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Mr. Derek Twigg: There is a memorial at Anfield, and I believe that there is another in one of the parks near the ground, but Sheffield Wednesday has not erected one.

Mr. Greenway: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman because I was about to say that it was my understanding that there was a memorial. Certainly it is fitting that there should be. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who has not attended today's debate, is a director of Sheffield Wednesday football club. I should have thought that the matter should have been considered.

Mr. O'Hara: There is a very fine bronze memorial to the victims--sculpted by Arthur Dooley--in Huyton, too.

Mr. Greenway: I had thought that there was a memorial, but the hon. Member for Halton clearly made the point that, arguably, there should be a memorial at Sheffield Wednesday football club. I suggest that he should raise the matter with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw.

Mr. Twigg: The hon. Gentleman mentioned my comments on blame. In raising the specific matter of Bernard Ingham's comments on drunken Liverpool fans, I was in no way seeking to make a party political point. The point is that, because of his position as press secretary in the previous Government, some credence might have given to his statement by those who do not understand what happened. Will the hon. Gentleman condemn the statement as completely unfounded?

Mr. Greenway: I hold no brief for Mr. Bernard Ingham--

Mr. Straw: Sir.

Mr. Greenway: Sir Bernard Ingham; I am grateful for the Home Secretary's intervention. I hold no such brief.

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I have my own view--which I shall express later in my speech--on criticism of the supporters. Perhaps I should say now that I agree entirely with hon. Members who said in this debate that those who died were in no way to blame for their deaths. However, as I said, another facet of the matter is that all of us who attend football matches should appreciate that our conduct can affect others. We should be well aware of that.

The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell) added to our consensus on the matter on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. He also commended--for which I am grateful--the previous Government's speed in instigating the Taylor inquiry, and the Home Secretary for establishing Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's inquiry. We agree with his comments on those matters.

The hon. Member for Colchester also questioned whether all-seater stadiums were a good idea. We have been around the course on that issue many times. As a regular attender of football matches, at what can be described only as palaces of football, such as Highbury and Old Trafford, and at less salubrious establishments in the second and third divisions--[Interruption.] York has a very nice ground. Although some of the grounds that I have visited this season leave much to be desired, I will not name and shame.

My own experience tells me that--with crowds of more than 20,000, and certainly with crowds of 30,000 or 40,000, which have become commonplace in the premier league; Sunderland, in the first division, has had sell-out crowds of 42,000--a return to stadium terracing is inconceivable. However, the sheer cost and impracticality of converting all stadiums in second and third division clubs to an all-seater plan is another matter. It remains to be seen whether York City will visit Colchester in the play-offs next season. As a part of Scarborough is in my constituency, I shall say that I hope that it does not.

Seating arrangements are an important matter. As the hon. Member for Colchester said, it has been nine years since Hillsborough. He also asked whether we are getting any nearer to laying the matter to rest. I do not think that we ever will, or should, lay it to rest. Potentially, such disturbances--although, God forbid, not on the same scale--could happen again. That should motivate each one of us.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): For the sake of all the people who lost loved ones at Hillsborough, will the hon. Gentleman clarify his remark about disturbances and make it clear today, although he has said so previously, that those who died were not creating a disturbance and were not responsible for their deaths?

Mr. Greenway: I have done so twice and I could not have been more clear in what I said. The people who died were not responsible for their deaths. However, the hon. Lady must accept that in the 1970s and 1980s, and certainly at the time of the tragedy, violence was prevalent at soccer grounds. There has been a great deal of justified criticism of the police. In my view as a football supporter--and as I have said many times before--at many football matches, the police would concentrate on dealing with potential troublemakers to the detriment of crowd safety. That is one of the lessons to be learnt from Hillsborough. I have been in football crowds with people from all walks of life when the police shepherded supporters around, causing danger to individual safety. We need to recognise that and to be alert to that danger.

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The hon. Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker) referred to the trauma and the good will of the people of Nottingham, as Nottingham Forest was the visiting team. His speech demonstrated that we are all part of the football family. The whole of football is still affected by the tragedy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) also referred to the good will of other football clubs and the sense of grief that still affects the north-west. She said that in many respects, the tragedy was an accident waiting to happen. That echoes my point that some stadiums were simply not up to the job that they were required to fulfil and could not contain the crowds standing on the terraces. That is undoubtedly one of the major lessons to be learnt from Hillsborough.

