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Howard: Terrorists should never profit by their embrace of evil

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons about the terrorist attacks in London

"Can I begin by paying tribute to the Prime Minister for the calm, resolute and statesmanlike way in which the Government responded to the attack last Thursday on our capital city, our citizens and our way of life?

The Prime Minister has movingly and appropriately articulated the profound sorrow we all feel following this atrocity. On behalf of all my colleagues I should like to join the Prime Minister in extending our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. Nothing will make up for their loss. We share the grief of those who were nearest and dearest to them, and we mourn with them. We feel also for those who have been injured, and wish them a full and speedy recovery.

The faceless killers behind last Thursday's attack brought death and tragedy to many innocent families. They have tried, with the fires of hate, to destroy the bonds of love.

But since their attack we have seen compassion and self-sacrifice prove themselves stronger than fanaticism and evil.

The emergency services - the police, the ambulance service, paramedics, fire-fighters, doctors and nurses, as well as the bus drivers and Tube workers - have all shown exemplary dedication.

They have been joined by many others in the rescue operation. They have had to carry out and are still carrying out some dreadful work in what are often horrific conditions, and have responded with a professionalism which has won praise the world over.

This single act of evil has inspired numerous acts of private heroism. From the bus drivers who carried on their work on a day of fear and mourning to the charity workers, like the Salvation Army, who brought comfort to the grieving and offered a listening ear to the bereaved, thousands played a noble part in the events of a tragic day. We all have cause to feel pride in the response of our fellow citizens

Any who doubted that, 60 years on, this generation of Britons had retained a resolve to stand united against the threats we face have found their answer.

Although those who perpetrated last Thursday's outrage may think they succeeded in their aims, they failed to do what they would have wanted most.

They failed to cause panic in our capital city. Instead we went about our business, determined to show that we would not be defeated.

The terrorists failed to undermine the institutions, the democracy, and the values of which we are all so justly proud. Instead our government, our citizens and our way of life proved once again resilient in the face of evil.

And the terrorists failed to divide us one from another. They failed to incite one group in our national community to blame another.

The very society - multi-faith and multi-cultural - which stands as an affront to the warped ideology of the terrorists is a source, not of weakness as they suppose, but of strength.

In our great capital city and beyond, the terrorists have united Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews - those of all faiths and none - in their contempt for those who want to destroy that diversity and our democratic and liberal way of life.

It is clear that one of the challenges now is to achieve the right balance between that liberalism and the security which we all want to see.

The security services in Britain are some of the finest in the world. They are, alas, very experienced in dealing with the threat of terrorism. We know that they have thwarted recent attempts to attack our nation. And we appreciate that it is in the nature of their work that we cannot be aware of all that they have done to protect us.

I should also like to pay tribute to the Prime Minister and the Government for all their efforts since 9/11 to safeguard this country from terror. I know how heavy the responsibility is. And I understand the difficulty of decisions which Ministers must take when given information about threats, which by their very nature cannot be openly broadcast.

Can I assure the Prime Minister that we on this side of the House wish to give the Government our full support as they face difficult decisions in the future.

We also wish to play our part by making constructive suggestions that we hope will help establish a durable consensus on the best measures to safeguard us all.

Now is not the time for a discussion on detail. What I do hope is that in the weeks ahead we can all gain from a sober assessment of the systems we have put in place to deal with the terrorist threat. I have no doubt at all that the Prime Minister wishes to learn all the appropriate lessons that can be learned.

We emphatically do not believe that after Thursday's events there is any place for finger-pointing or the allocation of blame. There is only one group of people who should be blamed - that is the evil terrorists who carried out this deed.

As I have said, we are all in this together. In due course, I believe we may be able together to identify even better ways of providing the security our citizens deserve.

A limited Inquiry could, in due course, provide a calm and dispassionate forum for learning appropriate lessons, helping to quell unhelpful speculation and equipping us to respond even better in the future.

Its precise form would, rightly, be a judgement for the Government. We have no pre-conceived ideas about its timing or composition. And of course we recognise that nothing should be done to distract the police from the immediate task in hand, which is to bring to justice the perpetrators of last week's atrocity. We wish only to identify how best we can provide our police and our security services with the support they deserve in the future.

The eyes of the world were on London last Wednesday for the best of reasons.

They were drawn to our capital city again on Thursday by scenes of unimaginable horror. But our citizens and our Government have responded in a way of which we can all be proud. In the days ahead that spirit of defiance, resolution and determination should not be lost. We owe it to the victims of last Thursday's bomb to remember that terrorists should never profit by their embrace of evil."

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