The debate on Hillsborough on October 22 was another milestone in the search for justice for the bereaved, injured and traumatised.
The unique Hillsborough Panel report laid bare the vindictive lie that the fans were responsible for their own deaths.
It is now vital that we move swiftly from the exposure of the truth to bringing accountability and justice.
The announcements now made by the Home Secretary, Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Attorney General are a very good start. It is essential for new inquests to be held so that the horrendous failure of both the police and ambulance service to deal with the disaster can be investigated.
I, together with my colleagues, will work hard to ensure that this momentum is maintained.
My contribution to the debate:
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 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 160 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 enabled 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.