Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire, Labour)
I welcome the opportunity to speak and to raise with the Home Secretary and Home Office Ministers many of the questions West Lancashire constituents have asked me since the publication of the Hillsborough independent panel’s report.
Amazingly, it is 12 months since I and many hon. Members in the Chamber today stood in this place and asked for the disclosure and publication of all documents relating to Hillsborough. That day we called for the truth and now we have it, but the fight for justice continues and will do so until it is secured. Gandhi said:
“Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
Liverpool people were never frightened of the truth, so, as we move on to the next stage, I am reminded that Benjamin Disraeli said that
“justice is truth in action.”—[Hansard, 11 February 1851; Vol. 114, c. 412.]
It is that action that we now welcome, and we seek assurances that the process will be seen through to the very end, delivering justice.
I join other hon. Members in welcoming the Attorney-General’s announcement that the original inquests into the 96 deaths will be quashed; the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s investigation; the Director for Public Prosecutions’ inquiry; and the comments made by the Home Secretary today. Those are certainly steps in the right direction and are welcomed as progress towards justice, but I believe the depth of the cover-up and how it spread throughout the institutions of the police, Government and the media demand that everybody be required to give evidence, whether they are retired or serving police officers or even insurance companies. There can be no place to hide for anyone when it comes to one of the darkest events in modern British history.
Before I move on to the specific questions and issues raised with me, I want to put on record my gratitude and respect, and that of my constituents, for the members of the Hillsborough independent panel and their excellent work in bringing the truth about Hillsborough into the public domain. In particular, like so many of my hon. Friends, I want to mention the chairmanship of the Right Rev. James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool. A constituent who came to my advice surgery described Bishop James as “the shepherd”. Everyone associated with the panel felt the warmth of his guidance, his care and his truthfulness and, like a shepherd, Bishop James looked after his flock and led them to the safety of the truth.
On the issues my constituents have raised with me and the questions on which I hope Ministers can shed some light, with all the documents now in the public domain, my constituents have had the opportunity to search through them and have brought to my attention concerns about missing documents. One constituent gave a witness statement to West Midlands police and was visited twice by officers and shown videos of Hillsborough, but his statement does not appear in the documents provided to the independent panel. That situation is very strange, given that he obtained a copy of his statement in 2004. He tells me that other people are in the same position. It appears that not all the statements have been provided to the panel and I would be grateful if the Home Secretary could look into that matter, find out what has happened to those statements,
and either ensure that all the documents relating to Hillsborough are published or give the reasons why they were not provided.
Throughout the coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy, the focus on South Yorkshire police, the Government’s actions and the complicity of sections of the national media and those who perpetuated the lies that were told has been considerable. However, the Football Association appears largely to have disappeared below the radar, but it chose the venue that led to the events unfolding that day and allowed the game to take place in a venue without the appropriate safety certificates. There is no question about the culpability of the Football Association in the entire fiasco, but it has been distinctly quiet in recent months apart from its attempt to apologise immediately following the publication of the report. My constituents have asked when the FA will be held to account by the various investigations and inquiries. Will it come within the scope of the criminal investigation?
I have also been asked whether the coroner and his collusion with South Yorkshire police will be included in the criminal investigation. Given the historical problems of crowd safety at Hillsborough, why were 100 fewer police officers on duty in 1989 than at the 1988 FA cup semi-final at the same ground? There were actually fewer officers there than in 1987. Many of my constituents would also wholeheartedly applaud any action against Sir Norman Bettison for his role in Hillsborough. There are certainly precedents for reconsidering and potentially removing his knighthood.
Constituents have also asked what action can be taken against those sections of the media that were complicit in perpetuating the lies. Let us be clear that that did not happen just in the immediate aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. The Taylor report exonerated Liverpool fans from any blame, but the lies about that day at Hillsborough in 1989 were continually repeated. Only the publication of the independent panel’s report has stopped the lies being told and I would welcome the Home Secretary’s guidance on that.
The experience of Hillsborough is a watershed in the political, social and legal landscape of Britain. Much is still to be resolved. I had the great privilege of attending the vigil at St George’s hall on