‘Parliament was under attack. I was in shock.’
One year on from the Westminster Bridge attack, MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle has relived the moment when – as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons – he was told that a terrorist was attacking parliament and a police officer had been killed.
The Chorley MP was presiding over a vote in the House of Commons when Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before launching his attack on Parliament, fatally stabbing PC Keith Palmer, 48.
“All of a sudden I saw the door keeper approach me and he said ‘there’s an attack on Parliament’,” said Sir Lindsay.
“I said ‘how serious’ and he said ‘very serious, we’ve got a policeman down on the ground’ so I said ‘right we’re going into lockdown’.”
I went to see the video of the attack when it started and it’s horrendous but we wanted to look at the speed and the way it happened.
For the next three and a half to four hours MPs remained in the chamber, doors bolted, as events unfolded around them.
Telling the Post what was going through his head as the afternoon took its course, Sir Lindsay said: “I was thinking ‘this is Parliament, we are being attacked’. I couldn’t get over that.
“We were in lockdown until we knew that the building was clear. People said they had witnessed other attackers running into the building, which wasn’t the case, but you’ve got to take that seriously.
“As things were unfolding I was being updated in order to reassure people and to let them know what the situation was and to make them feel safe within the chamber.”
On March 22, 2017 attacker Masood, 52, mounted the pavement at 2.40pm, killing four people and injuring about 50 others. Crashing his Hyundai Tuscon into the railings outside New Palace Yard, he then attacked PC Palmer, who was unarmed, before being shot himself.
The whole attack lasted just 82 seconds but for those who lost loved ones, for people who were injured and for others who lived through it, it has had a lasting impact.
When MPs were finally allowed out of the chamber, Sir Lindsay’s first thoughts were for his wife, who was on the way to meet him at the time of the attack, and his father, who had been sitting in the House of Lords.
Sir Lindsay said: “What I wanted to do was find my wife. She was in London and she was coming in at the time of the attack.
“Catherine was about to get off the tube but luckily they said ‘we can’t open the doors you’ll have to go through’ and the tube didn’t stop at Westminster otherwise she’d have come as it was happening.
“Then of course I wanted to check where my father was because he’d been sitting in the Lords. They came to tell me that he was sitting in Westminster Hall and that he was fine so I caught up with him.”
Yesterday, the year anniversary of the attack, MPs in Parliament met for a memorial service to honour the people who died and to pray for PC Palmer, who lost his life defending the British Government.
“To actually lose somebody as well who is defending you in this day and age you just don’t expect it,” said Sir Lindsay.
“It is one thing I never ever want to repeat in the history of being the chair - another attack on Parliament.
“In the end PC Palmer was our village bobby. Everybody knew him.
“To lose someone who was defending our right to sit in Parliament - that should never be repeated. It was a very emotional day, and as I say I never ever want to witness that again or go through it again.
“I went to see the video of the attack when it started and it’s horrendous but we wanted to look at the speed and the way it happened.
“It just shows you the speed of the attack and the damage that it’s done in such a short period and that’s with a vehicle.
“Who would have thought that a terrorist would just use a vehicle that’s out there anytime to attack people.
“It really is frightening what damage can be done.”
Sir Lindsay, who chairs the committee on security for both the House of Commons and House of Lords, said that the attack and also the murder of MP Jo Cox in 2016 have had a profound effect on MPs.
“Parliament was in complete shock and yesterday was a reminder,” he said. “It had a major effect on staff, other police officers, MPs, people visiting.
“This was the start of a serious string of attacks on democracy within this country - Westminster, Manchester, Borough Market.
“Tragically we also lost fellow MP Jo Cox, who was slaughtered going to a surgery to help her constituents.
“To be murdered in the street by a maniac is not acceptable and it just shows you how vulnerable MPs are and can be and it was that vulnerability that has led to a lot of changes and improvements.”
But Sir Lindsay also said that the people who have died in such attacks “must not die in vain.”
He added: “We must never ever give in to terrorism. We stand united in our fight to ensure that the freedoms and values of this country remain utmost.”
Victims of the Westminster terror attack were remembered at a special vigil yesterday.
The ceremony in Westminster Hall was held to mark the first anniversary of the attack and was attended by politicians, senior police officers and people involved in the incident.
Five people were killed, including PC Keith Palmer.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, told the gathering: “A year ago, darkness struck Westminster Bridge and in this palace. It spread across the bridge like a snake, driving left and right, killing and harming.”
Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Speaker’s chaplain, told the service: “A year ago today on this estate and on Westminster Bridge we were visited by what I regard as evil.”
Rev Hudson-Wilkin praised PC Palmer, saying he “ran towards the danger in order that we might be safe”.
The vigil included a two-minute silence for the victims of the attack.
Police want members of the public to act as “counter-terrorism citizens” to help them stop deadly attack plots.
Security chiefs say information from the community is crucial to confronting the unprecedented threat - with more than 6,000 tip-offs yielding useful intelligence last year.
Launching a fresh drive to encourage reporting of suspicious behaviour or activity, Britain’s new counter-terror police chief yesterday urged people to trust their instincts.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: “There’s no such thing as good training for this.
“It’s about instincts and knowing your community. If you feel nervous about it, you should report it.
“It’s long been a mantra in counter-terrorism policing that we want every good police officer to be a counter-terrorism officer.
“This is an opportunity for every good citizen to be a counter-terrorism citizen.”
New figures show that 30,984 reports were made to counter-terror police online or over the phone in 2017.
Of those 6,659 - more than a fifth (21.5 per cent) - resulted in information used by officers to inform live investigations or help build an intelligence picture of an individual or group.
Examples of suspicious activity could include hiring large vehicles or buying a large amount of chemicals, fertilisers or gas cylinders for no obvious reason.
Receiving deliveries of unusual items, looking at extremist material online, taking photos of security arrangements or going travelling for long periods without specifying the destination, could also be noteworthy.
Mr Basu said: “This is the planning cycle. Terrorists have to plan, they have to buy things.
“When they do these things they will look nervous, they will look out of place.
“We are looking for the public to pick up on signs like that and report to us.”
Yesterday marked a year since the Westminster atrocity - the first of five attacks that took place in less than six months.
Police and MI5 are running more than 600 live counter-terror investigations relating to 3,000 individuals.
Mr Basu said: “2017 came as a shock to everyone but we’ve actually talked about the fact attacks will get through. This isn’t a zero sum game.
“The public should feel reassured they can play a part in this but they’ve also got a global leading counter-terrorism machine that’s working on their behalf.”
Security minister Ben Wallace, the MP for Preston North and Wyre, said: “The threat we face requires a response from all areas of society and I commend the public for their diligence in helping the police. Taking action can help save lives.”
-Suspicious activity or behaviour can be reported by calling 0800 789 321 or visiting www.gov.uk/ACT