Hillsborough

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:35 pm on 22nd October 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw 8:35 pm, 22nd October 2012

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.

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, they are clear 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?