Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): It is both a sadness and a pleasure to contribute to the debate. I thank the panel for its diligent work in pulling together all the evidence and finally laying bare the truth that has now been shared with the world, and I thank the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), who managed finally to persuade his Government, quite rightly, to start the inquiry. I also thank the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) for her diligent

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work going through the papers in the Library and using her legal mind to ensure that work on the issue kept going.

Just over a year ago, on 17 October, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) made his tremendous contribution to the Backbench Business Committee debate, when we got to debate Hillsborough in this House for the first time in a very long time. Not long afterwards, a colleague said to me, “I know that’s all very powerful, but I don’t understand why it’s still an issue. The Taylor report said it.” Indeed, the Taylor report said it. In many people’s minds it may not have gone far enough, but it laid the blame firmly at the feet of South Yorkshire police. To give credit to the Hillsborough independent panel, it has been able to show the scale of the cover-up.

I spoke quite emotionally in the Chamber when the Prime Minister read his statement last month, and today I have already said that I am still sick, angry and incredulous at the cover-up. The families of the victims, their friends and those who have been keeping the campaign alive for 23 years may be sick, angry and incredulous today, but they are vindicated in the campaign that they have been pursuing.

I want to thank the Attorney-General. I appreciate that he is a man of great legal diligence and wants to go through the paperwork, but the announcement that he made in the written ministerial statement was welcome—that he would be applying not just for one inquest to be set aside, but for all 96 to be set aside, so that the many inquests that were restrictive in nature could be put aside. I also thank the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health for their continuing diligence on this matter.

I will not relay again all the different issues, but I have been trying to put myself in the mind of the former Member of the House, to whom my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) have already referred. No Liverpool fan will ever forget the tragic events that happened in another country, in Heysel, just a few years earlier, when other football fans were resentful at what had happened because all teams were banned from European football as a consequence of what happened that night. I do not want to read out again the statement to which my hon. Friends referred, but I will always struggle to understand how someone could repeat a few days later the smear of somebody who implied that Liverpool fans were sexually abusing a dead person, and indeed were going to go further than that. I realise that that person cannot be in the House to defend himself today and I know that he has expressed his regret.

It was made clear today that two forms of investigation are needed—one into what actually happened on the day, and one into the potential cover-up. Of course it will be for a court of law to make that decision. Since the last time we discussed the matter, a school friend has contacted me by e-mail to say that he did not go into the stadium that day because he saw the police officers opening the gate, he saw what was going on and he walked away—and thank God he did. I hope that such evidence will be put to people, even though they may now be quite elderly. As we heard earlier, when one of

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those officers retired on medical grounds, it was decided not to pursue justice. I know that there was a private prosecution, which did not end as we may all have wanted, but I still hope that such people will be brought to justice.

One of the things I would like to say to the people who have kept the fight going is “Please, have a little more patience.” That may seem a terrible thing to say after 23 years, but people were patient for the unveiling of all the terrible things that came out in the Hillsborough independent panel report. Although we can say freely in the House what we believe, it is important that we allow justice to come to its full term and that the IPCC or the special prosecutor, if that is deemed appropriate later, is brought into play. One of the things that I hope those outside the Chamber will recognise is that we know that Parliament has let people down in the past, but there is unanimity here today that Parliament is definitely on their side and we will not let people get away with it.

7.14 pm

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Ten minutes is nowhere near enough to do justice to a campaign that I have been involved with for 23 years, and to a 395-page report presented to the House that shocked a nation. It has taken 8,591 days to get here, but we finally have what the families and the people of my great city have known all along: the undeniable truth.

I did not dare dream that one day I would be in the House of Commons to hear a British Prime Minister apologise to the families of the Hillsborough disaster. Not only did that happen, but the Prime Minister offered a double apology. I never thought an Attorney-General would ever apply to the High Court for fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 men, women and children, but just last week in this very Chamber, that is what was announced. And I could never have imagined that the police and other organisations and individuals would ever face the full weight of the law for their lies and deceit, but we now know from what the IPCC and the DPP have said that there is the probability that criminal charges will be brought against those really responsible for both the tragedy itself and the cover-up that followed.

Let us remind ourselves of that corruption in more detail. The report suggests that police statements relating to the Hillsborough disaster

“underwent an unprecedented process of review and alteration”.

The report outlines a process of intimidation, manipulation and coercion by senior officers against their juniors less than 24 hours after the disaster, and the report finally reveals the names and rank of the officers involved in the disaster, with their actions.

There was clearly an “us versus them” mentality in the police before the match, and this mentality did not change as the disaster unfolded before their very eyes, and it certainly did not change after the disaster. When does human nature override orders given by senior officers? Why did humanity not replace duty? Was it not the duty of the police to ensure fans’ safety?

Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): Although much has been said about the enormous failings of the police, what about the other organisations?

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Steve Rotheram: We now know that the police were not the only ones who were at fault on that day. Six agencies were also involved in the cover-up. I will try to cover them in the limited time available.

The ambulance service was engaged in despicable alterations to statements. We always knew that the police were involved, but the ambulance service was at it too. Many, many parts of the Hillsborough independent panel report are harrowing for the families and the survivors, but none more so than the news that numerous fans were alive after the arbitrary 3.15 pm cut-off point, and with proper emergency care they could and probably would have been saved.

Next, there was Sheffield Wednesday football club. As the report says, following the 1981 crush,

“there was a breakdown in the relationship”

between Sheffield Wednesday and South Yorkshire police. The two major partners in match-day safety had a fractious relationship at best. What is more, Sheffield Wednesday, a club that was promoting Hillsborough as a modern ground, fit to host major football games, failed in its first duty to ensure that it had a suitably safe stadium.

By now the failings of Sheffield city council are well known. The council allowed a major football stadium in its city to operate outside the law. The report is absolutely clear that the way the council undertook safety inspections was totally and utterly inept and it failed to ensure that an appropriate safety certificate was in place.

As Kenny Dalglish wrote in his weekend column in The Mirror, the Football Association

“knew that Hillsborough did not have a safety certificate and yet they were still adamant the game had to be played at the stadium.

If they had not insisted that the game was played there . . . the fans that died would still be alive”.

The FA must now face the full force of the law for the deadly decisions that it made at that time.

Hansard of 17 April 1989 makes for particularly interesting reading. It was clear even then that there were those in this place who were seeking to shift the blame for the disaster on to the fans—no one more ignorant of the facts than Irvine Patnick, the then Tory MP for Sheffield, Hallam, who asked the Home Secretary to

“examine…the part that alcohol played in the disaster”.—[Official Report, 17 April 1989; Vol. 151, c. 29.]

Why—on what basis—did he ask that question?

Mr George Howarth: In view of the recent revelations about Irvine Patnick, does my hon. Friend agree that this calls into question any honours that were bestowed on him?

Steve Rotheram: If there were ever a job for the Honours Forfeiture Committee, surely the scrapping of Patnick’s knighthood would be it.

The report reveals for the first time that it was a Sheffield-based news agency, White’s, that claimed that the fans had verbally and physically abused the police and urinated on them as they attended to the stricken, and had stolen from the dead and dying. That came after three days of conversations between White’s, senior police officers, the Police Federation spokesman, and

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Irvine Patnick MP. Fancy that, Mr Deputy Speaker—lies conjured up through collusion between the press, the police and certain politicians.

It was said on the day that the Hillsborough independent panel report was published that there were 97 victims of the Hillsborough disaster. The families, the survivors and the people of our great city were tarnished and branded guilty of the deaths of 96 of their own. The reputational damage has been incalculable. But one thing is for sure—the 97th victim of Hillsborough was certainly not Kelvin MacKenzie; how dare he claim his victim status? The police were able to make such rapid progress in their conspiracy because they were aided by ready henchmen such as MacKenzie who poisoned the atmosphere around Hillsborough. It will be interesting to see whether any charges of criminal liability are placed at his door.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General, and I appreciate their efforts and commitment to upholding the law and the pursuit of justice in this case. However, I urge the Attorney-General to complete his application as quickly as possible so that fresh inquests can be launched almost immediately. All agencies involved in subsequent investigations have made it clear that the inquests can happen in parallel alongside investigations into potential prosecutions, and there is therefore no need for a delay. South Yorkshire police have billed the taxpayer for a considerable amount of legal advice over the past 23 years as they sought to cover up their actions and the actions of senior officers. Given how badly this country has let the families down, it should be for the state to ensure that any costs of fresh inquests are met by central Government funds.

The first investigation, which is being led by the Director of Public Prosecutions, is looking at whether manslaughter charges can be brought against South Yorkshire police, Sheffield Wednesday football club, the Football Association, Eastwood—the engineering company—and Sheffield city council. Any manslaughter charges may be corporate or individual, depending on the DPP’s findings, and may relate to the actions of those agencies before the disaster. The second investigation, which is totally separate from the first, will be carried out by the IPCC. This investigation will focus on the conduct of the police after the disaster and will decide if charges for perverting the course of justice or malfeasance in public office can be brought against certain individuals.

It is vital for the families and for the justice process that three things now happen with these investigations. First, they must be co-ordinated; there is no point in having two investigations covering the same ground. It is the wish of the families that there be a figurehead for subsequent investigations. The IPCC and DPP should work together effectively and efficiently so that decisions over future prosecutions may be made within months, not years. Secondly, both investigations must be well resourced. Thirdly, the investigations must be carried out in reasonable time. The families have had to wait 23 years already. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) has said,

“What you have achieved, your dignity in the face of provocation, setbacks and defeat will forever inspire any parent fighting for their child.”

He was absolutely right.

At Hillsborough on that fateful day, we witnessed one of the greatest moments of spontaneous human ingenuity in peacetime. Heroes who were labelled drunken

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louts and who were apparently “unemployable” came together in a time of uncertainty, panic and immense fear to try desperately to save others by creating makeshift stretchers from advertising hoardings and by working to save the dying while the professionals did little or nothing.

This report means that half our campaign has concluded, and our gratitude must be conveyed for the work of Bishop James and the independent panel, but the fight for justice continues. The lies are now attributable to the liars. Whether or not the reported 41 or 58 could have been saved, the reality is that 96 should have been saved. We will never give up until there is justice for the 96.

7.26 pm

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): I was, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), one of the two Ministers in the previous Government whose initiative led to the establishment of the Hillsborough independent panel. I believed then that after years of campaigning and the seeming exhaustion of all legal avenues, only transparency and full publication of all documents could reveal the truth to the world. The people of Merseyside always knew the truth of Hillsborough.

Hillsborough is something that I have campaigned on since I was first elected in 1997. As a lawyer by trade, I am dismayed to see the utter failure of the legal system to right the wrongs and the smears of Hillsborough. Only Taylor’s interim report partially succeeded. All the other legal proceedings—from the inquests to the civil actions, the contribution proceedings, the judicial reviews, the criminal investigations, the disciplinary investigations, the Stuart-Smith scrutiny, and the private prosecutions—failed. The Hillsborough independent panel has succeeded. It has enabled the incontrovertible truth of what happened on the day and subsequently to be spread beyond Merseyside.

It took a wholly novel and non-legalistic process to break down the failings of past legal attempts to get the truth on record. I commend the great work of Bishop James Jones and the panel members. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh, as well as Lord Michael Wills, whose role has been unremarked on but was crucial, our current Home Secretary, who enabled the panel’s work to be finished when it could have been halted by the new Government, and the Prime Minister, who quickly grasped the import of the panel’s findings and has said that justice must follow on from truth.

Accountability, especially for the black propaganda campaign, matters very much to this House. Those who ordered and orchestrated that campaign have had many years of impunity to enjoy their burgeoning careers. One of the people I named in this House in 1998 as being involved in orchestrating it is Sir Norman Bettison, currently chief constable of West Yorkshire police but at the time a chief inspector, then superintendent, in South Yorkshire police. I should make it clear that he has always denied any involvement in the “dirty tricks campaign”, as Trevor Hicks has somewhat mildly dubbed it—the black propaganda campaign, I call it—in public statements.

