Our way of life can and will prevail following Westminster attack, says home office minister
- Credit: Archant
Our way of life can and should prevail, the Norfolk MP in charge of Britain's policing has said in the aftermath of the brutal attack on Westminster.
Brandon Lewis, who was the most senior home office minister in the country when Khalid Masood went on a killing spree on Wednesday afternoon, praised police and emergency services for their bravery and professionalism as they remained on duty following the death of their colleague PC Keith Palmer.
The Great Yarmouth MP reiterated the prime minister's assurances that this week's attack was a 'single incident' and the terrorism threat level had not been changed from severe. 'People's way of life can and should prevail,' he said.
MPs, peers and staff on the parliamentary estate, who were kept in Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey for four or five hours on Wednesday amid the post-attack lockdown, returned to business first thing yesterday.
The Archbishop of Canterbury led tributes in the House of Lords, where it was standing room. Many peers would have had memories of earlier atrocities like 7/7, IRA attacks, and in some cases the last war.
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In the House of Commons chamber, Theresa May led tributes to the victims of the terror attack, telling MPs that British people had shown terrorists they 'will not defeat us'.
Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman spoke in the House of Commons about the 'incredibly powerful' gathering of MPs, peers, staff and visitors who had been escorted to Westminster Abbey on Wednesday night.
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'People from left and right – and of all faiths - Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish - gathered in sanctuary in the Abbey surrounded by the luminaries of British politics and cultural life – Shakespeare, Attlee and Churchill - and prayed for peace and respect for the values we share.'
He said that 'far from dividing us all', [the attack] had 'literally - physically, politically intellectually - brought us together and strengthened not weakened our resolve.'
He said it was important to remember and remind people that the attack was not an act of faith - 'it was an act of cowardly murder in the name of a distortion of faith,' he said.
'The best way for us to defeat such extremism is to live in a multi-faith society and share our commitment to defend these values that unite us.'
Former Norfolk MP and cabinet minister Baroness Shephard, who now sits in the House of Lords, said it had been heart-warning to see the House of Lords chamber as full, if not fuller, than it had been for the Brexit debate. Tributes were paid to those who had lost their lives, and the police and security forces who had done such a wonderful job.
'All of us were moved by the spirit of everybody involved with protecting and serving parliament. This morning the cleaners were there at their usual 4am despite parliament being nigh inaccessible. Those manning the cafeterias were also in place at the usual time despite being able to get no deliveries of fresh food.
'Given the extremely tragic circumstances, the spirit of those serving parliament and indeed members of parliament was magnificent. The whole house came together in their praise and gratitude to the people who managed to keep parliament safe.'
Prayers were held in St Mary Undercroft – parliament's church - at regular points during the day.
Mr Lewis said there would be more police officers, particularly around London.
Questioned about extra funding for police he said it would be 'kept under review', but that there had been a substantial increase for counter-terrorism, a focus on the security services and armed officers.
'These things do stay under review and always will. It is making sure our chief constables in London and commissioners have that freedom to assess the risk and allocate their resources appropriately based on their understanding and expertise. It is right it is an operational decision for them.'
He added that people in Norfolk should feel safe, but warned they should trust their instincts and report anything suspicious to the police.
Sir Henry Bellingham, a former foreign office minister and MP for North West Norfolk, agreed that the attack appeared to be a 'lone wolf' attack. adding that it should be kept in perspective.
He said the bravery and professionalism of the parliamentary security prevented the terrorist from getting any further into the Palace precincts.