My hon. Friend also referred to the fact that a verdict of accidental death did not mean that there was no element of fault. That has been a common theme in the debate. We must ask ourselves to what extent we can improve the conduct of inquests into such huge tragedies. Having read the Taylor report several times, my personal view is that it would have been better for the system to have allowed Lord Justice Taylor to reach a conclusion as to the cause of death and to issue a verdict. That must be a central feature of any change.

The hon. Member for West Lancashire (Mr. Pickthall) referred to the frustration, which many right hon. and hon. Members feel, that they cannot do more in the face of the tragedy and the continuing concern of the families. He referred to the particular difficulty of the Under-Secretary of State. Perhaps this is a good moment to say that as politicians of whichever party, we are often accused of a lack of sincerity. That is not my experience, and that is especially true of the way in which the House has responded to the tragedy over the past nine years.

The hon. Member for West Lancashire was the first hon. Member to refer in detail to the wider interests and concerns that motivate the parents and families of those who died. None of us can ever know what they have felt and still feel, but in pursuit of justice, they are motivated by the desire that such a tragedy should never happen to anyone else. The House should greatly respect that.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to police statements that had been altered and said that there was compelling evidence that police attitudes towards some supporters were not what they should have been. There was a lack of leadership and there was complacency about the dangers. That provokes questions about the adequacy of training and preparation for the policing of large-scale matches at that time. Those are all legitimate matters for the House to be concerned about. As I have already said, it is unacceptable and deplorable that such attitudes exist, but they result from concentrating too much on dealing with potential disorder and not paying sufficient regard to the safety of people visiting football grounds. The hon. Gentleman concluded by saying that all that underlined that the police were chiefly to blame and that there was, therefore, no ground for a fresh inquiry.

The hon. Member for Knowsley, South spoke with considerable feeling about those who sought to apportion some blame to the behaviour of some supporters. As he rightly pointed out, alcohol was not a contributory factor in the deaths of the victims. I say again that those who died arrived early, not late, and were in their place, which is what we used to do as kids and as teenagers. My parents would say, "Yes, John, you can go to the game, but we

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want you to be there at half-past 1. We want you to be in front of one of the crash barriers so that you'll be safe." The reality, of course, was that the ones who came early paid the price.

The hon. Gentleman spoke with great feeling about the fact that what irks people in Liverpool is that no one has been held to account. That makes it even more difficult for families to come to terms with the enormity of the tragedy. He questioned whether some officers still in post might be held be responsible. I say in reply that the evidence has already been exhaustively and extensively scrutinised. We would all say that if there were fresh evidence, it should be examined, but that is different from saying that there should be another inquiry.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) talked about the families' anger at the coroner's verdict and the failure to discipline the two senior police officers who were responsible for policing the game. She welcomed the proposed changes in police discipline procedures and the conduct of inquests following major public tragedies such as Hillsborough, and the improvements in ground safety.

There is all-party consensus on those matters. The review of inquests began during the last year or so of the previous Government. I am sure that there will be constructive consensus when the legislation on that and on police discipline matters comes before the House. The Home Secretary referred to the Home Affairs Committee report on police discipline. While I served on the Select Committee, we once looked in depth at police sickness, and commented on the unacceptability of the sick-note evasion of police discipline. There is consensus throughout the House on the need to put that right.

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) spoke of the eight families in her constituency. I recall sometimes talking to her predecessor about the problems. I was very struck by the fact that four of the families had chosen silence, perhaps because of the need to move on or a sense of disempowerment. We should take note of that message, the day after an appalling turnout in local elections. Increasingly, people seem to feel that they cannot make a difference to anything, which increases pressure on hon. Members to respond--as we do--to their concerns.

The people involved in this matter are not an amorphous group. The hon. Member for Crosby was the first in the debate to ask whether individual cases could be reopened. That is different from asking for another public inquiry, and I am sure that the Home Secretary will want to consider that.

The hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Watts) spoke movingly of a friend of his who died at the match, and talked about the fact that none of the victims had contributed to their own death. He supported the changes to police discipline, but questioned why the chief constable was not held accountable. That is an important question. It seems to me that complacency was endemic, and that the policing of football was about combating hooliganism, to the detriment of crowd safety. I suspect that chief constables throughout the land might well consider what happened and say to themselves, "There but for the grace of God go I," because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton said, a similar tragedy might have happened elsewhere.