I have here a letter from which I would like to read an extract. It was written in 1998 to Ann Adlington, then a solicitor working for the Hillsborough family support

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group. It is from Mr John Barry, who says that he was at Hillsborough and saw the disaster unfold. He sent it to me with a covering letter in 2009, and has recently given me permission to make it public. It says: “At the time”, in 1989,

“I was doing a part-time MBA at Sheffield Business School. One of my fellow students was a middle ranking police officer with South Yorkshire Police…Some weeks after the game and after I had been interviewed by West Midlands Police, we were in a pub after our weekly evening class. He told me that he had been asked by his senior officers to put together the South Yorkshire Police evidence for the forthcoming inquiry. He said that ‘we are trying to concoct a story that all the Liverpool fans were drunk and we were afraid that they were going to break down the gates, so we decided to open them’. I was quite astounded that he had shared this information with me, knowing that I had been very close to the scene of the disaster and had been greatly affected by it. We didn’t discuss it further.”

Mr Barry confirmed to me in the covering letter in 2009 that the middle-ranking police officer to whom he refers is Norman Bettison. He has agreed to swear a statement to that effect and I have put him in touch with the families’ solicitors. Here we have an account of a contemporaneous conversation in which Norman Bettison boasts that he is engaged in a South Yorkshire police plot to fit up the Liverpool fans and deflect blame from the force. That is indeed what happened subsequently, so what Sir Norman denies in public he boasts about in private conversations.

Sir Norman Bettison has given inconsistent accounts publicly over the years about what his role was. In late 1998, when he was appointed chief constable of Merseyside, he accepted that he was a member of what the Hillsborough independent panel report calls the Wain unit. In a written statement, he said:

“The unit was tasked with looking at what had happened on the day of the disaster…The unit also liaised with and passed information to WM police who were undertaking the formal and independent investigation into the disaster…After the immediate work of the unit was complete, I was given a specific role to monitor the public inquiry and the inquest and brief the Chief Constable on progress.”

On 13 September 2012, the day after the panel’s report was published, Norman Bettison immediately put out a statement exonerating himself and restating two of the Hillsborough smears that were part of the black propaganda campaign I referred to in 1998, namely that fan behaviour made the police’s job more difficult and that Liverpool fans arrived late at the ground and caused a surge at the Leppings Lane end. In the 2012 statement, he said about his role:

“Shortly after the conclusion of the Taylor Inquiry, I was posted to other duties. I had nothing further to do with the subsequent Coroners Inquests and proceedings.”

That is completely different from what he said in 1998 about having a special task reporting to the chief constable until after the inquests.

It is my belief that Norman Bettison has always known more than he has admitted to publicly. I met him one to one in my parliamentary office in late 1998 at the request of Sir David Henshaw, the then clerk to the Merseyside police authority, following the understandable furore that erupted when Norman Bettison was appointed chief constable of Merseyside. At that meeting, he let slip the liability split agreed in the contribution proceedings —in other words, the percentage of the blame that South Yorkshire police would accept for the disaster when paying out damages. That was very sensitive

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information from South Yorkshire police’s point of view and it was never made public; it was a requirement of the settlements that it be kept secret.

I knew what percentage of the blame each defendant had agreed to accept, because as a trainee solicitor at Brian Thompson and Partners I had had legally privileged access to some of my principal’s Hillsborough files. My principal was on the Hillsborough steering committee of lawyers, dealing with civil litigation on behalf of some families. Only someone who was at the heart of dealing with Hillsborough from the South Yorkshire police side would have known what percentage of the blame they accepted, and Norman Bettison knew that information.

The Hillsborough independent panel report itself suggests that Norman Bettison had a much wider role than he has admitted. He was present and took notes at the five-hour meeting between senior officers and the South Yorkshire police legal team on 26 April 1989, at which it was decided that officers would write their own statements instead of having them taken. That would not have been usual practice.

Norman Bettison compiled and introduced a video for South Yorkshire police, which was shown on 3 October 1989 to Michael Shersby MP, who represented the interests of the Police Federation in Parliament, and which tried to emphasise aspects of the disaster that deflected blame from the police. He also brought it to Westminster and showed it to more MPs, in an attempt to undermine Taylor’s findings that South Yorkshire police were to blame for the disaster.

Norman Bettison was involved in what looks like a crude attempt to smear and discredit Lord Justice Taylor, as reported by The Independent on Sunday on 16 September 2012, which led to the then chief constable of South Yorkshire police, Peter Wright, travelling to see the Director of Public Prosecutions to suggest that Taylor should be charged with perverting the course of justice. He also received daily reports of how well the smears were being received by the coroner at the inquests—the means by which police sought to undermine Taylor’s report and achieve historical revisionism. I very much welcome the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into his role.

I want to raise one other issue. This House and the country were shocked by the extent to which police statements were interfered with and changed by South Yorkshire police. I believe that there may have been a similar issue regarding West Midlands police pressurising survivors who were witnesses into changing statements to support the South Yorkshire police account of events. The hon. Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley) has referred to West Midlands police pressurising police officers about their statements. I have seen one such example. I have heard from survivors who gave statements that they were never told whether they were passed to the Taylor inquiry or the coroner and that they have been denied copies when they have sought them. I am pleased that the IPCC has decided to investigate the role of West Midlands police in that regard.

The families want swift criminal investigations that do not overlap and are not sequential. I know that the Home Secretary understands that and wants to do her best in that respect. The families deserve to be properly resourced after 23 years of having to raise their own money, and I know that she is also thinking about that.

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The families want a point of contact in order to be able to be kept informed about how things are going. The Bishop of Liverpool may be a good person to fulfil that role, given that he continues to advise the right hon. Lady and is well trusted by the families.

Twenty-three years is far too long for anybody to wait for justice. I hope that, through the efforts that we can all make and the House’s unity on the need for something to be done to get to the bottom of this, and soon, we can make sure that justice does not take as long as it has taken to establish the truth.

7.36 pm

Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): I first pay tribute to the families of the 96 who have campaigned with dignity over the past 23 years for truth and justice. I also want to put on the record my admiration for Liverpool fans and football fans from around the world who have supported the campaign from day one, especially Everton fans who, despite being our major rivals, have stood by the Hillsborough families and supported them every inch of the way. I thank them for their efforts.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), who has been the point of contact between the families and MPs since the campaign started. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), who took on all comers to make sure that all the files were released and that the truth came out. I pay a special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), who has already said how he has been campaigning on this issue for many years both in the House and elsewhere, and to his predecessors and many other MPs, both past and present, who have campaigned on the issue for a very long time. I associate myself with the comments that have been made so far, especially by the Front-Bench representatives, who have been very positive. I am glad that Parliament is standing firm and together to make sure that there is truth and justice on this occasion.

I also want to take this opportunity to remember my old friend, David Hawley. He was a childhood friend and we met by chance after 20 years and arranged to have a drink. Unfortunately, I did not take that offer up quickly enough—I should have done so much quicker—and two weeks later he died at Hillsborough. I can only hope that his wife and family take some comfort from recent events and that they can at least get some peace.

Much has been said about who is to blame for the disaster. We know that many individuals and organisations are to blame, but we also know that the fans were not to blame. We need to do a number of things today. I hope that the Secretary of State will make it clear that the Government will pay the costs of all the coroners’ inquiries, past and present, for the families. The inquiries should be arranged as quickly as possible and, given this week’s exposé by The Independent on Sunday, we need a separate investigation into the role of the Crown Prosecution Service. We also need to see whether some of the legal files held by the Yorkshire police and their lawyers can be released, so that we can see exactly what went on between them.

I want to concentrate on why it took so long for the truth to come out. We know that as soon as the tragedy occurred the authorities decided to carry out a cover-up

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to protect themselves. They found willing partners in the national media. The cover-up included the police, other emergency services, the football authorities, Sheffield city council, Government Departments, the CPS and possibly others. They were all successful in the cover-up for many years. They decided to blame the fans, not themselves.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): My hon. Friend said that Sheffield city council was involved in a cover-up. I hope that he will reconsider that, because I have seen no evidence that anyone at Sheffield city council partook in any cover-up.

Mr Watts: I am not making any accusations against members of Sheffield city council, but there was certainly no certificate. I do not know what role Sheffield city council officials played, but I would have thought that they would have had to make some comments. If that ground was not safe, the game should not have gone ahead.

As I have said, I do not want to make individual accusations against members of the emergency services. None of us knows how we would react when faced with the crisis with which they were faced. I do not know how I would have acted as an individual policeman or member of the ambulance service, so it would be wrong for us to pass judgment, given the situation that they found themselves in and the poor leadership that existed.

Many issues regarding the disaster need to be addressed. We need full, independent, transparent, open, fact-based investigations that are carried out professionally, for a change.

There are other issues that I would like to address. Why did the establishment and the media not expose the cover-up before now? I believe that in-built prejudices about the north-west, about football fans and, especially, about Liverpool led them to protect the establishment and to not worry too much about the 96 who found themselves in that position. It is clear to me that the London-based media and establishment believed that all football fans were potential hooligans, who deserved what they got. They believed the police, the emergency services, the establishment and the football authorities without question. They took the view that they were right and that football fans were wrong. I believe that all Liverpool people and fans were seen as trouble makers and, in some cases, thieves and thugs.

I suggest that anyone who does not believe that account reads the book, “Stick It Up Your Punter: The Rise and Fall of the Sun”, which goes through the conversations that went on in the media and parts of the establishment in some detail. After the tragedy, the London-based media and establishment were ready to pounce, led by The Sun and its editor, Kelvin MacKenzie. Once The Sun had ignored the facts, its editor could do what he wanted. He could not wait to put the knife in. Apparently, the first headline that MacKenzie came up with was, “You Scum”. That was later replaced with, “The Truth”. What does that tell us about editors and newspapers? They are happy to publish anything that fits their political and personal prejudices. Kelvin MacKenzie fits that stereotype perfectly.

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Kelvin MacKenzie now claims that he was misled. However, he said before the National Heritage Committee that he did not stand by the claims that he made at the time. I hope that hon. Members remember that. He went away from the Select Committee saying, until a couple of weeks ago, that the false allegations were absolutely true and repeated them on a regular basis. He and The Sun obviously will not support my view of how the media dealt with this matter. They will point out that some northern journalists work for their newspapers. I am sure that that is true, but most of them have been away from their northern roots for too long and have become part of the London-centric establishment. I find it incredible that any human being could write such inaccurate, shabby and hurtful stories, or that they could continue to repeat them until only weeks ago.

The national media, including the BBC, are still employing this man. That says an awful lot about what is wrong with our media and the lack of standards that they maintain. I cannot believe that anyone could justify employing such a man. We need a media that will investigate the establishment and hold it to account; that will do the job that they are supposed to do, instead of dealing with tittle-tattle and sex stories; and that will protect the public from the establishment and cover-ups like the one that we have talked about today.

7.44 pm

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): This debate is another milestone in the 23-year struggle to force the authorities to face up to the truth of why 96 people died, hundreds more were injured and thousands traumatised as a consequence of the Hillsborough disaster —a disaster that was wholly preventable.

The unique work of the Hillsborough independent panel has exposed the horror of what happened and has made it impossible for the authorities to continue their deception in hiding the truth. The painstaking work of the bishop and his team has transformed the public understanding of what happened for ever, and I commend them.

The vindictive lie that the victims were responsible for their own deaths is laid bare for all to see. It was always based on prejudice and lies, and the denial of culpability from those who were responsible. It was perpetuated by a long-standing cover-up. The Taylor report came close to exposing the truth, but nobody wanted to listen and the authorities joined forces to hide the truth from the public.

The question is where we go from here and what should happen now. It is essential that the dynamic is maintained. We must move with urgency from exposure of the truth to accountability, and due process is required. I welcome the statements of the Attorney-General, the Home Secretary and shadow Ministers. I warmly welcome the actions that the Attorney-General and the Home Secretary have begun. My comments will concentrate on what needs to be done now.

