Hillsborough papers should be released - MPs

 

Theresa May: "I will do everything in my power to ensure the families and public get the truth"

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Ministers should release all government documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster, MPs have agreed following a debate in the House of Commons.

MP Steve Rotheram, opening the debate, said there had been a campaign to blame Liverpool fans. He called on the prime minister to issue a formal apology.

Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs the government supported the release of all papers, via an independent panel.

Ninety-six Liverpool fans died in the disaster in April 1989.

The debate was sparked by 140,000 people signing an e-petition.

Mr Rotheram, whose Walton constituency includes Anfield, said David Cameron had apologised to the victims of Bloody Sunday and called on him to do the same for those affected by Hillsborough.

'Look for scapegoats'

"I call on the prime minister to make a statement in this house and apologise for the mistakes that were made and the mishandling of this whole tragedy on behalf of a previous government," he said.

Labour MP Steve Rotheram was moved to tears as he read the names of those who died

The Labour MP attacked the "smears" and "establishment cover-up" which led to fans initially being blamed for the disaster.

"Instead of those at fault taking responsibility for their actions, a co-ordinated campaign began to shift the blame and look for scapegoats," he said.

"It is claimed that truth is the first casualty of war, but the same can be said of Hillsborough.

"Misdirection, obfuscation and damned lies were all used as smokescreens to deflect attention away from the guilty."

Mr Rotheram attacked claims that Liverpool fans had turned up late, without tickets and were drinking heavily.

'Lost control'

A "senior police officer and a Conservative MP" leaked stories to the press about the disaster, he said.

He criticised the Sun newspaper over its "The Truth" headline and its story about drunken and criminal behaviour by Liverpool fans.

The cause of the tragedy was clear from Lord Justice Taylor's report, he said, "which concluded that the police fundamentally lost control of the situation and did not demonstrate the leadership expected of senior officers".

Hillsborough disaster The victims of the 1989 disaster in Sheffield were crushed in over-crowded pens

Mr Rotheram said the "misinformation" began almost as soon as the match, a FA Cup semi-final tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, was abandoned.

The match commander told the FA that Liverpool fans had rushed a gate, creating the crush. "This disgraceful lie set the tone for all that came later," he said.

Mr Rotheram read out the names of the 96 who had died, as campaigners looked on from the public gallery.

Home Secretary Theresa May apologised for any anxiety caused by the decision to oppose a Freedom of Information request from the BBC but it was right that the families should receive the information first as they needed to be treated with "dignity and respect".

Mrs May said: "I will do everything in my power to ensure the families and the public get the truth.

"No government papers will be withheld from the panel, no attempts to suppress publication will be made, no stone left unturned."

'Act of brutality'

The independent Hillsborough panel already has some cabinet papers, she said.

But she said there may be some "minor redactions", including the names of some junior civil servants and the details of the victims' medical files, which would be a matter for the panel.

What was the point of the debate?

A lot is explained by the scepticism of the families who have felt let down and betrayed by the system on several occasions.

Indeed the Labour MP Andy Burnham, who has done much to support the families, described Hillsborough as "one of the biggest injustices of the 20th Century".

Campaigners lost confidence in the system many years ago.

They wanted a clear commitment that all the documents would be handed to the independent panel and there would be no attempt to block publication.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, went as far as she could in trying to reassure the families.

They will get unrestricted access to all the documents, even though the panel may redact some of them before wider publication.

MPs and ministers appear to have understood the depth of feeling over the Hillsborough tragedy and sent out a clear signal that it can only be resolved with full disclosure.

Mr Burnham, speaking for the opposition, said the disaster and the events following it, were "one of the biggest injustices of the 20th Century".

He said moves to blame the victims for the tragedy were "unprecedented". He added: "It was an unbelievable act of brutality against the 96 fans."

Mr Burnham also read from police papers which quoted an officer who watched as fans used advertising hoardings to ferry the injured.

A senior officer had written that the pages should be amended because "these are his own ­feelings" and said the comments showed "they were organised and we were not".

Mr Burnham said he had "private disappointments" that more had not been done to reveal the truth under the previous Labour government.

He said the House of Commons coming together behind the families of the 96 who had died was a "huge moment".

Other MPs were then called to speak in the debate.

Labour MP for Garston and Halewood Maria Eagle called for News International to disclose who had briefed The Sun on its story.

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, leader of Sheffield City Council at the time, was at the game. The Labour MP said he remembered returning the following day and crying.

"What else could you do? This was in our city, in my football ground, 96 people had died before our eyes. What else could you do?"

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 288.

    I'm from Nottingham, but not even a Forest fan (I don't even like football), but my sincerest wishes are that everyone with an interest gets some closure from the release of the unredacted papers regarding Hillsborough.
    I lost a friend through suicide who was at Hillsborough and sadly could not cope with the trauma of what he saw. The effects of that day go beyond the 96. Deepest sympathies.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 257.

    These are public documents. It is about time the councils and the civil service stopped trying to cover their tracks everytime something goes wrong. Unless it is a point of National Security, no documents should be hidden, ever. There should be no private meetings regarding public matters and then there would be less rubbish and nonsense discussed by the public bodies in private.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 212.

    Merseyside is united through this tragedy in a unique way.

    The families of the city are divided between blue and red.
    I don't know if this is true of Manchester with Utd & City, or if this is true of London with Arsenal & Tottenham, but many, many people were affected because of split support for our teams.

    This is what brings the City together in Grief and Unity!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 159.

    I am all for the release of the documents - and I was one who signed the petition.

    This was a disaster, a series of events which contributed to the tragic loss of lifes. There is not one side or persons to blame - It is niether the Police, the Fans fault or the designes fault. There is no one to bring to justice.

    We have learnt from the events of that day- and that is what matters most.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 111.

    Give us the truth. We don't want to apportion blame; but we do need to end this generation of pain. If you tell the fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and everyone else what truly happened that day, maybe, just maybe they can live the rest of their lives with some inner peace. If we know the truth we can solve the problem and perhaps stop others feeling this pain in the future.

 

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