Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle tells the Mirror of his fears for his wife’s safety during a terror attack ahead of gathering of global Speakers’ in his Chorley constituency
Security will top the agenda at this weekend G7 Speakers’ summit as Speakers debate how to protect parliaments.
Three of the group’s seven legislatures have recent experience of tragedy when parliaments are targeted.
In October 2014, a gunman opened fire at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, killing a soldier at a war memorial before running into the parliamentary building, where he was shot dead.
In March 2017, terrorist Khalid Masood ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing four, before stabbing to death unarmed PC Keith Palmer, who was guarding Parliament’s Carriage Gates.
Masood was shot dead by a plain clothes protection officer in New Palace Yard seconds later.
And in January this year, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in Washington DC, trying to scupper the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential victory.
Five people died in the riot.
Sir Lindsay chose to put security at the top of his priorities for talks when he hosts G7 counterparts in Chorley this weekend – four of the seven Speakers, those from Italy, the UK, the US and France, will attend in person – with the theme of “getting the balance right” between “closed parliaments, open parliaments”.
“We were discussing what theme we could have – and there are lots of issues we need to discuss – but actually, what do we have in common?,” he told the Mirror.
“We have a common bond of making sure parliaments are open, making sure parliaments are safe and secure.
“The fact we have seen the attacks in Ottawa on the Canadian Parliament, the attack on our own Parliament where our own village bobby was stabbed to death on the cobbles of Parliament – I can say I never ever want to go through that again.
“We saw mob rule in America with Capitol Hill.
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“What we’ve got to ensure is if we don’t have democracy, what have we got?”
Sir Lindsay was chairing a debate as Deputy Commons Speaker on March 22, 2017 when security staff rushed to warn him of the horror unfolding in Parliament’s grounds.
An immediate lockdown was ordered but as well as fearing for MPs’ safety, Sir Lindsay also feared for his wife, Cath.
“My wife was due to come into Parliament exactly as this was happening,” he recalled.
“I thought, ‘Is she safe? What’s happening? I just don’t know’.
“People had already been mowed down and I knew Cath was coming through those gates at roughly that time.”
Thankfully, she was unharmed. But the incident led to an overhaul of Westminster’s protection arrangements.
As well as security around high-profile venues, Sir Lindsay also highlighted the threat to politicians outside London, citing the 2016 murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in her West Yorks constituency.
Jo, 41, was shot and stabbed in Batley and Spen by a far-right terrorist.
Sir Lindsay also cited a far-right terror plot to assassinate West Lancs MP Rosie Cooper.
MPs have also been victims of vicious threats, abuse and trolling online.
Several MPs standing down at the December 2019 general election blamed web hate for their decisions to quit, according to Sir Lindsay.
Others opt not to seek election because they fear being targeted on the internet.
“Social media is fantastic but it’s dangerous,” said the Speaker.
“When MPs say to me, ‘I don’t want to stand, I don’t want to put my family at risk’, I know then we are losing the argument.”