It is essential that the cases that may now be brought are fast-tracked. It has been suggested that there should be a special prosecutor to enable that to happen. I support that proposal. If there is a special prosecutor, sufficient resources must be made available to make swift action possible and there must be no financial cost

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to the victims’ families. The scope of the investigations and possible prosecutions should be wide and there should be no restrictions. The role of the CPS in the wake of the disaster and the subsequent inquiry by West Yorkshire police should be examined closely.

It is essential that there is parliamentary oversight of what happens from now on to ensure that the momentum is maintained and that any problems are identified and resolved. I was interested to hear the comments of the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee on how the Committee might follow this up. I have confidence that the Home Secretary will want to follow up what happens. It is also important that Parliament is kept informed of developments across the range of activities and actions, so that we know what progress is made and so that any problems are identified and resolved swiftly. There must be no more hiding of the truth, and the public and Parliament must not be prevented from knowing exactly what is happening.

I welcome the Attorney-General’s decision to apply to the High Court for new inquests. I also welcome the statements made by the Home Secretary on how that can be taken forward. The Attorney-General has stated clearly that he must listen to the representations of individual bereaved families on their cases and on what should happen. That must be done, because due process is an essential part of justice. However, action should be as swift as possible, and there must not be any more undue delays. The accidental death verdicts must be quashed, but how long will that process take? Resources must be made available to expedite it.

New inquests are absolutely essential, and they will confirm the absurdity of the damaging and always unjustified decision taken by the coroner to impose a 3.15 pm cut-off point. New inquests will unlock the door to exposing the horrendous inadequacy of the emergency services’ response to this major disaster, as well as the orchestrated cover-up that followed. After all, thanks to the work of the Hillsborough panel and the unprecedented disclosures made to it, we now know that more than 116 statements were altered to cover up culpability for what happened. If required, the law should be changed to enable the IPCC to question all those involved at the time and consider actions against organisations, as well as individuals, where necessary.

The campaigners have fought for 23 years to bring us to this point, but Parliament, too, has had a role in listening to the sustained and strong representations of the bereaved and the traumatised. Through the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), and my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), Parliament set up the Hillsborough inquiry, and the Government of the day allowed unprecedented access to documents so that the Hillsborough panel could consider all the information available, including information that had been hidden from public view and would not normally have been available for many years, if ever. Parliament must now ensure that we move swiftly from exposure of the truth to accountability for what happened. The 96 and their families, and all those who have suffered, deserve no less. I know that Parliament is determined to pursue the matter, and tonight’s debate must help to make that a reality.

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7.52 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): I apologise to the House for the fact that I had to leave for a meeting earlier.

I welcome this opportunity to speak from the Back Benches on an issue of great importance to my constituents, and I join colleagues from all parties in paying tribute to the Hillsborough independent panel for its work. In particular, I pay tribute to the Bishop of Liverpool for the leadership that he has shown, and I welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement that she has appointed him as her adviser on the matter.

The Home Secretary described the report as “disturbing” and “painful”, and my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary spoke about the shocking failure to keep people safe. I join colleagues in thanking my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) for their work in government, which ensured that the long-overdue panel was set up and the process set in train. I thank my constituency neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), who has shown remarkable leadership on the issue since his election to the House two and a half years ago, and my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), who, as has been said, has acted as a point of liaison between Members of Parliament and the families.

When we had our debate a year ago I said that, unlike some colleagues, I did not have a connection with Liverpool in 1989. Listening to speeches in both that debate and today’s, I have been struck by what has been said by those who were there and those who lost friends or family members. I cannot say any of those things, but I can say that I speak on behalf of my constituents in West Derby, in the great city of Liverpool, many of whom were there on that day and some of whom lost friends, family members and loved ones.

After last year’s debate and the Prime Minister’s statement to the House last month, I was struck by the response of my constituents and people in Liverpool more widely and across Merseyside. There was real appreciation of the seriousness of both occasions. All too often we hear the relevance of Parliament and politics to people’s everyday lives called into question, but what stood out in the responses that I had from my constituents was that people saw a really relevant response by Parliament, the Government and the Opposition Front Benchers on both those occasions. That is an important point—the cross-party nature of the debate, and the Government’s decision to continue the work that started under the previous Government, are commendable. Today’s debate gives us an opportunity to say so.

The Home Secretary described the report’s references to the behaviour of South Yorkshire police as “stark”, which is absolutely right. The report is stark. The truth is now clear for all of us to see, and we pay tribute to those who have spent 23 years campaigning for it. The Prime Minister spoke in his statement last month about a double injustice that now needs to be corrected. I, too, commend the IPCC and the Director of Public Prosecutions for opening fresh investigations into the appalling failings that occurred on 15 April 1989, and both the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary spoke at the beginning of today’s debate about the importance of a co-ordinated approach. I echo that.

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As colleagues have, I welcome the Attorney-General’s announcement last week that he would apply to the High Court to have the inquest into the 96 who died at Hillsborough overturned. I hope the Attorney-General will move as quickly as possible to proceed with that action and that, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary said, he will have all the resources of government behind him so that the matter can be moved forward as quickly as possible.

I echo what Members have said throughout the debate about the importance of the families being fully engaged at every stage. I pay tribute to all the families and the various support groups and campaigning organisations—the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Hope for Hillsborough—whose combined efforts over a 23-and-a-half-year period have got us to where we are today.

One of my constituents, Steven Kelly, whose brother Michael died at Hillsborough, plays an active role in the Hillsborough Justice Campaign doing his best to offer support and advice to people affected by the disaster. I spoke to him in advance of the debate about the issues that should be raised today. Like a lot of other people in Liverpool who were affected by Hillsborough in 1989, Steven trained to become a counsellor so that he could help others who were affected as they battled through their grief. Steven and the many others who want to help need assistance in their counselling work from paid professionals, and in the current climate of austerity it is more difficult for Liverpool council and the voluntary sector to provide that support. Steven has asked me to draw to the attention of the Government and the House the vital importance of support for people for whom old wounds have been reopened by the revelations in the Hillsborough report. Let us take that work forward on a cross-party basis, in the spirit of our debates.

The Home Secretary spoke about trust and the importance of integrity in the police. This morning, another constituent not connected with today’s debate visited me. He is a serving police officer in the Merseyside police force, and he spoke passionately as a Liverpudlian about what had happened in 1989, but he also spoke passionately, as a committed police officer, about how different the police of 2012 are from the police of 1989. He expressed a concern that I have heard others express, which is that trust in the police as a whole could be undermined by what has been revealed. Nobody in the House wants that.

Delivery on justice and accountability is, first and foremost, vital for the families and the memory of the 96, and all those who have campaigned for justice in Liverpool and beyond. Building on the Home Secretary’s earlier remarks, delivering on justice and accountability will ensure greater confidence in the police, not only in South Yorkshire, but in the rest of the country. This is an opportunity, and like other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I know this is an incredibly powerful and emotional issue in the city of Liverpool, and beyond. We have an enormous and long overdue responsibility to build on the truth that was revealed in the panel’s report, so that out of that truth can come justice and accountability. I commend the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary on the way they have conducted this debate today. It sends out a powerful

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and unifying message to my constituents, and I hope we can ensure that we move forward efficiently, building on the brilliant work of the Bishop of Liverpool and the independent panel.

8 pm

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): Let me begin by thanking the Bishop of Liverpool and each member of the Hillsborough independent panel. Their diligence and clarity have made clear what was hidden and unjust. The report has made the shocking and the painful bearable, because although it is horrendous to read, we now have the truth. We are all so very grateful to the panel.

Just over a year ago, here in this House, the Hillsborough families and the campaign for justice made history. Having fought a 23-year campaign to see their loved ones exonerated, when it seemed that full disclosure by the Government might be at risk, they did not give up. With thousands and thousands of voices, they told us that this was the issue that must be heard.

The House has often been seen as an exclusive place. A sign in the Public Gallery has words saying, in effect, “No clapping. No making a scene”. People are supposed to watch in silence and show no emotion. As I know, if someone already feels like an outsider, this House can be a difficult place to come to. But when the Hillsborough families needed Parliament’s help to get full disclosure, they broke down barriers that had been in place for centuries which said that only the Government or Her Majesty’s Opposition could call a debate here. Theirs was the first public campaign with enough signatures to reach the threshold needed for a Backbench Business debate. Tens of thousands of people signed the e-petition, and just one year later we have the truly open and frank report that we asked for then. We have the truth.

I also pay tribute to all those journalists—print and broadcast—who undertook the serious responsibility of helping the public understand what is contained in the report. To those journalists—they know who they are—who saw the pain suffered by those who lost a loved one but could not grieve properly, and who listened to those who were in Sheffield on that day and never got over it, I say this, “Your words helped to tell that story. Over the past few weeks, your words have made the awful contents of the panel’s report understood. Your words made sure that those who had been ignored were finally heard, and for that I will never stop thanking you.”

Now that we have the truth, I am hopeful that we are turning towards justice. I associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), and other hon. Members, on the process that we now want to see. Last week, the Attorney-General said that he is preparing his application to the High Court, and he stated:

“I want the application that is made to be as persuasive as it can be.”—[Official Report, 16 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 9WS.]

I understand that he is now doing a significant amount of work to make that case, and I hope he will not mind me briefly drawing the attention of the House to two crucial points of evidence. The first concerns the 3.15 pm cut-off point in the inquest, and the second relates to prosecutions arising from the alteration of police statements.

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Chapter 10 of the panel’s report covers the 3.15 pm cut-off point in great detail. In brief, the reason for that relates to information provided in chapter 5, which covers medical evidence. The coroner judged that all 96 people who died on 15 April 1989 died the same way, and stated that

“all who died had suffered fatal and irreversible injuries by that time.”

The report provides evidence that calls that claim into question, stating that

“some people who were partially asphyxiated survived, while others did not. It is highly likely that what happened to these individuals after 3.15 pm was significant in determining that outcome.”

That is a vital finding.

On altered statements, as the House heard on 8 May 1998, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith was aware of

“the fact that some of the original statements made by individual police officers had been edited by solicitors acting for South Yorkshire police.”—[Official Report, 8 May 1998; Vol. 311, c. 944.]

That leads to a question that the shadow Attorney-General, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), asked the Director of Public Prosecutions: faced with that information, why did the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions act as they did?

Let me quote my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) from that debate in 1998:

“I condemn the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute Duckenfield, the chief constable and others. I understand that the view of the DPP is that there is insufficient evidence. We do not know why that is the case because the DPP cannot publish the reason…That does not help me”.—[Official Report, 8 May 1998; Vol. 311, c. 963.]

All these years later, my hon. Friend must have his answer.

In addition to the key question of why we have not seen prosecutions earlier, and other vital points raised by colleagues, I want to alert the Government and the House to something that I take to be one of the most important lessons in this report. At the heart of the Hillsborough disaster were a couple of horrendous decisions taken by police officers in charge on the day. Against a background of disrespect for fans, and a cavalier attitude to safety, they made the wrong choices with horrific consequences. Despite the magnitude of the disaster, the response could have been very different. The agents of the state could have looked after the families and treated them with kindness—not blood alcohol tests and allegations, but proper respect for the deceased; not the so-termed “black propaganda unit”, but honesty and frankness; not the hesitation and, in the end, refusal to admit liability, but a proper, early apology.

It is clear from the report that people acting on behalf of the state responded to the primary horrific crisis by adding a second. Untold damage is done to the relationship between people and their Government when the actions of the state are, in effect, a second disaster. What was the impact of that secondary crisis? Unnecessary further distress felt by a great number of people over many years. There is also the unspoken impact on those who took their own lives following the disaster.

Mental illness can affect any of us and it should have no stigma attached to it. We must improve our care for people after extremely traumatic events, and we must

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not backslide on efforts to improve mental health care. I hope the Government will reflect on the lessons in the report, and look not only at what happened but at how our response to disasters can, and should, be better.

