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Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I thank the Government and, from these Benches, congratulate the Metropolitan Police and the public services on their swift and effective response. I saw it myself. I was at Edgware Tube station when the bomb went off this morning. It is still ringing in my ears, but it is going.
I ask the Minister again, subject to the protection of the public, to try as much as possible to minimise the disruption to the life of this great city and nation. As he said himself, we have to show that those who explode bombs have not succeeded.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for the comments of the noble Lord. We will give as much accurate information as we can, as quickly as possible.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the prayerful concern, sympathy and support from these Benches for all the casualties, and our absolute support and appreciation for the work of the security services? Will the Minister join me in assuring our friends and partners in other faith and minority communities in the cities of this country that we will do all in our power to ensure that nothing disrupts or undermines the trusting relationships that we have established, and the social cohesion that is so vital to all our people in the days ahead?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for the remarks of the right reverend Prelate. It is quite clear that, as we sit here, in parts of London there are people working to save lives in Underground stations. We know what is going on. We send them, and all the families who are incredibly worried, our best wishes.
On this point, however, the perpetrators are going to find out that we are not many communities: we are actually one community. That is the message they will get from this.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, in sharing the sentiments which have already been expressed around the House, I invite the Minister to share the opinion that we must digest any lessons of this incident with care and calm, and not in a hurry.
Above all, I invite the Minister to agree, on behalf of the Government, that any legislative response to what has occurredand there may well have to be oneshould be considered rather than hasty, and founded on evidence rather than reaction.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for the remarks of the noble Lord. Whatever we do will be proportionate to what is actually needed to combat the threat.
Lord Bhatia: My Lords, it is always very distressing to hear about terrorist attacks, no matter where they take place or who carried them out. Innocent lives being lost must be distressing to all of us, in Britain and elsewhere.
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I should like to share with your Lordships what I have gone through since this morning. As I was driving through Westminster, I heard on the radio that there was a terrorist attack. The first news came in that it was at Liverpool Street station. I have an office in the City, right opposite Liverpool Street station.
My first concern was for my staff. I know that three of my staff members were coming into Liverpool Street station at about that time. My staff is composed of non- ethnic and ethnic minorities working in my office. It took me an hour to track them down. One had arrived, two others could not be found. My telephone was engaged for one hour. While that was going on, a number of calls from my family had been made to me on my mobile phone. My daughters and my son-in-law were all concerned about my safety, and they could not get me on the phone.
Once I had finished talking to my office, I finally telephoned my family members and was told that all was well. The first concern after that was to send my staff back home as quickly as possible and close the office. As I speak, I hope that that has taken place.
I have a bigger concern, however, for all of us. We have seen and heard what happened after 9/11. There was a terrible backlash on the ethnic minority communities and the Muslim community, which is part of the ethnic minority communities living in this country. We have lived with this for the past three years. Those attacks, verbal and physical, have abated slightly, but there is still a flavour of what goes on in the wider society. There are extremists in our communities, in our country, who will take the first opportunity to attack ethnic minorities if they can.
The Prime Minister was quick to deal with terrorism from Islam immediately after 9/11. I give credit to the Government and to the Prime Minister for having probably saved quite a few lives immediately after 9/11. I hope that the Government this time round will also send a powerful message to the white communities in this country to make sure that the ethnic minorities in the UK are properly protected and looked after by all necessary forces of law. I also hope that the Government will able to track down these terrorists, few that they are, and take them to law and that all processes of law are taken against them.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's contribution, but I repeat what I said: it is best not to feed the speculation. We do not know who is responsible. Whoever is responsible will find out that they will not disrupt our way of life. They will not divide us. We are one community in this country: it is our way of life. That is the key thing: we are not divided on this, but we should not feed the speculation about who or which organisations might have been responsible.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I associate myself with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, in expressing complete outrage at the fact that we have suffered terrorist incidents in this city. I completely concur with the Minister's views on the fact that we are one community. We are indivisible as we
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extend our heartfelt condolences to all people of all faiths and communities who live in London, many of whom are among the very emergency services that are saving lives as we stand here today.
I concur with the Minister in not encouraging speculation and I wonder whether the Government have used such influence as they have with the media to encourage them not to do so in order to reduce any possibility of intercommunal tension at this difficult time.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is seductive, but part of our free society is that the Government do not tell the media how and what to report. They are responsible; they are doing their job informing people, but we must not feed the speculation or change our way of life because of that.
Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former managing director and chairman of London Underground. I join the whole House in extending my sympathy to members of the public and the emergency services, but also ask that we think of the men and women in London Underground today and over the next days and weeks. They would have been present when the bombs went off and would have been expected to move into carefully prepared programmes of reaction. At every level from the most junior level upwards they would have been expected to show leadership, initiate the evacuation and take the people out of the system. It would be their command and control systems, integrating with the emergency services, that would be put into action to mitigate the effects.
It is also the men and women of London Underground and their suppliers who, as we speak, will be meeting in groups and planning the recovery of the system. It will be a tough job, because not only will there be direct physical damage but there will certainly be additional collateral damage to systems because of the various shocks the system has had.
It is essential that we get the system back working quickly. Today is unprecedented, but nevertheless a terrorist campaign is not. We fought one in the 1990s and we won it by exhibiting the resilience of the system and the resilience of Londoners to carry on in a terrorist campaign and run the city. It is important that we do that quickly. We can help as parliamentarians by not overreacting. We must be careful not to seek assurances about security that are impossible. We must recognise that the authorities and the police will do all that is reasonably practical, which is the most that they can ever do.
If we over-react, we may throttle the city and hand the terrorists their victory. Reaction to this tragedy must be mature. We must work together as a whole city to help to get business back to normal as quickly as possible and to deny the terrorists a victory.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the whole House will be grateful for what my noble friend said about the Underground workers. As my right honourable friend Frank Dobson said in the other place, it is right to remind people in his constituency that in situations
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such as this the emergency services, the doctors, the nurses and the workers in the transport undertakings are going towards the area of trouble while the rest of us are trying to get away from it. We must pay tribute to their resilience and their training in dealing with these situations.
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