Nick Thomas-Symonds – 2020 Speech on the Reading Terrorist Attack

Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Thomas-Symonds, the Labour MP for Torfaen, in the House of Commons on 22 June 2020.

I thank the Home Secretary for advance sight of her statement and for her briefing call over the weekend.

Like the whole House, I was shocked and appalled by the scenes we saw in Reading on Saturday evening. While doing no more than visiting a beautiful park, three innocent people were stabbed to death and another three were seriously injured. Today we remember those who have died, and our thoughts and condolences are with their families and friends at this moment of terrible loss. We send best wishes to those who were injured and wish them a swift recovery, and thank our magnificent NHS staff for the care that they are providing.

The incident was one of senseless violence, and, as always, we are indebted to our outstanding police officers and other emergency services personnel for their swift response and work at the scene, helping others by putting themselves in danger. They represent the very best of us. We thank them and the public at the scene who assisted, and recognise their courage and bravery in this most awful of situations.

We now know that this has been declared a terrorist incident, and I know that the whole House will support the police as they carry out the highly detailed and careful investigation that is necessary with an incident such as this. I hope that the Home Secretary can confirm that all necessary resources will be made available to Thames Valley police and to counter-terrorism policing. I am sure she will also agree that although there are, quite understandably, many questions about this specific case, the best thing to do is to give the police the space they need to conduct the investigation and to establish the facts, not to indulge in unhelpful speculation. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda) for his calm and measured leadership in such a difficult moment.

It is heartbreaking that we are having this conversation again so soon after the terrible attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in November, which tragically took the lives of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, and the attack in Streatham in February. As you have said, Mr Speaker, this is a live investigation so we have to ensure that there is due process and that the police can do their job, but the country will want answers about these incidents, which have occurred in such quick succession. Although the priority today must be to ensure that there are no further related threats, and that the victims and families are cared for, it is vital that questions are addressed. I hope that the Home Secretary will confirm that she will further update the House on this awful incident and the lessons that need to be learned, but there are some matters that I would like her to deal with today.

The Home Secretary mentioned the piece of emergency legislation in February, and there is another Bill on counter-terrorism going through the House at present with cross-party co-operation. I hope that any further legislation will also be on a cross-party basis. But does she agree that legislation alone is not enough? We need a comprehensive look at deradicalisation in our prisons, at how people who pose a threat are risk assessed and how different agencies can work together to safeguard against tragedies.

Community police are the eyes and ears of our society. The intelligence gathering that they do is vital. Can the Home Secretary assure me that the Government will never again cut the numbers of community police and will instead build the capacity that is required for law enforcement? Can she also assure me that the serious violence taskforce, which has not met since 26 June last year, will meet soon and on a regular basis?

The Home Secretary rightly praised the intelligence and security services, but the Intelligence and Security Committee has not met for over six months. Will she confirm when the Committee will have all its members in place and exactly when it will meet next?

Finally, I know there will be many issues in the weeks ahead, but let the message go out from this House today that we stand alongside the wider community in Reading at this dark moment and say that those who have lost their lives will never be forgotten.