The state can at times be so concerned with its liabilities that it forgets about the relationship of trust and care that must exist between people and the Government. It forgets what power it has to condemn people to a life of disbelieving what they saw with their own eves, and feeling all the time like a perpetrator when in fact they were a victim. We know that there were people so wronged and so afflicted by distress that they were deeply affected. Added to the grief of losing 96 precious, special people, is the silent distress of those who blamed themselves.

I hope that all parts of Government and the state have changed. When a crisis occurs, the state should be there to protect the vulnerable and offer help in times of need. If there is no respect for the dignity of those affected or grieving, we risk a secondary crisis and, in the end, a collapse in trust. I say to all hon. Members that I hope we can shape our Government, our police forces and ourselves to be better than that now and in the future. Much has changed since 1989, but perhaps still not enough.

Let my closing words be about love. This issue is very difficult, and I have previously found it hard to get my words out, so I hope the House will forgive me if, in paying tribute to all those who have fought for justice, and to the families of the 96, I borrow the words of another McGovern. Jimmy McGovern, the talented playwright, spoke at the Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield in 2011. He told us what the campaign for justice had been all about. He told the families of the 96 what they had shown. Their campaign is, as he said,

“A wonderful demonstration of enduring love.”

Justice for the 96.

8.9 pm

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): The Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary and several hon. Members have paid tribute to the determination and dignity with which the families and survivors have pursued their cause over so many years. I add my voice to theirs.

There are two good reasons why the families pursued their cause—there are many more, but I shall isolate two. First, they did so because had those in positions of responsibility on that day—not only the police—carried out their duties properly, they could have helped to avoid the disaster; and, secondly, because of the cruel and baseless allegation that the fans themselves were responsible for what happened. Often, because it was not always easy to articulate what justice would amount to, too many were either unable, or in some cases unwilling, to comprehend the voice of the families.

Before the independent panel got to work, there were a lot of strands to the story of what happened. Among other things, we knew—because of the Taylor report—that the principal reason for what happened was the failure of South Yorkshire police to manage the event properly. We also knew—I saw this first hand—that the so-called mini-inquests were a cruel travesty that seemed interested only in undermining the characters of the 96 people who died. Moreover, that was compounded by the 3.15 pm

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cut-off point decision, which effectively served to insulate the authorities from any responsibility for anything that happened after that time. We also knew that parts of the media, and most shamefully

The Sun

newspaper, had grotesquely misrepresented and twisted events in such a way as to paint those who lost their lives and the survivors as partly the architects of their own misfortune. The survivors were also painted as bearing the responsibility for those who so tragically lost their lives. I recently watched the Jimmy McGovern drama to which my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) referred in her emotional speech. It powerfully illustrated how, on top of the trauma of being present and surviving, some felt that the finger of suspicion, despite everything, including the Taylor inquiry, was still being pointed in their direction. That ghost had not been firmly been exorcised.

What the independent panel managed to achieve—by so doing, it did a great service to truth—was to weave all those strands together into a coherent and damning narrative. In my view, the report shows convincingly how the strands combine to form a distinct and discernible pattern. Two unambiguous conclusions among others can now be accepted with absolute confidence by all fair-minded people. First, there is no foundation whatever to the victims-as-cause theory that, we now know, was scandalously orchestrated by South Yorkshire police to such grotesque effect. I am not normally a conspiracy theorist, but in this case there clearly was a conspiracy. I know from comments that constituents and others have made to me that the conspiracy shakes the very foundations of their belief in institutions that they have always respected.

As somebody recently pointed out to me, had there been a fire at a theatre or classical music concert, nobody would ever have tried to blame those attending for having had a gin and tonic or glass of wine during the interval. The fact that so many people were at least tacitly prepared to accept or even half accept that version of events speaks to a more general and regrettable aspect of our society: the implicit prejudice many have towards football fans and working-class culture.

Secondly, the report’s conclusions call into question the means available to investigate major disasters. As we have heard, the Taylor inquiry got it right, but provided no real pointer as to how those responsible could be held to account. Because of the prejudiced assumption on which the inquest was based, the inquest system was deeply flawed to the extent that it was both grossly offensive and cruelly ineffective. As the Prime Minister has said, the approach taken by the independent panel—I join others in praising the work of the Bishop of Liverpool and the panel—might serve as a model for the future, should that ever sadly prove to be necessary.

Finally, the question of what happens next must be addressed. As many have said, we know the truth, but what about securing justice and accountability? As I have said previously, the key action will be to hold fresh inquests. I have described on previous occasions what was wrong with the so-called mini-inquests, and I will not repeat what has already been said, but I welcome the Attorney-General’s statement of last week. I hope the courts take note of the strength of feeling and of the strength of evidence in favour of holding fresh inquests.

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A different outcome could unlock the door for other action against bodies and individuals who either failed to carry out their responsibilities or tried to cover up what happened before, during and following that fatal football fixture. The recent Independent Police Complaints Commission statement is, in addition, a welcome step in that direction, as is what the Home Secretary has said today. I know she will listen and I hope she takes note of the many points that have been made on resources, keeping the House informed and, most importantly of all, keeping the families abreast of what is happening.

One small point that has not so far been raised with the Home Secretary is this: I hope that anybody who claims they are too ill to give evidence will be rigorously tested—some will make such a claim, and some serving police officers of the time are getting on. I hope it will not be taken as read if they get a doctor’s note saying they are too ill to give evidence. That needs to be independently tested, because it is all too easy in such cases—it is a cop out. I hope she takes that point on board.

Once or twice in each generation, we have a debt of honour placed on us. What happened at Hillsborough is a stain on all of us. I hope we can now redeem that debt of honour.

8.18 pm

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): I begin my short contribution by acknowledging the work of the panel, and in particularly the Bishop of Liverpool, as all hon. Members have done, and I pay tribute to the families. On Friday, I spoke to the BBC about a constituent who lost her boy on the island of Kos 21 years ago. I said that it is impossible to understand what it is like to lose a child. All hon. Members must acknowledge that if they have not lost a loved one or a child in tragic circumstances, it is impossible to understand it, but we can understand and be amazed by the strength and courage of the families over the past 23 years, and acknowledge that, without their campaign, we would not be where we are today. The House has acknowledged that fully.

I should refer first to the culture that informed the management of football in 1989. It was, of course, a culture that encouraged the characterisation of football fans as heavy-drinking hooligans. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) pointed out, rightly, that having a drink before or at a football match does not make someone a hooligan or mean that they have done anything wrong. The stereotype was far from being true. The vast majority of fans, even if they do have a drink, are genuine fans and law-abiding citizens. Even then, many fans going to football matches were part of families—dads taking sons, dads taking daughters, mums and dads taking their children. That is something that we should always remember.

Nevertheless, the stereotype of the hooligan was very powerful, and it underpinned an approach by the authorities that led to fans being treated as something less than human. It had three tragic consequences at Hillsborough. One was the erection of the barriers, way before 1989, to prevent fans from going on to the pitch. The second was the crush itself, which was thought at first by the police to be the result of hooliganism. When the crush occurred, the police thought that it was hooligans kicking off. The final consequence was the vilification of fans

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by South Yorkshire police, the direct consequence of an all too easy assumption that any trouble at a football match is down to the behaviour of the fans.

Justice has to be delivered, and I welcome the referrals to the IPCC and the involvement of Keir Starmer in the ongoing investigations. As my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary said earlier, the investigation is in two parts. We have the events leading up to the disaster and the cover-up in what happened afterwards. We have to have a thorough investigation and, if there is clear evidence of criminal wrongdoing, charges have to be laid and those accused should answer those charges in court.

The cover-up was especially shocking because it was so deliberate and led to the vilification of the fans for all these years. The investigation of South Yorkshire police and the cover-up has to take place in the context—there is no point in avoiding it—of the screening tonight of a programme about a cover-up and the changing of statements about an earlier event in south Yorkshire. It is clear that there was a culture, and we need to ensure that there is a thorough and rigorous investigation of that culture in relation to both Hillsborough and any other aspect of policing in the 1980s, so that we can defend the integrity and standards of British policing in the long term. If we are to continue to have policing by consent, we have to get to the bottom of what was happening to policing in the 1980s. I suspect that it was not just a problem in the South Yorkshire police and that the problem went beyond that force—we already know that Hillsborough also involved the West Midlands force.

I have been clear about the need for rigorous criminal inquiries with no holds barred in getting to the bottom of what went wrong, but it is also important to recognise that the South Yorkshire force is very different now. It has moved forward. It is not perfect by any means—far from it, as recent events have shown—but it is important to remember that it has made progress under two former chief constables, Richard Wells and Med Hughes, and we now have David Crompton. It was Med Hughes who, readily and without question, agreed to release the South Yorkshire police archives for the purposes of the panel’s work. We need to acknowledge that, and we also need to remember that football policing in Sheffield has improved radically in recent years. Police officers in charge of policing at Hillsborough and at Bramall Lane have to be accredited and trained, and anyone taking command at Hillsborough has to have significant experience, especially when taking charge of a big match such as a local derby. I need to say that for the sake not just of South Yorkshire police, but for police morale across the country, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) said earlier. If the public are to continue to have confidence in the ability of the South Yorkshire police force to protect our streets, we have to say now, publicly, that it is different from the force that was functioning in 1989.

Equally, Sheffield Wednesday football club is a different club. Bert McGee went a long time ago. It has a different structure now. In fact, the previous club was dissolved and we have a new club with new personnel and new people in charge. The chairman and those new people did not hesitate to release their documentation to the panel so that it could be as thorough as possible in reaching its conclusions. Sheffield Wednesday is not

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perfect in how it functions—no club is—but progress has been made, and that should be put on the record in the context of this debate.

We have to address the injustices of the past, but we must also recognise progress. More than anything else, we need lessons relating to accountability and transparency arising from Hillsborough to be learnt and applied. I therefore welcome the commitment from the Home Secretary to bring forward proposals in the new year, and I look forward to being able to examine them. I welcome the consensus that appears to be growing on this issue across the House. My right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary made it clear that the House will work collaboratively to ensure that we learn the lessons and move forward on the key fundamental issue of police accountability and transparency. There is no other guarantee for public confidence in policing other than the ability to see what is going on within the police, and the knowledge that they are doing their job properly and with integrity. Transparency is the only means by which we can properly guarantee that that is the case.

More than anything else, I look forward to moving on with justice delivered and with our progress towards the highest ethical standards in policing hastened by what we have learned from Hillsborough. I look forward to that in the name of all those who died so needlessly that day, in the name of a sport that is enjoyed by millions but which needs to be enjoyed safely, and in the name of the absolute need for policing that we know we can trust.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Seven Members still wish to participate in this debate, and we have an hour before the winding-up speeches will start. I am therefore changing the time limit for speeches in the hope that all of those Members will be able to speak. The new limit will be eight minutes.

8.28 pm

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): I am pleased, Madam Deputy Speaker, to have eight minutes.

I brought together the families in Birkenhead most affected by Hillsborough, and they asked me to relay certain messages. This I willingly do. They will have been following this debate and, therefore, will know that many of their questions have already been put, and they will be anxiously awaiting the Health Secretary’s reply. My guess is that they will also have noticed how generous we have been in throwing a spotlight on other organisations and their responsibilities for the horrors that we have described and which were described in the independent report. First of all, then, those families wish me to record their thanks for the work that the bishop and the panel did in breaking this open.

As we have shone the searchlight on other organisations, heroes have emerged. Those organisations are not totally without something to be said for them. We should also shine a light on Parliament. I am surrounded by a number of heroes who, during those long 23 years, did not lose faith but continued to raise the issue. When we are liberally condemning other public and private organisations, however, I must add that we do not come out smelling of roses ourselves. Some of those in Birkenhead most affected by Hillsborough are dead. They did not

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live to see the results of the independent inquiry. All of them are 23 years older and many are now quite elderly. So time is of the essence for them.

