Labour MP Stephen Timms stabbed

Woman arrested after Stephen Timms is stabbed while holding constituency surgery in east London

The Labour MP Stephen Timms, 54, is recovering in hospital after being stabbed as he held a constituency surgery in London's East Ham in an attack which has reopened the debate on MPs' safety.

He was taken by ambulance to the Royal London Hospital where he was being treated for non life-threatening injuries to the abdomen.

A 21-year-old woman was arrested after the incident at the Beckton Globe community centre in Beckton, east London today.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Police were called at 3.20pm following reports of a man in his 50s stabbed at Kingsford Way, east London. Police and ambulance attended.

"A 21-year-old woman was arrested at the scene and is currently in custody at an east London police station."

A spokeswoman for Barts and the London NHS Trust said: "Stephen Timms MP was taken to the Royal London this afternoon after being stabbed in the abdomen and is in a stable condition."

There is no known motive for the attack to which there are believed to have been several witnesses. It is understood the stabbing took place after the woman requested to see him, then produced a knife. Unconfirmed reports say she leant over and stabbed him twice in the stomach.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "Stephen Timms was stabbed this afternoon during one of his regular advice surgeries at the Beckton Globe community facility.

"Stephen was taken by ambulance to the Royal London Hospital. He is currently undergoing tests, and his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. He has received visitors and is in good spirits.

"Stephen would like to express his thanks and gratitude to both the staff at Beckton Globe for their assistance, and the ambulance and hospital staff for their fantastic care." Acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said that parliament needed to consider how best to protect MPs.

The incident comes nine years after Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones was wounded and his aide, Andrew Pennington, was stabbed to death in a sword attack during a constituency surgery at the party's office in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Jones, a married father of three, was conducting his weekly surgery when he received lacerations to his hands and arms after fending off blows from Robert Ashman, who was jailed for manslaughter and attempted murder.

Expressing her concern Harman said: "One of the great strengths of the British political system is the everyday accessibility of MPs to their constituents but we can't have a situation where MPs are at risk.

"Parliament needs to consider how best to ensure MPs can carry out their responsibilities safely."

Timms, the former financial secretary to the Treasury and minister for digital Britain, holds an advice surgery at the Beckton Globe Library in Kingsford Way on the first Friday of every month, though was unable to hold the usual meeting last week because of the election.

A popular MP, he won 70.4% of the vote in last week's election and his 27,826 majority is the largest in the new House of Commons. He has regularly spoken out against knife crime in his constituency, particularly among young people, and supported Labour legislation which gave teachers the power to search pupils for weapons and raised to 18 the age at which a knife could be legally purchased,

Several MPs sent their best wishes via the micro-blogging site, Twitter, including Labour's Tom Harris (Glasgow South) who said: "Awful news, Stephen. Wishing you a very speedy recovery." Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, said: "Awful news about Stephen Timms, thank goodness not life threatening. Stephen is one of politics' thoroughly nice guys, a real gentleman."

Timms has been MP for the constituency – and previously for Newham North East – since 1994. He held jobs in the Labour administration throughout its 13 years in power, first as a parliamentary aide and then in ministerial posts as financial secretary to the Treasury and in the Departments for Social Security, Education, Trade and Industry and Work and Pensions.

He joined the Cabinet in 2006 as chief secretary to the Treasury – effectively Chancellor Gordon Brown's second-in-command, with responsibility for keeping departmental budgets under control. After Brown became prime minister in 2007, he was dropped from the Cabinet and made competitiveness minister in the Business Department, before moving back to the Department for Work and Pensions and then returning to his old job of financial secretary to the Treasury in 2008.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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