Hillsborough: MP to table 'disaster advocate' bill in Parliament

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Maria Eagle
Image caption,
Maria Eagle said families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster had "been through hell"

Plans to create a dedicated independent advisor to work on behalf of families bereaved in major disasters are to be put forward by an MP.

Maria Eagle, who campaigned with the Hillsborough families for more than 30 years, is due to introduce the Public Advocate Bill in Parliament next week.

It would create a top-level advisor to support families and liaise with officials such as coroners and lawyers.

Ms Eagle said the Hillsborough families had "been through hell".

The former justice minister worked with some of the families, who lost relatives in the 1989 football stadium disaster, as part of her work as a solicitor in Liverpool and later as a Labour MP in the city.

Image source, Hillsborough Inquests
Image caption,
Ninety-six fans died as a result of a crush at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield

She said such disasters can leave families "without a voice" and "feeling like they are themselves on trial".

The public advocate would work with staff to represent the interests of the bereaved, and would have full access to confidential documents, without needing to apply to the police or Home Office, Ms Eagle said.

If enacted, the MP said the bill would establish a "lasting legacy" for the Hillsborough families.

While it remains unclear how Parliament will sit next week as the coronavirus lockdown continues, the bill is due to have its first reading on 22 April after Prime Minister's Questions.

It was previously introduced in 2015 and again in July 2019, but did not progress under past governments.

The bill has been supported by the Hillsborough families and those affected by other atrocities including the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing.

Liverpool FC and the Hillsborough families earlier held a minute's silence to mark the 31st anniversary of the disaster.

A full and final memorial service had been planned but was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Ms Eagle said: "The planned final memorial service at Anfield had to be postponed but that day provided yet another sombre time to reflect about the loss the Hillsborough families have endured and the horrific three decades long battle they have had to wage."

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