Before I pursue that last point, I wish to put three questions not so far raised specifically in this debate. First, in a previous debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) said that Sheffield was not a suitable place to hold the inquest. The families might well say the same. They are mindful, however, that although two thirds of the families affected are in Merseyside, there are many in Scotland and the south, and, in an extraordinary act of generosity, they have asked me to say that Liverpool might not be the most ideal place to hold the inquest, because a minority of other families will wish to come from other parts of the country. They ask that their needs are also borne in mind.

Secondly, given the tale of horrors we have heard from the independent inquiry and in our debates, the families want to know who will run the inquest. A large number of people set in authority over us have not done terribly well, so why should the families trust the next person? The Home Secretary partly answered my third question when she said that she would give us some idea of the scope of the next stage of the inquiry. As their Member of Parliament, I have listened to this debate and have the advantage of representing what I guess is their opinion so far. We have heard many phrases. As one family member said, truth has at last come home, but, as the Home Secretary said, that must be followed by justice and accountability. To be honest, though, I do not know what the next steps will be. We know that there has been an application to set the inquests apart, but I do not know how we will ensure that truth is followed by justice, and I am not sure what steps will be taken to ensure that those people who should be held accountable are held accountable.

I make this plea: it is a question of urgency. People have waited 23 years. People have died waiting for this report and debate, and time is of the essence for many family members still alive. Although they are still alive, part of them died with those events 23 years ago, and they wish to see truth followed by justice, not in any vengeful sense but because they believe it is important. They believe that those who were in authority should stand accountable.

If I may say so, however, the issue for Parliament extends even beyond Hillsborough. The latter has thrown up a terrible divide in this country between those who are done to and those who do the doing. There is a huge crisis of confidence in the people set in authority over us. Hillsborough could go some way to healing a divide that, if I may say so, is far bigger even than that faced by those who suffered the terrible horrors and blight of Hillsborough. Let us think of Hillsborough as an X-ray, as the barium meal going through the system. It shows up some terrible weakness in our country, where many people feel that they are done to, where it is terribly difficult for them to be heard, where it is nigh on impossible for justice to follow through when truth is established and where those who have taken money to be accountable do not accept that accountability.

I hope that when the Secretary of State for Health sums up he will give my constituents who will be following this debate some clarity on those two key issues. Now

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that we have truth, what is the road map to justice and how do we get accountability? The plea I make, through him to the Home Secretary, is this. Tomorrow she will have another crisis, and the day after she will have another. It is crucial that there should be somebody who is now accountable for ensuring that the truth that has been established in the independent inquiry is followed by justice and accountability. I do not doubt for a moment the Home Secretary’s good will or her wish to see that through herself; I think it will be very difficult for her to do so. That task has to be delegated. That person needs to be named and we need to support them in taking truth, which has at last come home, to the stage of justice and, even more importantly, accountability.

8.35 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): In paying tribute to the families for their campaign, I want to thank them for something additional: empowering people across the country. One of the things we will find in future months and years is that a lot of people now feel empowered to take on the establishment, be it the state or whoever else. That is a change. I certainly do not intend to use my time to go through all the major issues that people have been bringing to me, but Hillsborough and the campaign of the families has been cited as the reason for doing so—to quote one person: “I wish I’d had the courage to speak out before.” We are going to see more people speaking out about more things. That is part of the legacy that we will see, because the campaign has had such an effect.

I will list one of those issues, however, because the revelations today—about an hour ago on the BBC—of what happened at Orgreave would without question not have come out without the Hillsborough campaign in the last year. The two are directly linked, because what happened at Orgreave was a comparable cover-up of statements made by the police. One of the police constables—now retired—has been prepared to speak out, spelling out exactly what happened and who did what. I salute his courage in doing so, but the culture that came out of what happened in the aftermath of Orgreave—done by the same police force and the same chief constable, albeit in co-operation with other police forces as well—was a prelude to what happened in the cover-up over Hillsborough just five years later. We need to learn the lessons from that.

One of those lessons is about the need for people to feel confident in speaking out from the inside about what is going on. I hope that everyone has read or will read the police statements, which are easily accessible and now in the public domain. I think I am the only MP in this debate speaking from Nottinghamshire. I have a lot of Nottingham Forest supporters in my constituency, and as I said in the last debate, it could quite easily, by fluke or coincidence, have been Nottingham Forest supporters at the other end.

There are two statements that I would like to pick out—I will quote from them—because they are quite extraordinary. It is not just the Liverpool fans who were reviled, but the Nottingham Forest fans. The lie and the myth in the police statement about Liverpool fans urinating was in fact a lie about Nottingham Forest fans urinating down from the stands on to other Nottingham Forest fans. Strangely, it was never reported anywhere in Nottinghamshire and there were no complaints about it. It is a lie—not a statement altered, but a lie.

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Last night I read another statement by an officer, who was promoted immediately afterwards, as many were, who claimed—the timing would have been approximately around 3.40 pm—that he saw 100 Liverpool fans charge across the pitch towards the Kop. He said that he then saw fights in all the stands. That is besmirching not only the Liverpool fans but the Nottingham Forest fans. There were no such fights in the stands.

My constituent Val Yates was on the pitch trying to save lives at the time. I asked her last night what I should say today. Her answer contained some language that was not quite parliamentary, so I will cut to the chase. She told me to say thank you to the Notts Forest fans, because they were coming on to the pitch and trying to save the lives of the dying. That is what was going on, yet that police constable stated that he saw something else happening at the time. This is part of what needs to be prosecuted further: deliberate, calculated, obscene lies.

Val also told me to “Go for ’em”. Well, I will go for one that has not yet been named: Hammond Suddards solicitors. Oh, of course, apparently we cannot attack solicitors, as they are representing their clients, but looking at the report, it is clear that they were instigators in changing the statements and are probably the people who rewrote the statements. Hammond Suddards, the great big firm of solicitors in Yorkshire, needs to go in front of the Law Society to be fully investigated, and held to account for what it did in perpetrating these lies.

I do not have time to go into the current state of disaster planning, but the Government need to ask whether such an occurrence could happen again. I would like them to look precisely at the rights of families in disasters, and at whether the Government are making the right decisions to ensure that the rights of families are being properly looked after and that they will be in future, if, heaven help us, another disaster occurs. That is a fundamental lesson to be learned from this.

The Government also need to look at the current configuration of emergency planning. Let me quote from a disaster planning meeting that was held in South Yorkshire two weeks ago:

“The public will be horrified, but they won’t find out”.

That comment related to the fact that ambulance capacity in the county is currently running at 98% to 99%. That means that, in the event of another Hillsborough, ambulances would have to be taken off emergency calls to go to it. They cannot rely on the north midlands for help, because the reconfiguration of services last week cut the number of ambulances available there. This is a fundamental issue. Disaster planning is not being incorporated into changes in the ambulance services. Indeed, from what I can see, the services have not even been consulted.

Let me turn to football safety certificates. Everyone thinks that stadiums are safe now, but they are not. A mathematical model, based on perfect evacuation using perfect communication, is used to determine the issue of a safety certificate. That needs to be looked at, as does stewarding. At the moment, the stewarding situation is a huge mish-mash from one ground to another. Finally—Patnick, the MP who lied. Who told him, and will he have the courage to say who told him to spread his lies that week about Hillsborough?

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8.43 pm

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): I am greatly humbled and privileged to participate in this debate tonight. I stand firmly behind the families and friends of the 96 Hillsborough victims. Their search for justice, transparency and the truth should be an example to us all.

Like many other people, I was delighted to hear the recent statements from the Prime Minister and, last week, from the Attorney-General. Many of the comments in the reports raise a number of important questions. The Prime Minister said many things of which other people—the vast majority of people, including the families of those who died and their friends, along with politicians of all parties—were unaware. That concerns me greatly, as I have had constituents saying to me, “If you knew that, why did you not do anything about it?” We need to learn a whole range of lessons.

The nation as a whole was stunned to hear some of the revelations—and rightly so. We were stunned that 164 witness statements on an issue as serious as what happened at Hillsborough were tampered with by the police. Even more appalling is the fact that if people had done their jobs properly within the proper time limits, 41 and perhaps as many as 58 people might have survived the Hillsborough disaster.

The truth is that this tragedy, this disaster could and should have been wholly avoided. My hon. Friends the Members for Halton (Derek Twigg) and for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) mentioned previous examples of problems at Hillsborough. We heard of semi-finals where it was traditional that thousands, perhaps even 50,000, people would turn up to watch a game at Hillsborough. The personal experience at Hillsborough I want to mention arose when Sheffield Wednesday played Newcastle United in a league game. We turned up as normal, but we could not get into the ground. And what happened? The gates were opened, we were hurled into Hillsborough like cattle and forced through the tunnel at the Leppings Lane end. People were climbing the perimeter fences to get over and climbing up to the upper stand.

People panicked, yet there was no operational support from the police. I was pushed back against the wall—and I am a fairly big sort of guy—only to feel a policeman’s forearm across my windpipe. I was told to stop pushing, but people could not move. This was a league game at Sheffield Wednesday. I was evicted from the stadium. Supporters were terrified: there was utter chaos and no control. The police approach at that time was to treat supporters like animals. There was no regard whatever for the safety or health of anyone. Frankly, it was appalling.

Such incidents must have been documented. We should have learned from incidents like this. No one has ever mentioned to me this league game with Newcastle, but I was there. Why was this not looked at? Why, for goodness’ sake, was Sheffield Wednesday granted a safety certificate? It beggars belief. I do not want to criticise anyone, as I am not sure what the right body to grant such a certificate was, but my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) mentioned a number of agencies. They were collectively culpable, in my view.

Let me focus now on the actions—or perhaps the inactions—of the South Yorkshire police. They have been there before. The current chief constable admits

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that there was a “Life on Mars” culture whereby police constables could do as they wished. This was not a “Life on Mars” culture; this was culture in Sheffield and culture in Liverpool—in the UK in 1989. Like millions of others, I was utterly bewildered to hear that 164 witness statements had been altered. This was the UK; this was Great Britain, not a flash cop series from across the Atlantic.

In the time that I have got left, I want to make some stark comparisons regarding police actions in South Yorkshire during the 1980s. I shall refer simply to the miners’ strike. This was not the first time the police had been involved in a corrupt cover-up. As they say in the force, “They have got previous.” My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) mentioned the battle of Orgreave. On that occasion, the BBC reversed what had actually happened in the attack involving the miners and the South Yorkshire police. In 1985, 93 miners went to Sheffield crown court, but the trial collapsed 16 weeks later because it had become clear that the police evidence was unreliable. Since then, as with Hillsborough, hundreds of statements have been examined, and there have been dozens of examples of the use of exactly the same phrases. As with Hillsborough, police officers were instructed to describe scenes that they had not seen or even experienced, and as with Hillsborough officers readily admitted that statements had been narrated to them.

The common denominator is South Yorkshire police and cover-ups. It appears that the policing of the 1980s needs close scrutiny, although in many senses it is too late for the 96. Every person involved in the cover-up deserves the full wrath of the law. I cannot even imagine the pain, suffering and despair experienced by the families. We expect our police to be honest, regardless of rank, and we expect them to be people on whom we can rely. The families want a cohesive, co-ordinated investigation. There cannot continue to be one lengthy investigation after another, and it is important for such investigations to be resourced properly.

Let me say, as a miner and a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, that my ultimate aim is to call for a full inquiry into the actions of the South Yorkshire police during the miners’ strike. However, today is for the victims of Hillsborough, and justice for the 96.

8.51 pm

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): When thinking about the debate, I tried to work out what we were really trying to achieve. Are we part of the process of investigation? I do not think that we are. Are we part of the process of scrutiny? Of course: that is a job that we do every day in the House. Are we part of the process of interrogation? Obviously we should be part of that as well, on a regular basis. Officially, however, as a result of the mechanisms of the House, we are here to confirm

“That this House has considered the matter of the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report.”

