.
It is too early at this stage to identify who is behind the attack. If any further information becomes available during the afternoon, will the Home Secretary consider making a statement at the end of business?
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Mr. Clarke: I will certainly consider making a statement at the end of business but, as I said earlier, we need to keep events under review to decide whether to do that. As you and I discussed, Mr. Speaker, I am certainly ready to do it, and we will see how the situation evolves as we go on. In response to the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), in all circumstances I am not only ready but keen to make a statement to the House on Monday to report on the situation.
It is important at this time to focus on doing our very best to support the public services in dealing with the situations that they are facing, and to be candid that is the centre of my attention. The issues that my right hon. Friend raises in terms of understanding what has happened and why it has happened will very quickly come to the forefront of our attention, as they rightly should, but at this moment, my focus with that my colleagues in the Cabinet, is on trying to ensure that we do our very best to deal with the situation that we face.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): On behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party, I offer our unqualified support to the right hon. Gentleman. In condemning these unspeakable and senseless acts of cowardice, I wish him well in his efforts to stem what has happened and to bring these awful perpetrators of violence to justice.
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