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1.5 pm

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn): It has been a privilege to hear the contributions of my hon. Friends, who for many years have been looking into the appalling events of April 1989. Many of my hon. Friends present today represent constituencies in the Merseyside area, but the tragedy spread across many constituencies. It was felt strongly in my constituency in north Wales. John McBrien from Holywell in Flintshire, who was one of my constituents, died at Hillsborough, and other constituents have been affected by the tragic events. John was one of the 95 individuals who died that day.

I cannot begin to imagine the horror of that day and of the events that have occurred since. I have children of my own, and I have lived in my constituency for most of the time that I have been a Member of Parliament and before that. I cannot imagine the pain felt by families in my community as a result of the Hillsborough disaster.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Mr. Twigg), I have supported Liverpool football club all my life. I represent a seat in Wales, but I was born in Liverpool. I can see Liverpool from the bedroom window of my home. We are eight miles as the crow files from that town and I can be there in 20 minutes. The horror that has affected Merseyside following this incident reverberates throughout many parts of the United Kingdom. Today, I want to express the concerns of my constituents, particularly the family of John McBrien.

I have followed the case of the individuals involved in the press over many years, but I was not contacted by my constituent Mrs. McBrien until after the Stuart-Smith inquiry reported. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas), I made the decision to respect the privacy of my constituents until such time as they wished to contact me. Following the statement in the House and the report of the Stuart-Smith inquiry, Mrs. McBrien contacted me. She also contacted my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Mr. Pickthall) as a result of the letter that he sent to individuals who had suffered bereavements in the Hillsborough tragedy. Having recently met Mrs. McBrien, I can only say that the quiet, restrained way in which she put her case to me confirms the deep pain that the event has caused her and her family.

That contact was welcome because it has helped me to understand more about what happened on that day, why it happened and who in my opinion and that of my

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colleagues was responsible. It helped to focus my concern on what happened following the incident, what the report said and what should have been done to secure justice for the families of my constituents and of the many others who died that day.

It is clear, from today's debate and the reports of Lord Taylor and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith, that the main cause of the disaster was the failure of police control. That has been accepted on both sides of the House. I was pleased to hear the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), reaffirm that that was the cause, as have my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and all hon. Members who have spoken today.

In a statement to the House earlier this year, my right hon. Friend said that Superintendent Duckenfield had lied disgracefully when he said that gate C had been forced open by fans. The behaviour of the police on the day, and in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, had been appalling, and their failure to act appropriately on the day and afterwards had made them culpable of the charges that have been levelled today by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

A compelling case has been made for a reform of police procedures in discussions that have taken place since Lord Taylor's report, and my hon. Friends have made a compelling case again today. I look forward to the proposals that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will make to ensure that police procedures are changed, and that such an incident, and such a response to it, will not happen again.

That the police failed that day is manifest.Lord Taylor's report, and what has been said today, heightens the burning sense of injustice that the failure of the police created in my constituents and others. The police played a major role in the incident, and after the incident, and that has caused concern.

My constituent Mrs. McBrien feels that sense of injustice. I first discussed the issue with her only recently, and I am a latecomer to the debate for the reasons that I have given. Mrs. McBrien has spoken to and corresponded with my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire and me following the initiative taken by the north-west group. She has asked me to highlight her particular concerns about the Hillsborough incident. She and her family feel that justice must be seen to be done, and, as the impassioned pleas of my hon. Friends have made clear today, justice has not been seen to be done. In a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire, which she has asked me to bring to the House's attention, Mrs. McBrien expresses her strong belief that criminal offences were committed at Hillsborough involving senior police officers who opened gate C and allowed individuals into the ground by entrances other than the turnstiles that should have been used.

My hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall) mentioned the police role, and the way in which Chief Superintendent Duckenfield froze on that day. I would be failing in my duty if I did not emphasise what my constituent feels about the actions of the police: she believes that criminal offences were committed. That is a matter for debate, however, and I know that hon. Members have many different views. However,

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my constituent firmly believes that the actions of police officers in allowing fans into the ground other than through the turnstiles, and the action of Superintendent Marshall in requesting the opening of the gate by Chief Superintendent Duckenfield, contributed to the incident. I place that on record because my constituent feels strongly that those matters should have been examined. In paragraph 228 of his interim report, Lord Taylor disagrees with that view, but even nine years later, my constituent thinks that that was the cause of the incident.

It would be helpful to know why the Director of Public Prosecutions did not prosecute at the time the officers of the South Yorkshire police force. There have been discussions about that, but in view of the speeches by my hon. Friends, it would be helpful to ask again why the DPP did not prosecute. The absence of such an explanation helps to maintain the burning sense of injustice over the fact that nobody has been brought to account for the events at Hillsborough. It would also be helpful for the Minister to look again at the police response on the day. There has been no real recognition that the police played a major role in events, and no real apology by the police, and we need to examine that, to ease my constituent's feeling of injustice.