I am not criticising the Government, because I know that that is how we conduct our business here, but I think that we should really be discussing a motion along these lines: “That this House will do everything in its power to deliver justice to those who died, those who

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survived and all their families; and that, in doing so, we will set up a series of rigorous, transparent processes to ensure that that happens, that sufficient resources—of all kinds—are put in place to facilitate the process, that we in this House are constantly updated on progress, and that we can reconvene, at short notice, if we think that we are falling behind on these commitments.” I hope that every Member in the House can agree with those words, and I hope that they will give some succour to those who are listening to the debate, because that is the job that we have taken on tonight.

We have heard a lot about the truth leading to justice. I am happy that we have arrived at some of the truth about the “what”—about what happened—but what about the next stage? We have to work out the “why” and the “who”: in particular, we must identify the guilty. We do need justice, but what are the definitions of “justice”? One is

“Conformity to truth, fact, or sound reason”.

Another is

“The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance with honour, standards or law.”

What we have heard over the past 23 years is a negation of justice.

I agree with much of what was said by my hon. Friends the Members for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) about the role of the police, and that of the South Yorkshire police in particular. I was at Orgreave in June 1984, and I was one of those who believed that on that day the police had decided to get their retaliation in first. I was not surprised by that, and I was also not surprised to observe, when I went to matches in the 1970s and 1980s, that the police adopted the same attitude in the football stadium. The truth was that the police decided that because some people, either on a picket line or at a football game, might decide to behave like animals, the best thing to do was to treat everybody as if they were animals. We need to see what happened at that time through that prism. It was not a surprise that Hillsborough happened, because we expected to be treated in the way that I have described and, even more worryingly, we accepted that we would be treated in that way. We cannot lay the blame entirely on the police, however. We need to clarify the role of Sheffield city council, too. I take on board what Sheffield Members have said about the council having done the right things, but the report says the safety advisory committee carried out inadequate and poorly recorded inspections. I cannot think of another scenario in which an organisation that is refused a safety certificate just goes ahead with business as normal; that is unheard of.

In the report, Sheffield Wednesday football club is accused of having limiting costs as its primary concern, while the police’s primary concern was dealing with public disorder. Their primary concerns were not the safety of the men and women in the ground, but keeping costs down and preventing disorder.

The Football Association has a lot to answer for, too. Why did it decide to continue using that ground for such matches? I am also surprised and dismayed by the role of the ambulance service, which I have worked with for many years. It has a lot to answer for as well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw was right to say that the solicitors’ actions need to be scrutinised. They went to the police and said to them, “You need to go back to your officers and get them to ‘reconsider and

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qualify their statements.’” They were clearly part and parcel of changing the record of ordinary policemen who had been on duty that day.

What are we in Parliament going to do? I was pleased to hear the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), say that the Committee will set up a process whereby it can be continually updated by the people on the ground. Members of Parliament have got to keep on the case, too. We have to keep asking parliamentary questions and urgent questions if we have concerns, and we need to keep asking for statements.

We Back Benchers should consider setting up an all-party group, because such groups can ask people to come and tell us what is going on, and tell us whether things are moving in the right direction. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) said, we should recognise the role played by the Backbench Business Committee in getting us to where we are today, too. We Back Benchers must take on this responsibility now as well. We should be able to raise matters of concern regularly, and to tackle any obstacles that get in the way of the good people of Liverpool achieving justice.

We must ensure there is no chance for us in this House to say, “Nowt to do with me, guv.” We are now the state; whether we like it or not, we inherit the shame of 1989. We are the establishment, so it falls to us to redeem this House for the total failure of the past. It is up to us to act properly and get a quarter of a century of wrongdoing put right. No one should get away with what happened in 1989, including politicians in this House, regardless of whether they are retired, have moved on to another place or are still Members of the Commons. If any Members of this House have failed in their duty, they should stand up and account for what they did. We must make sure we hold their feet to the fire, so that truth and justice can be achieved.

In many ways, what happened was a failure of the state. It was state-sponsored failure, because most of the bodies responsible for what took place on that day were agents of the state—they were public servants, whom we look to to do the job of taking care of the people we are proud to represent. We must make sure everyone involved in what happened is called to face up to their failings.

When matters such as Hillsborough arise, one of the things that annoys me most is people telling me, “It’s time to move on.” What they really mean is, “You need to forget the debate you’ve just had; you need to bury this issue and let it lie.” I thank God that the great people of Liverpool have blown that kidology mentality out of the water. What we should be doing is making progress, and working with the people who have suffered, so we do our bit to make sure justice is not just a word, but is a fact.

8.59 pm

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): I apologise to the House and to hon. Members for being late, but I was chairing a Select Committee and I did let Mr Speaker know.

It is important that we get to the truth—the families have waited for far too long. I support the calls for a new inquest; clearly, the 3.15 pm cut-off was arbitrary and wrong. I do not believe that that inquest should

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take place in Sheffield, and I think that the Government ought to fund the cost of it. I support the further investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions. I think what they will do is concentrate on the key issues: the failure of police control and monitoring on the day, which is what Lord Justice Taylor found many years ago; the subsequent evidence coming out of the panel that there was an attempt at a cover-up, including changes to statements; and whether, as a result of those issues, criminal prosecutions or charges of misconduct should follow.

I support the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) that although the police actions on the day were at the heart of this problem, the South Yorkshire police force is now a different organisation with a different culture. It is important that, as local Members, we support it in trying to maintain the trust and confidence of local people in its day-to-day policing activities. As she mentioned, Sheffield Wednesday football club is also a new organisation with new ownership.

I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) that there were failings, and he rightly identifies them and the panel draws people’s attention to them. However, Lord Justice Taylor also dealt with the issue of breakdown between police and club, and paragraph 166 of the interim report stated:

“What is clear, however, is that de facto the police at Hillsborough had accepted responsibility for control of the pens at the Leppings Lane end.”

That is the key issue—the control and responsibility were with the police and they failed absolutely on the day.

In terms of Sheffield city council, I am pleased that the panel found absolutely no new evidence or information that had not been available to Lord Justice Taylor. As leader of the council at the time, I made it clear to all its officers that they were expected to co-operate thoroughly with Taylor’s investigations and inquiries, and to provide all evidence and information—clearly, they did that. Again, as has been identified, including by Taylor, there were failures by the advisory panel and as a result of the non-issuing of a safety certificate. I shall discuss that in a moment.

We must place all this in the context of what football was like at the time. As a football fan, I went to every away ground. I had been to all 92 clubs—to every ground in the country—at one point. My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) said that he had been at an incident at Sheffield Wednesday where there had been crushing and nobody seemed to act. I went to many grounds where there was crushing and problems, and so did other football fans. That was accepted as commonplace at the time; it was accepted that that was what happened at football matches. Of course it is wrong that that should have been the case, but that is what happened. Lord Justice Taylor said:

“there have been many other occasions when overcrowding has led, at various grounds round the country, to a genuine apprehension of impending disaster through crushing, averted only by good fortune… So, although the operational errors on 15 April were special to one ground and one day, the lack of precautions against overcrowding was not unique. I do not believe that sufficient safety measures were being applied at all other grounds.”

This was a problem of football generally.

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Of course I am devastated that the disaster happened at my football club, but I do not believe it was down to a number of individuals believing the ground to be unsafe and carrying on regardless. The horrible truth is that Hillsborough was generally regarded as a safe ground, which was why it was selected, although it proved not to have been so in the event. Of course there should have been a safety certificate—there is no excuse for the failure to provide it—but the evidence was that one was being prepared, which would actually have justified the arrangements of the ground as they were.

One of the fundamental problems that Taylor’s report identified was that although the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and the green guide, which clubs, local authorities and the police were meant to follow, required an overall capacity for a ground, there was no mandatory requirement for individual parts of the ground to have a special capacity limit—that simply was not a requirement. Furthermore, even if there was a capacity for individual parts of the ground, there was no requirement—this was a crucial problem at Hillsborough—to have mechanisms, electronic or otherwise, to count people into each individual pen. I went to football grounds all around the country and I found that, generally speaking, people went through a turnstile at one end of the ground and there was no counting mechanism for any individual part of that end.

Steve Rotheram: My hon. Friend points out that many grounds were unsafe, but we are talking specifically about the Hillsborough independent panel’s report. Paragraph 1.54 on page 32 talks about

“serious crushing at the FA Cup Semi-Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers”

in the semi-final in 1981. If lessons had been learned by the authorities at that time, there would not have been a Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

Mr Betts: The problem was that the crushing at that time was regarded as due to the lateral movement of the crowds at the Leppings Lane end, so lateral barriers were put in place in response to that incident. They created the pens that caused the problem and that is the issue. The lateral barriers were a safety measure that proved to be a failure.

Lord Justice Taylor stated—this confirms what the panel said—that the lack of counting mechanisms for individual parts of the Leppings Lane end meant that the responsibility rested with the police to see whether the pens were overfilling. The problem was that on the occasion of the Hillsborough disaster the police did not see the pens overfilling and opened the gates, which led to more people going into the central pen. They then did not respond to the further overcrowding. That was what Lord Justice Taylor found and I do not think any different evidence was given to the panel. There was a complete failure of the system. Of course there should have been counting mechanisms, but grounds across the country did not have them at that time. It was the police’s responsibility to monitor the crowd and take precautionary action and they failed on that occasion.

Lord Justice Taylor’s interim report was comprehensive. He said that it was the police’s responsibility to control and monitor the crowd. They failed in that respect, as he identifies in chapter 10. In chapter 17, he discusses the choice of Hillsborough as a ground and states:

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“However, it was not suggested that the choice of venue was causative of this disaster. The only basis on which that could be said would be that, because of its layout, the Leppings Lane end was incapable of being successfully policed for this semi-final. I do not believe that to be so.”

He is saying that despite all the failings—those of the council, of the club and of others—the key issue was that the ground could have been operated safely on that day but for a failure of police control. Along with the issues considered by the panel, that brings us back to the key questions: why have people not been held accountable for those failings, why was there an attempt at a cover-up afterwards and how will we deal with the issues to ensure justice for the families? They are the key points and if we focus on them and on the responsibilities and actions, we will, I hope, get to the truth.

The question of timing is important and I hope that we can make arrangements so that all the necessary evidence can be taken account of properly and quickly. Twenty-three years is an awfully long time, so we ought to ensure that the final conclusions come as quickly as possible.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Unusually, Members of Parliament have come in under time, so I am in the very happy position of being able to tell the last two Back-Bench speakers that they will now have 10 minutes each in reward for their patience. Mr Esterson, you will have 10 minutes and will be followed by Mr Blomfield, who will also have 10 minutes. We will then start the wind-ups.

9.8 pm

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): You are most kind, as always, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The families and their supporters deserve huge credit for how they have stuck to their guns and for the dignity, restraint and perseverance with which they have continued their fight in the face of a catalogue of smears from the press and cover-ups by the establishment. Ninety-six people went to watch a football match and died, but their families have been treated as if their loved ones were criminals. That has now stopped, thankfully, and the Government have started the process of setting the record straight.

Fifteen-year-old Kevin Williams, 17-year-old Steven Robinson, 18-year-old Gary Jones and 18-year-old Christopher Devonside were among the 18 victims from the borough of Sefton. Their families have told me that they want new inquests and that they want those responsible to be prosecuted. Christopher’s father, Barry, was at the match and saw what happened to the victims as he sat in the stand while his son was in the Leppings Lane end with a friend. Barry was given the run-around on the day by the police. We now have confirmation that this was while the cover-up was starting and senior police officers were desperately trying to agree a story blaming the victims for their own deaths. Barry also attended the inquests. He told me what happened when the results were announced. In front of Barry and other family members, the police celebrated the accidental death verdict. In his words, “Crates of wine and beer were brought into an adjacent room where about 20 senior police officers toasted their success with the coroner.” As he said to me, “How’s that for impartiality?”