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The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Benton) argued passionately for a new inquiry and said that the victims would willingly accept that--but where is the evidence to support the view that a new inquiry would produce different conclusions?

The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) criticised the coroners court system and the inflexibility of a range of verdicts, and said that the accidental death verdict did not do justice to many instances of tragic death where there was obviously some culpability. We agree with him about that, and I believe that the House can move on to make changes so that that becomes a thing of the past. He also said that we could not turn back the clock. The House must face up to its responsibilities in that regard. We are doing so, and those responsibilities do not end in half an hour when the debate concludes.

The hon. Member for Weaver Vale--understandably, I keep wanting to call him the hon. Member for Northwich--again showed the extent of the Liverpool influence throughout the north-west. As a teenager, I once had a milk round with a fanatical Liverpool supporter, and I was aware of the passion, exuberance and good will that people displayed towards such big clubs.

I believe that only the hon. Member for Weaver Vale mentioned the payment of compensation to police officers. Undoubtedly, the Hillsborough incident left scars in the minds of all who were present, in whatever way they were involved. There is a danger of branding by group and of stereotyping, which I believe lies behind some of the anger that was expressed in newspaper reports--the hon. Member for Knowsley, South mentioned The Sun. The constables and sergeants who were there doing their best--some of them women--were not to blame. The inquiries blamed the chief superintendent and his colleague, not the individual officers.

The hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) drew attention to the concern of his constituents and said that the chief cause was the failure of police control. He asked why the Director of Public Prosecutions did not prosecute. I understand why that question is raised, but we have to make judgments and trust the judgments of the people whom we put in place. The office of the DPP is always, as are all chief Crown prosecutors, in a difficult position. It has to make balanced judgments about these matters and we have to trust its judgment in the end. There is nothing in the inquiries or in Lord Justice Stuart-Smith's report that leads me to believe that the DPP made a misjudgment.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) asked the Minister who will reply to respond to three questions. I shall briefly remind him of them. They all come from the press release and questions put out by the Hillsborough family support group. In the judge's interpretation of the terms of reference and the way in which his scrutiny was carried out, were the goalposts moved? Questions as to whether all the police statements were available may have become more clear as the debate has progressed. Was it right that South Yorkshire police were given a copy of the scrutiny report some days in advance? I am sure that the Minister, for whom I have high regard, will answer all those questions.

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To draw my thoughts to a conclusion, we all have to accept that the standing of politicians in the public eye is worryingly low, but I believe that we have seen today the House of Commons at its best. The people of Liverpool can be proud of the way in which their Members of Parliament have represented them today. We are often urged to co-operate more and we will co-operate on the proposed legislation in respect of inquests and police discipline, and we will continue to co-operate on the policing of football. The Opposition find that we are also often accused of not opposing enough. I see nothing in this matter that suggests that we should oppose for the sake of opposing. In reaching that conclusion, I want people outside the House who are paying great attention to our debate to understand that we do not seek to brush aside the serious questions that have been raised.

As for another inquiry, I agree with the Home Secretary that the reluctant conclusion, indeed the only conclusion, is that no new inquiry is justified or likely to reveal anything of substance. As Lord Justice Stuart-Smith said, compassion must not cloud our judgment. The debate has shown that there are some irreconcilable differences between the families of those who died and those responsible for looking into and dealing with what happened on that dreadful day. Some have even questioned why we should have this debate, but not to do so would be contemptuous of the victims and their families, and complacent about the problems that we still face in relation to football.

There remains, sadly, an undercurrent of violence, disorder and hooliganism, even though the improvements have been vast and many of our grounds are now safe. What happened at Gillingham only a few weeks ago reminds us of the seriousness of the problems that remain.

So what can we conclude? We conclude that, on 15 April 1989, we witnessed the tragic waste of 96 young lives. We owe it to them to pursue the issues until all the lessons of what occurred have been learnt and understood. I am doubtful whether another inquiry would add to what we know already, but there may be a case to pursue some individual matters. Above all, we owe it to those who died to ensure that this never happens again.

The truth is that we know in our hearts that other tragedies can and may occur, but that very admission--that safety can never be guaranteed--should motivate everyone in the House to continue to seek improvements to all areas of policy on which the Hillsborough tragedy touched. If ever we can draw a line under Hillsborough, we can never draw a line under our responsibility to strive always to do better.


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