Tributes have been paid to Sir David Amess in the House of Commons, and it has been announced Southend will be given city status.
A minute’s silence in memory of Southend West Conservative MP Sir David Amess, who was stabbed at his constituency surgery on Friday, was observed in the House of Commons.
It comes as police have until Friday to question the man suspected of killing Sir David.
Counter-terrorism officers are quizzing 25-year-old Ali Harbi Ali, who is in custody after being arrested on suspicion of murder.
The minute’s silence took place at the start of business on Monday after prayers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also revealed Southend would get city status, something Sir David had campaigned for.
‘Agonising to know that we will not see his wonderful smile again’
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, opening business in the chamber, said: “The circumstances of Sir David’s death are despicable and raise the most fundamental issues about how members of this House are able to perform their vital democratic responsibilities safely and securely.
“In light of the ongoing police investigation I will not say more about the events, but I give the House my undertaking I will do everything in my power to ensure that these issues are treated with urgency and with the sense of priority that they deserve.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel, said it is “agonising” to know we will not see Sir David Amess’s “wonderful” smile again.
She told the House: “There’s been a tidal wave of stories about David’s kindness and compassion from all quarters, and to me, he was a dear friend.
“We are all utterly devastated for David’s wife Julia and their family and loved ones.
“David, as we’ve already heard across the House, had a huge number of friends in this House, in his constituency, in the county of Essex, and well beyond.”
The Home Secretary went on: “It is agonising to know that we will not see his wonderful smile again. And it took no effort on David’s part to conduct the business of politics in a civilised, good humoured way, which came naturally to him.
A minute’s silence was also observed on Monday outside the church where he was stabbed to death.
A police officer blew a whistle to signal the start and finish of the minute outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.
‘This House has lost a steadfast servant’
Boris Johnson, opening the tributes told the House of Commons: “The passing of 72 hours has done little to numb the shock and sadness we all felt when we heard of the tragic and senseless death of Sir David Amess.
“This House has lost a steadfast servant, we’ve lost a dear friend and colleague, and Julia and her children have lost a loving husband and devoted father.
“Nothing I or anyone else can say can lessen the pain, the grief, the anger they must feel at this darkest of times.”
Mr Johnson said all MPs mourn with Sir David’s family, adding in the Commons: “Sir David was taken from us in a contemptible act of violence striking at the core of what it is to be a member of this House, and violating both the sanctity of the church in which he was killed and the constituency surgery that is so essential to our representative democracy.
“But we will not allow the manner of Sir David’s death in any way to detract from his accomplishments as a politician or as a human being.
“Sir David was a patriot who believed passionately in this country, in its people and in its future. He was also one of the nicest, kindest and most gentle individuals ever to grace these benches.”
Southend will be awarded the city status it ‘clearly deserves’
MPs cheered in the Commons as the Prime Minister announced Southend “will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves”.
Mr Johnson said: “As it is only a short time since Sir David last put that very case to me in this chamber, I am happy to announce that Her Majesty has agreed that Southend will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves.
“That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this House, but not one day in ministerial office, tells everything about where his priorities lay.”
Downing Street has said the award of city status to Southend was a “very rare honour”.
“This was an exceptional circumstance,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“It is a very rare honour which Sir David campaigned passionately for.
“He was a tireless champion of Southend, celebrating its achievements, the work of its residents and its thriving local businesses and diversity.”
The MP representing neighbouring Southend East has described Sir David Amess as a “great man”, and thanked the Prime Minister for announcing the move to city status.
Conservative MP James Duddridge, who represents Rochford and Southend East, described Roman Catholic Sir David as “a family man” and “a great man”.
Bid for ‘David’s Law’ to tackle abuse
Conservative MP Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) proposed “David’s law”.He said: “In the last few years David had become increasingly concerned about what he called the toxic environment in which MPs, particularly female MPs were having to operate in.”
He added: “He was appalled by what he called the vile misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me very recently that he wanted something done about it.”
He went on: “Surely we can all agree that we came here to try for which we are now systematically vilified day after day… I suggest that if we want to ensure that our colleague didn’t die in vain, we collectively all of us pick up the baton, regardless of our party and take the forthcoming Online Harms Bill and toughen it up markedly.
“So let’s put, if I may be so presumptuous, David’s law onto the statute book, the essence of which would be that while people in public life must remain open to legitimate criticism, they can no longer be vilified or their families subject to the most horrendous abuse, especially from people who hide behind a cloak of anonymity with the connivance of the social media companies for profit.”
‘We are united in our grief at this terrible time’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has paid tribute to Sir David Amess, saying that on behalf of his party he wants to lean across and acknowledge the pain that is felt on the opposite benches, as he remembers just how “acutely” Jo Cox’s loss was felt on his benches.
He told the House: “Sir David was a dedicated parliamentarian and his loss is felt profoundly across this House. We are united in our grief, at this terrible time. We are thinking of David and his family. We are thinking once again, of our dear friend Jo Cox, who was killed just five short years ago.”
He added: “And I know that honourable Members and their staff would have spent the weekend worried about their own safety. The emotion is the same across the House. But I remember just how acutely Jo’s loss was felt on these benches.
“So today, on behalf of the entire Labour Party, I want to lean across to reach across and to acknowledge the pain that’s felt on the opposite benches, and I do. Of course our differences matter, after all that’s what democracy is about, but today we’re reminded that what we have in common, matters far more.”
The Labour MP Kim Leadbeater has recalled the moment she was told her sister Jo Cox had been attacked, and described the “rollercoaster of deep trauma that no one should have to experience”.
Speaking in the Commons, she said: “It’s been a traumatic few days for many people, none more so than David’s family and friends, and it’s they who remain at the forefront of my mind this afternoon.
“But sadly I know from my own all-too-similar experience that in reality there is nothing anyone can say to make things all right for them. But nor is it any use to stay silent.”
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