'My best and oldest friend...I am hurting terribly': MP's emotional tribute to Sir David Amess

MPs paid tribute to Sir David Amess on an emotional day in Westminster, as ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports

An MP has paid tribute to his "best and oldest friend in politics", Sir David Amess, who was killed in a knife attack while meeting constituents on Friday.

Tory MP Mark Francios told MPs he would never have become a Member of Parliament were it not for his friend, adding: "Everything I ever learned about being a constituency MP I learnt from David Amess."

"I confess I am hurting terribly so I hope the House will therefore forgive me if because of that my contribution this afternoon is even more incoherent than usual."

He said his constituency neighbour was "the best father of the House we never had", noting the long time his friend had been an MP after entering Parliament in 1983.

Paying an emotional final tribute to his friend, Mr Francois said: "I am absolutely determined, and I ask for your support in that, that he will not have died in vain. He's now resting in the arms of the God he worshipped so devotedly his whole life.

"So farewell then, my colleague, my great friend, in fact quite simply the best bloke I ever knew."

Boris Johnson said the killing of Sir David Amess leaves a "leaves a vacuum that will not and can never be filled", as he opened a Commons session organised so MPs could pay tribute to their colleague.

The prime minister told the Commons that "we will never" allow people who commit "acts of evil" to triumph over democracy.

Perhaps the most lasting tribute to Sir David from the Commons session designed to honour him will be the announcement that Southend would be made a city, something Sir David had spent decades campaigning for.

MPs cheered in the Commons as Mr Johnson announced the Queen had agreed Southend "will be accorded the city status it so clearly deserves".

Downing Street said the award of city status to Southend was a "very rare honour".

Another neighbouring MP, Conservative James Duddridge remembered Sir David as a "man of faith and convictions. Faith in his religion, and convictions in his politics".

Mr Duddridge, describing Sir David's character, said the late MP would frequently make up stories when introducing him to others, for example introducing him as a lottery millionaire when attending a charity fundraiser.

Southend will be made a city, just as Sir David Amess had wanted, as ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

And he told "the story of boiled sweet", describing how on a trip to the Vatican Sir David once accidentally had a boiled sweet blessed by the Pope.

Sir David's wife Julia made an emotional visit to Belfairs Methodist Church in Essex on Monday morning, where Sir David was stabbed while meeting constituents.

Wiping tears from her eyes, Sir David's widow read messages on floral tributes that were piled up outside the church in Leigh-on-Sea. Family members comforted one another, with one placing an arm around Ms Amess.

MPs observed a minute's silence in honour of Sir David before the PM opened a Commons session which was organised to allow parliamentarians time to pay tribute to their colleagues.

Sir David Amess died on Friday after being stabbed while attending a surgery. Credit: Parliament

The Speaker's chaplain, Tricia Hillas, told the chamber: "May the bright memory of his rich life ever outshine the tragic manner of his death."

Prime Minister Johnson said: "This country needs people like Sir David, this House needs people like Sir David, and our politics needs people like Sir David. Dedicated, passionate, firm in his beliefs, but never anything less than respectful for those who thought differently.

"Those are the values he brought to a lifetime of public service. There can be few among us more justified than him in his deep faith in the resurrection and the life to come.

"And while his death leaves a vacuum that will not and can never be filled, we will cherish his memory, we will celebrate his legacy, and we will never allow those who commit acts of evil to triumph over the democracy and the Parliament that Sir David Amess loved so much."

Former prime minister Theresa May said every MP has "lost a friend" with the passing of Sir David.

She said the three words that spring to mind when remembering Sir David are "laughter, service, compassion".

"Laughter because you could never have a conversation with David without laughter and smiling, whether it was because of one of the outrageous stories he was telling - perhaps about one of his colleagues or somebody else - but there were always smiles, always laughter, always fun around David."

Julia Amess the widow of Conservative MP Sir David Amess Credit: PA Wire

Most of the scheduled parliamentary business on Monday was postponed in order to enable both the House of Commons and House of Lords to pay tribute to Sir David.

MPs also took their opportunity in the Commons to pay tribute to former Tory minister James Brokenshire, who died on October 7 after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, opening business in the chamber, noted how the safety of MPs had once again been brought into question by Sir David's killing.

He 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."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "Each tribute paints its own picture of a committed public servant of kindness, and a man whose decency touched everybody that he met.

"Taken together these tributes are a powerful testimony to the respect, the affection and yes, the love that David was held in across politics, and across different communities.

"Together they speak volumes about the man that he was, and the loss that we grieve."

Sir Keir added Sir David held his beliefs "passionately but gently", adding: "I believe that not only can we learn from that but that we have a duty to do so. Civility in politics matters."

The attack on Sir David came just five years after Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered while on her way to meet constituents of Batley and Spen, the seat she held which is now represented by her sister Kim Leadbeater.

Flowers at the scene near Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex Credit: Yui Mok/PA

Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has said the government will soon set out how it will improve MPs' safety, said "we see far too much cruelty online" as she spoke of the importance of respect.

She said: "Now clearly the online space, we see far too much cruelty online and I think all of use have a responsibility and a duty to work together and I do think working together is part of the solution here and then of course when it comes to this place and to public life and politics, I would use one word and that is respect."

The procedures and measures in place to keep MPs safe are currently being reviewed, with many calling for additional security to be provided at constituency offices.

Ms Patel said the review of policing for politicians is "concluding literally in the next few days" and pledged to update MPs.

She added: "Sadly we've seen too many lone attackers in previous years. There's a great deal of work taking place."

While recognising the need for security, many MPs have been careful to warn against allowing the attack on Sir David to create detachment from their constituents.

Sir David Amess with his wife and daughters. Credit: PA

Labour MP Stephen Timms, who survived being stabbed in 2010, said: “We must not give up on the accessibility of MPs.

"If we do, the sponsors of those who attacked David and who attacked me will have succeeded. That must not happen.”

Mr Raab said having plain-clothes police officers on the doors of surgeries with constituents could have a "chilling effect", but he would understand if colleagues decided otherwise.

"We don't let the terrorists win by creating wedges or walls between us and those who vote us in," he told ITV News.

Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old man, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of Sir David's murder and remains in police custody.

He has been detained under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and detectives are expected to continue to question him until Friday after a warrant of further detention was granted.

Watch as MPs pay tribute to Sir David Amess, who was killed on Friday