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The way that the inquests were carried out, the way that the evidence was ignored, the way that witnesses were intimidated and the way that police evidence was altered—all this showed that a cover-up was being carried out, part of a massive miscarriage of justice, alongside an arbitrary decision by the coroner that all must have been dead or beyond saving by 3.15 pm. No wonder, then, that Barry Devonside and the other families have always maintained that the inquests did not tell them how or why their loved ones died, and that it protected those responsible for their deaths.

Other Members of the House have addressed the key issues which come from the independent panel’s report. I add my congratulations to the panel on the work that it has done, and to colleagues in the House who have worked to help the families reach the position that they are in today. The Prime Minister gave a full apology in his statement last month, and the Home Secretary and Attorney-General have done everything that has been asked of them. For that this Government deserve praise. Previous Governments have failed the families and we need to ensure that no more time is lost. It is not possible to make up for lost time, but it is possible to minimise future delay.

The report of the independent panel highlights what went wrong before the event, on the day and in the immediate aftermath, and in the days, months and years after. Much of the evidence in the report is not new, of course, but the report has set it out in a way which allows calls for new inquests to be addressed and for prosecutions to be considered. The report makes the simple point that the policing of football matches was regarded as a matter of control. Public safety was completely ignored. Anyone attending a football match at the time knew only too well that we were regarded with suspicion at best and outright hostility at worst by many of those supposed to be there to keep us safe. The culture of watching football meant that Hillsborough was an accident waiting to happen.

I attended the 1987 semi-final at Hillsborough. I was in the Leppings Lane end. My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) described his experience of attending a match with Newcastle in the same location and in the same end. When we left that ground, we felt that we were lucky to escape without serious injury or death. The same thing happened in 1981 and 1988, yet the lessons learned were not applied in full. Some would argue that the behaviour of the police meant that this was no accident, but that is no doubt something for the special prosecutor to consider when he or she looks at the evidence. As the report makes clear, the disaster could have happened at any one of a number of matches in previous years or at a number of other football grounds.

The Attorney-General has already announced that he will apply to the High Court for fresh inquests into the deaths of all 96 victims. Gaining new inquests is the top priority for the families. At the original inquests the coroner decided that all victims must have been dead by 3.15 pm, despite evidence that many were still alive, including 15-year-old Kevin Williams, whose mum Anne has worked so hard to have the verdict overturned. The fact that the Attorney-General is convinced that he can succeed in having the verdicts overturned in the courts this time shows how right Anne and the other families have been all along. The independent panel has found

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evidence that at least 41 of the victims may still have been alive at 3.15 pm, and that number may be higher. The decision to have a cut-off at 3.15 pm has meant that evidence about the emergency response has not been fully examined. Only 11% of the evidence was considered by the coroner. As the independent panel says in chapter 4:

“The emergency response to the Hillsborough disaster has not previously been fully examined, because of the assumption that the outcome for those who died was irretrievably fixed long before they could have been helped.”

A new inquest would allow a new coroner to consider all the evidence and to decide why the 96 died. A different verdict would show that the victims died as a result of the failings of the police and other authorities.

Derek Twigg: My hon. Friend has made some important points about where blame lies. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), for whom I have immense respect, that the police were overwhelmingly to blame. However, as I said in my speech, Sheffield Wednesday football club also needs to be held to account. The key thing was that the radial fences were put in. It was envisaged that there would be access via direct turnstiles and dedicated facilities, but this was not pursued. The report says that there was

“no way of knowing accurately how many fans were in each area.”

That is a very important point that needs to be examined further.

Bill Esterson: My hon. Friend has worked incredibly hard with the families over very many years, as have other hon. Members. He is quite right that that key finding of the report needs to be properly examined. It shows the difference between the Sheffield Wednesday ground, where the recommendation was not deployed, and other grounds where there could possibly have been problems.

Mr Blunkett: There is no doubt that culpability existed, as was acknowledged by the £1.5 million that was put into the fund by Sheffield Wednesday at the time, but we are now trying to distinguish between the terrible events that happened then and the changes that were made on the back of them, which have benefited footballers, fans and communities as a whole.

Bill Esterson: My right hon. Friend is of course right. This is about what can be done now to put the injustice right.

A different verdict would show that the victims died as a result of the failings of the police and would at last allow the families the official recognition of how and why their loved ones died. The Home Secretary has announced the potential appointment of an independent prosecutor so that any criminal prosecutions do not drag on any longer than necessary. This is the least that can be done after the 23-year wait by the families. The independent prosecutor will explore possible criminal charges—whether manslaughter relating to the original tragedy or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice following the exposé of the cover-up. Consideration by a new coroner of all the evidence will at last allow for examination to take place of what did and did not happen after 3.15 pm. It appears that the CPS and the DPP did not consider the evidence of what happened

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after 3.15 pm when they decided not to prosecute. That evidence needs to be considered by the prosecutor and will be relevant to the cover-up that started on the day and continued over the months and years that followed.

The lack of impartiality, the cover-up, and the discrediting of witnesses—all this will be addressed and overcome by new inquests with proper involvement and support for the families. I reiterate my earlier request to the Home Secretary that the families are given full financial support at new inquests, because that is only right in making sure that justice is done this time round. An independent prosecutor will, I hope, achieve the same level of justice when it comes to holding those responsible to account. Again, it is welcome that the families will have all the involvement that is needed in any inquiries of a criminal nature.

All MPs who represent the families have pledged to continue to fight alongside them until new coroners’ verdicts are delivered and until all those responsible for the deaths of the 96 and the cover-up that followed are held to account for what they have done. That is the least we should do, and I am sure that it is what we will do.

9.19 pm

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): One of the challenges of speaking at this stage of the debate is that so many hon. Members have made powerful and moving contributions. I do not want to repeat them, but I do want to make a couple of points, because, as a Sheffielder, I have always felt a sense of collective shame about the fact that this appalling tragedy took place in our city, and that justice seemed such a distant prospect for so very long and was frustrated by our local police force.

I join the tributes that have been made to the Liverpool families, whose courage and determination to see the truth are an example to us all in this House and beyond. As my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) said, and as a number of hon. Members have repeated, it is simply a scandal that it has taken us 23 years to get to this point. Having done so, however, it is vital that truth is followed by justice and that all those responsible for both the disaster and the subsequent cover-up are held fully to account.

I welcome the fact that in her opening remarks the Home Secretary drew a distinction between the South Yorkshire police of 1989 and the organisation of today. I am pleased that, under Med Hughes, the South Yorkshire police of today, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) pointed out, played a leading role in helping to uncover the truth, just as the force of the past played such a role in hiding it.

We have to recognise what different times those were and what a different culture existed in the police. As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, it was not just about an attitude towards football fans. As some of the later contributions have highlighted, many of us saw a culture in much of the police whereby they seemed to be above the law in areas such as Sheffield, south Yorkshire and the mining communities in our part of the country, and that that culture was almost encouraged by the then Government in the way in which the miners’

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strike was handled. It is not just the South Yorkshire police force who were caught up in that. We need to remember that the Government at the time deliberately drafted police from other parts of the country into South Yorkshire police to ensure, as many people in our mining communities saw it, that the rule of law could be abandoned. One of the lessons of this terrible story is the danger of any part of the state feeling that it is beyond the law and accountability.

Just as we should distinguish between the force of today and the South Yorkshire police of the past, we should also distinguish, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) has done, between the role of individual policemen and women and the leadership of the force at that time. It is deeply unfortunate that, following the publication of the independent panel’s report, some in the press highlighted the fact that 195 officers on duty at Hillsborough were still working for South Yorkshire police, the implication being—this was not implied in the report—that they were somehow not fit to do so. We need to acknowledge that what went wrong at Hillsborough was a catastrophic failure of leadership, both at the stadium on the day and in the handling of events afterwards, and that ordinary policemen and women at Hillsborough were also let down by that leadership. Many of them went above and beyond the high standards that we expect of our police officers in their immediate response to the tragedy on the day.

I have two examples of that. PC Keith Marsh was a uniformed PC outside the Leppings Lane entrance on the day of the disaster and, on arriving at the fences there, he immediately joined the rescue efforts. He was able to get near the gate and drag a young boy, Lee Nicol, free from the crush. When he checked for a pulse, he was unable to find one and immediately began attempts to resuscitate Lee. It was clear that without oxygen or professional medical treatment, Lee was going to die. PC Marsh carried him to an ambulance and stayed with him to go to the Northern general hospital, still performing CPR. Eventually, he managed to get a response, but he was ultimately unsuccessful in saving Lee. Lee’s family were so grateful to Keith for his efforts that he was invited to be a pallbearer at their son’s funeral. Keith retired from the force as a detective sergeant, but has now returned as a member of support staff at Attercliffe police station.

PC Fiona Nichol was deployed on the trackside at the Leppings Lane end on the day of the disaster. She recognised the crushing and described seeing the terror on people’s faces as she opened a gate. Her first instinct was to protect a group of scouts who were in one of the pens. She reacted quickly and began to pull people out. Climbing up the fence, she pulled the body of a young boy out of the crush and began to give CPR, but sadly without success. She gave further assistance to other victims, giving CPR and pulling people out of the crowd.

On the 20th anniversary of the disaster, Fiona met David Gillooley, a Liverpool fan who was 26 at the time of the disaster. He told her:

“I saw you pull people out. I saw you pull big fellas out. And you kept pulling and pulling and pulling, and it got to the point where I could feel less pressure. Now, without a shadow of a doubt, that’s down to you.”

Fiona is another of the 195 officers who are still serving. She is now based in a response team in Barnsley.

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Officers like those two were described as heroes by Trevor Hicks of the Hillsborough Family Support Group. It is important that, when we bring those responsible to justice, we do not tarnish the reputation or damage the morale of those who do not deserve it. Through accountability, we must strengthen confidence and trust in policing, not only in south Yorkshire, but across the country.

9.26 pm

Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): A year has passed since our last Hillsborough debate. That year has brought momentous events that many people thought they would not live to see. The truth has finally been established—more difficult to take, not less, for the passage of time, as the Home Secretary said. The tragedy was entirely foreseeable —it could and should have been prevented. Lives should have been saved. There was a campaign of vilification with no justification.

Those truths have been told only because of the sheer love of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters—a love that would not let them give in, a love that provided strength when hope was lost and provided dignity in the face of provocation. Those truths were also told because of the people of a city that truly understands what solidarity and loyalty mean, who locked arms around these families—red and blue together—and supported them for every step on the hardest road imaginable. At last, the entire country can see what Liverpool has lived with for 23 years. Parliament, too, has finally woken up to the full horror of Hillsborough.

We have heard many powerful speeches this evening from both sides of the House. We have heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Halton (Derek Twigg), for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) and for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), who have done so much to help the campaign, and from my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett). On the other side of the House, we have heard from the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), who spoke from her personal experience, and from the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke). What is clear from those outstanding speeches is that, rather than the closure that people glibly talk of, the report has opened questions of the most profound kind for the institutions of our country, our Parliament and our society. As the debate comes to a close, I want to set out clearly what I believe those questions are. Before I do so, I want to speak for the Opposition in adding to the tributes that we have heard.

In the Church’s history, it is hard to think of a better example of one of its leading members fulfilling the functions of his office with more distinction or doing a greater service for the city and people under his direct pastoral care. The Right Rev. James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, has brought light to people who for 23 years have been trapped in the blackest of tunnels, but he has done more. Through his leadership, he has shown the relevance of the Church to Britain today. Through him, the Church has succeeded where the state had failed, in bringing truth and the beginnings of reconciliation to a tragedy arising from a divided Britain.

We thank all the members of the panel for what they have done, and we thank the secretariat, under the leadership of Ken Sutton and Ann Ridley, for its

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outstanding support. Tonight, I pay particular tribute to Professor Phil Scraton. Of this I am sure: the full truth about Hillsborough would never have been known were it not for his meticulous efforts over many years, turning over stones that others had walked past. Professor Scraton has done a huge service not just to the Hillsborough families but to this country, and I hope the House will join me in acknowledging it tonight.