I listened with interest to the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) about the police response. I would certainly support requests to look at that matter again, because it had a major impact. I appreciate that it is difficult to take action retrospectively against the police, but it is important to at least re-examine the police role and review any further evidence for the benefit of all those who have suffered.

The Taylor report was fundamentally correct in its approach to Hillsborough. The guilty parties were identified, but the burning sense of injustice will remain until we can explain in detail why people have not been brought to book. It is shameful that there has been no apology by South Yorkshire police that would satisfy my constituents and others, and I am ashamed of the police action in this case. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth)--I always think of his constituency as Knowsley, North from the previous Parliament--have been extremely open and helpful in our discussions.

I am not a member of the north-west Labour group of Members of Parliament, but, because of the death of John McBrien at Hillsborough, I was invited by them to take part in delegations and meetings, to press the case for an examination of the concerns that have been expressed today.

I know that the pain of this event will never go away for my constituent and for her family, but I hope that, today at least, we can examine the issues that have been raised, remember those who died with pride and understand the reasons why they died. I hope too that, at some point, we can publicly hold to account the people who are responsible for those deaths.

1.19 pm

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): Understandably, this has been a sombre debate. This morning in my constituency, the funeral took place of one of my best friends. If I have to miss the funeral to be in the House, I can think of no better subject to discuss than the crucial issues that arise from what happened at Hillsborough.

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Many hon. Members have spoken with deep passion, with feeling and with shared anger about the events of 15 April 1989 at Hillsborough football ground, the home of Sheffield Wednesday football club. That afternoon, I watched those events on my television with shock and disbelief. A number of times in my life, I have had occasion to stand on the terraces at Hillsborough on FA cup semi-final day. Thankfully, when I was there, 96 young people were not killed.

I want to put my remarks in the context of my interests. As the House knows, I am president of York City football club. A few years before this tragic event, we played Liverpool twice in the FA cup at Anfield, its home, where we were made extremely welcome. On the first occasion, we were thrashed by seven goals to nil. On the second, we were robbed of a momentous victory by a very dubious refereeing decision. That year, Liverpool went on to do the double. The fact that the referee on that occasion subsequently became a vice-president of York City FC shows that there are no hard feelings in the world of soccer, and nor are there any in the world of cricket, which I know is the game that you love, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Born and raised in Cheshire, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall), I stood as a young man on the Spion Kop at Liverpool. I agree entirely with what the hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. O'Hara) has said about the exuberance of the Kop and Liverpool fans. At Arsenal, where I have been a lifelong and fanatical fan, I stood shoulder to shoulder with Liverpool supporters, long before we had to have segregation and when going to football was a family occasion. However, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, I viewed with growing concern the extent to which violence and unruly behaviour were creeping into the sport.

I have also experienced many times the deep fright of the crush when fans who are behind on a terrace surge forward in their excitement against a crash barrier or perimeter fencing, and the deep crush outside a stadium before even all-ticket matches, as occurs on FA cup semi-final day, when people think that, as they have a ticket, they can turn up at five minutes to 3 and get in. One of the lessons to be learnt by everyone involved in football or anyone attending matches is that the way in which we conduct ourselves can affect others, and I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Knowsley, South that that is perhaps what lies behind what I regard as the unjustified criticism.

When my party was in government, I think that I was one of only two hon. Members who voted against the Football Spectators Act 1989, and I did so because of a fear of the crush. It was bad enough getting into a stadium at the best of times, but I thought that if we had to go through the rigmarole involved in getting into our offices at No. 7 Millbank or No. 1 Parliament street, chaos would reign. Lord Taylor recommended that that was not sensible. Thankfully, the aspects of that Act that were sensible are on the statute book, and I am delighted that the Home Secretary is seeking to make the best use of them for an event coming up in France in a month or so.

I want to do the House the courtesy of trying to respond to every hon. Member who has participated in this debate. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle)

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was the first to raise the concerns of the Hillsborough family support group and to describe the depth of feeling in the community in Liverpool, especially about the police response. I shall refer to that a little later.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells), who apologises for having had to leave for another engagement, mentioned the need for investment in our stadiums. There is no doubt that, although we thought that some of our stadiums were excellent, they were not. There is no better illustration of that than the fact that people interested in football recall that at that time, Hillsborough was regarded as one of our best grounds. If a team in the FA cup semi-final was told that it was going to Hillsborough, it would think that terrific, as it was regarded as one of the best places to watch a football match. That is one of the ironies of what occurred, and it demonstrates the extent to which there was complacency throughout the game about the need for improvement. As we have heard again today, one of the major benefits of the Taylor report was that it ensured those improvements.

The hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Twigg) said that the police were clearly to blame, which has been the feature of this debate. He also questioned the wisdom of blaming Liverpool supporters, and I entirely endorse what he said. He also said something of which I was not aware, namely that there is no memorial to the fans.


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