23rd March 2017
Yesterday people from left and right and of all faiths – Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh – gathered in sanctuary in Westminster Abbey surrounded by the luminaries of British politics and cultural life and prayed for peace and respect for the values we share.
Far from dividing us all, the events yesterday literally – physically, politically intellectually – brought us together and strengthened not weakened our resolve.
It was Britain at its absolute best: multi-faith, sharing core values of belief in British free speech and Parliament and democracy.
It is important that we remember and remind people that this wasn’t an act of faith. It was an act of cowardly murder in the name of a distortion of faith. The best way for us to defeat such extremism is to live in a multi-faith society and share our commitment to defend these values that unite us.
In her combination of calm, dignified British understatement, with her evident sense of personal commitment and responsibility to defend the values that are at the heart of her politics, the Prime Minister spoke for, and helped bring together, our whole nation.
In terms of the security implications, we must await the results of the police investigations. But as the dust settles, I think we need to put into perspective what this was. It was an act of murder by a lone fanatic who mowed down innocent children and bystanders, but failed to get a vehicle into the precinct of Parliament, and then tried to run amok himself and was stopped and shot. The tragedy is that in doing it he was able to kill a very brave police officer. We are rightly paying tribute to him today, and to the innocent bystanders caught up in this attack.
But in terms of national security, it was not a sophisticated, coordinated act of terrorism. It was not a 9/11 or 7/7 type attack - and it is a testament to our police and intelligence services that we haven’t had any such attacks.
Our response must be proportionate. The truth is that anybody can drive a car down a pavement and mow down pedestrians. That he did is a sign of his distorted and warped fanaticism. No amount of reasonable security can prevent that.
As the Prime Minister said, we must not and will not allow acts of terror like this to change our commitment to an open society and parliamentary democracy. Our Parliament is admired around the world because it stands for these values. And so must we.
I thank the Prime Minister for the tone with which she has reacted. She has genuinely spoken for the nation in this moment. Yesterday, many of us from the House were gathered in Westminster Abbey, in lockdown. In a stunning moment, people from left and right, of the Muslim, Hindu, and Christian faiths and of none, gathered in Westminster Abbey, in sanctuary, surrounded by luminaries of our political past, of left and right. I support others who reminded us today that what happened was not an act of faith, but the distortion of faith and that, in the strength of all our faiths coming together in this country, we will defend the values we cherish.
1st March 2017
In recent days some people have sought to question my commitment to Mental Health. Having spent most of my adult life working on and campaigning for better healthcare and treatment for all patients, I am deeply saddened that two words from a wide-ranging interview have been taken wholly out of context and misrepresented to suggest I believe something which I manifestly do not.
In fact, having experienced first-hand the traumatic effect of anxiety, depression and the often-associated addictions like alcoholism that go with it, I am personally deeply committed to helping tackle Mental Health issues and those who too often suffer in silence. I am very proud of the initiatives I launched when Minister for Digital Health and my work with charities such as Big White Wall, the National Association of Children of Alcoholics and the Child Stammering Centre, as well as my work locally and nationally to help those suffering from Dementia and its huge social and economic impact on sufferers, carers, families and communities.
However, I hugely regret if my comment inadvertently caused any offence which was not intended. In highlighting the purpose of PIPs (Personal Independence Payments) and the Government’s intent to ensure those monies are focused on those with the most acute extra cost of living with disabilities such as blindness or dialysis, I was in NO way seeking to stigmatise less immediately costly but equally painful and debilitating mental illnesses.
From my own personal experience and my twenty years working in medical research, I have always been 100% committed to tackling Mental Health. As a former Health Minister and now Chair of the PM's Policy Board, I am proud of our Party's commitment to Mental Health and our ongoing work in this vitally important area of 21st-century healthcare.
George Freeman MP