What is striking about the panel’s report is its thoroughness and the sheer comprehensiveness and quality of the painstaking researching that underpins it, carried out by the research team at Queen’s university, Belfast. I hope that the Government will consider that approach, with the emphasis on disclosure, not adversarial argument, a model for resolving other contested issues arising from our past.

There can be no doubt of the incredible emotional impact that the panel’s work has already had on the people most directly affected by the tragedy. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) said, to be in Liverpool on the night of 12 September this year was to see a collective weight lifted from so many shoulders, which I will never forget.

I do not think we have begun fully to appreciate the scale of the suffering and loss, the true human cost of the tragedy, and the devastating psychological impact on survivors. From the midst of the most harrowing scenes imaginable—truly, hell on earth—thousands of them were simply left to drift home from Hillsborough, to try to make sense of what they had seen without counselling or support. Even worse, they were left to read in the days that followed that they were in some way to blame for what had happened. People talk to me of the lost souls that are scattered throughout the communities of Merseyside, the north-west and beyond, haunted by what they saw and never the same again. Tonight I think about them as we finally put right this terrible wrong. Does the Health Secretary agree that never again should people suffering trauma and shock on such a scale be left without the counselling and support that they need for their mental health? Will he give serious thought to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) about support for such services on the ground now?

In making this speech tonight, I think of my constituent Stephen Whittle, who on the morning of 15 April 1989 gave his ticket to a friend who never came home, and who just over a year ago took his own life, leaving everything he had to the Hillsborough families. Recent events will have been unbearably painful for Stephen’s family, but I hope they will take some comfort from the fact that the campaign that he cared about has finally prevailed.

Tonight, I also want to mention Carl Brown, 19 when he died at Hillsborough, not from Liverpool but a Leigh lad—a reminder that this tragedy affected everyone everywhere. It was a national tragedy, and we must all work to bring accountability and justice.

I pay tribute again this evening to the Prime Minister for the way he responded to the panel’s report, the tone that he set and the events that he has set in train ever since. I thank the Home Secretary for her speech today, her leadership and the personal commitment that she has shown to achieving justice for the 96. If I may, I want to leave two points with her this evening.

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First, we welcome what the Home Secretary said about the co-ordination of the criminal process and investigation. It is important that we have clear leadership of the whole process, supported by a well resourced, professionally led, integrated investigation, not a series of parallel and unco-ordinated investigations. I hope she will continue to update the House on those important points.

Secondly, these are of course complicated matters that will take time to resolve, but the families have waited long enough. I urge the Government to ensure that public bodies and individuals conducting further work keep that thought in the front of their minds when carrying out their duties.

The impact of the panel’s report has already been immense, but the full enormity of what it reveals has not yet sunk in. It shakes our faith in the very foundations of our society, and in the organisations that exist to protect us and see that justice is done. If we are to learn from the report, those institutions must face up to fundamental questions, and in the time remaining to me this evening I wish to identify five areas of concern.

I will start with football, because of all the organisations in the frame, I believe that the football organisations have the furthest to go in facing up to their responsibilities—in fact, I do not think they have ever really started to do that in 23 years. The Hillsborough independent panel presents football with failings of the first order. A decade of warnings, starting with the 1981 FA cup semi-final, was not acted on. A ground known to be unsafe was made dangerous by modifications that were not recorded in the safety certificate. In short, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton said, it was a ground operating outside the law.

What possible explanation can the club offer for failing to ensure the safety of people who paid money to enter Hillsborough, and why did the FA choose a ground for one of the biggest games of the season that, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire said, was not certified as safe? Neither Sheffield Wednesday nor the FA has ever answered those questions. What are we to make of the revelation in the panel’s report that the FA received complaints about the 1988 semi-final between the same two teams, one of which warned in stark terms that the ground was “a death trap”? Were those complaints acted on? Not only does it seem that nothing was done, but the guardian of the game in this country chose to bring the same fixture with the same teams back to the same ground the following year, prompting the question of whether the game’s governing body believed that it had any responsibility to listen to supporters, act on their complaints or ensure their safety and welfare. It is hard to conclude that it did.

For years, people were coming away from Hillsborough with tales of panic and distress. Is there any other part of our national life in which we would tolerate thousands of people going to a leisure venue and routinely coming away with injuries, broken bones, stories of frightening breathlessness, and authorities that do nothing about it? It reveals an unpleasant mentality that still pervades parts of the football industry, and a casual disregard for the paying customer. Costs were cut to the bone and safety was sacrificed on the altar of crowd control.

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Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), I remember my experiences at Hillsborough, and it angers me to remember that, when I stood with my younger brother and my dad on the Leppings Lane terrace in January 1988 for an FA cup third-round game, throughout the whole second half I was not watching the match but the backs of their heads. I did not let them out of my sight because I feared for their safety in the unbearable conditions of those central pens. There was a feeling that the football club had taken our money but could not be sure of our safety, having failed to take essential legal steps. It makes me angry to think of that and the thousands of people who were put at risk.

That is why I found it hard in September to see a response from football that was stunning in its inadequacy and left people wondering whether the football organisations will ever face up to their responsibilities. In their initial statements, neither the Football Association nor Sheffield Wednesday football club offered one single word of apology to the families. On Thursday 13 September, the FA had to issue a second statement when that was pointed out, and Sheffield Wednesday convened an emergency meeting on 11 September to rewrite a draft statement that contained no word of apology. That says it all, and as far as I can establish, the FA has not yet had a meeting to consider the panel’s report and its implications for the game’s governing body.

The hirer of Hillsborough and the ground’s owner both had a duty of care and a basic responsibility to ensure that a semi-final venue had an up-to-date safety certificate. Their failure to do that was, in my view, grossly negligent, as was the failure to act on warnings and complaints. That is why the families, rightly, cannot accept that the disaster was accidental, and why football must be forced to face up to its responsibilities in the inquiries to come.

Secondly, I will consider the media, but I will balance my remarks by mentioning some exceptions. In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the disaster, an article by the outstanding investigative journalist David Conn prompted me to start thinking about setting up the disclosure process, and led me, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood, to make the first public call for an inquiry.

The Mirror can take pride in its efforts supporting the families, the Liverpool Echo has given unwavering support, and ITV’s commissioning of Jimmy McGovern’s Hillsborough drama kept the story alive, but all that is overshadowed by the incalculable damage caused by the most hurtful lies imaginable printed as truth at an entire city’s moment of greatest grief. It was not just The Sun newspaper, appalling as it was, but many other newspapers. Why has the media industry never truly faced up to its moral failings on Hillsborough and the pain it caused people? Why did it not realise its own wrongdoing or propose proper redress to the families? Why, 20 years on, are bereaved families still facing outrageous intrusions into their grief?

Why did The Sun think it appropriate, some years on, to travel to Liverpool to make an offer to the families to pay for and build a sports centre and to give an apology only on the condition that the families accept the apology in full? The families did not owe The Sun anything. What does it say about the ethics of the media industry that an apology was presented to the families on those terms?

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It is clear to me that Hillsborough was a forerunner of more recent events under the consideration of Lord Leveson—an early warning of out-of-control media that was not acted on. I urge Lord Leveson to call the Hillsborough families before he concludes his inquiry. I ask him to ask this fundamental question: how did the media leave this story alone when pursuing so many other trivial causes with much greater ferocity when the amended statements were in the public domain for so long? That was a professional failure to focus on what really matters and to give the proper redress that the families deserve.

Thirdly, on the coroner service, I have two simple questions. How could it ever have allowed a situation in which a parent finds out for the first time on 12 September 2012 what happened to their child on 15 April 1989? What assurance will it provide that never again will we see the denial of fundamental parental rights for 23 years?

Fourthly, on the police service, I recognise the force of the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough that the officers on the ground were also let down by their seniors. However, we will watch how the police service responds to the report, which will affect public confidence. I make this simple statement: the service must not allow retirement to be a route to avoid full public accountability, as the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell said. To allow it to do so would damage public confidence in the service, as would a situation in which the council tax payers of Merseyside pay for the pensions of people who are found to have acted improperly.

We learn in the panel’s report of a campaign orchestrated from the very top—it was ordered by the chief constable of the force—and of the shocking revelation that his officers were to have a “free hand” in preparing a “rock solid story” to exonerate the force and blame the fans. That is prima facie evidence of a failure of policing of a terrible kind—self-protection over public protection.

In responding to the panel’s report, we must not make the mistake of thinking that it was a one-off, exceptional, isolated event. David Conn was the first to draw the parallel with Orgreave, which a number of hon. Members have mentioned, and which has featured today on the main BBC news for the first time in many years. There are echoes of the Hillsborough story in the Orgreave story—statements amended; an institutional effort to shift blame. It is uncomfortable, but what has been revealed goes far deeper than many people would like to believe. The temptation will be to box Hillsborough off as isolated, but that cannot happen. The cultural problem must be addressed.

That brings me—fifthly and finally—to the questions for this Parliament and this House of Commons. We are good at asking questions of others, but this one is for us. How did we let an injustice on this scale stand for so long? Ultimately, the failings are ours. The panel’s report is an invitation to us to ask the most searching questions of ourselves. We failed to legislate for public accountability. We allowed a culture of cover-up. An entire English city was crying foul, rightly saying that there had been a great injustice, but their voices were not heard here in this House. No political party did enough to help them and, worse, we have a political class that looked down on Liverpool. I am left wondering whether this could ever have happened to another city.

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Every Member of this House should read chapter 12 of the panel’s report and ask how it ever happened that a propaganda campaign to impugn ordinary citizens of this country got a platform in the rooms of this Parliament and how, beyond a few stray voices at the meeting, the alarm bells were not ringing throughout this place.

We talk proudly of the mother of all parliaments, and of the reputation of British justice, but this adversarial tradition in politics and the law, in which two versions of the truth battle it out, allows on occasion the wrong version of “the truth” to win and it is often the version with the greater connections to power. For the Hillsborough independent panel report we can pick up the same threads as we find in the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday and as we have heard in the Leveson inquiry. All three reveal a country where the powerful and the connected hold the cards, where the concerns of ordinary people were dismissed—a country with an unaccountable establishment that at times colludes in its own self-interest and self-protection.

Hillsborough is a story of an abuse of power, of class and of unequal access to justice. I do not want to live in a country where that can ever happen again, where ordinary people can ever be treated in this way again. That is why I want this to be a watershed moment when this generation of politicians, this Parliament, truly learns the lessons of Hillsborough and builds a country where power is properly shared, where it does not take 23 years for ordinary people to overturn injustice and where news organisations cannot ride roughshod over people at their lowest ebb. Let us work together for greater powers to hold the police to account; let us bring proper redress for people damaged by an out of control press and implement Lord Leveson’s recommendations; and let us make more changes that connect Parliament with people, never forgetting that it was the public who forced Hillsborough back on to the Floor of this House a year ago. This must be a humbling moment for this proud Parliament, but in honour of the 96, let us make it a moment of change.

9.46 pm

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Jeremy Hunt): This has been a powerful debate that has shown Parliament at its best, but also caused us to look into the mirror and reflect on our own failings. I would like to start by adding my own condolences to the families of the victims of that terrible day 23 years ago. I have been privileged to meet some of the families, including Anne Williams, Margaret Aspinall and Trevor Hicks. They were among the most moving and heart-rending meetings I have ever had as a Minister. I would like to reiterate to them my unreserved apology for some of my early comments about the events of that terrible day, and thank them for their quiet dignity in the face of so much misunderstanding by those in authority, including me.

That so many people lost their loved ones that day—children, parents, brothers and sisters, friends and partners—is a national tragedy. That they themselves were blamed for the deaths, that people covered up the truth and that so much that could and should have been done to save people’s lives was not, is a matter of huge shame for our country. We cannot know whether our actions now will help bring closure to the bereaved families, but it is incumbent on all of us to do it right this time.