Hillsborough Law Campaign

2. Questions to the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution – in the Senedd at on 17 May 2023.

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Photo of Jack Sargeant Jack Sargeant Labour

(Translated)

8. What discussions has the Counsel General had with law officers regarding the Hillsborough law campaign? OQ59528

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 3:06, 17 May 2023

Thank you for your question. On this, we are committed to exploring the best ways to help ensure that victims and their families have their voices heard following any major incident, and are considering what we can do in Wales to make sure that victims are advocated for at a national level when tragedies occur. 

Photo of Jack Sargeant Jack Sargeant Labour 3:07, 17 May 2023

I'm very grateful to the Counsel General for his answer. As the Counsel General knows, the Hillsborough Law Now campaign is about giving ordinary people real access to justice. The UK Conservative Government are bringing forward a Victims and Prisoners Bill that will simply not achieve this; it does not go far enough, Counsel General. Keir Starmer has committed to bringing forward a Hillsborough law when he is Prime Minister. Given your continuous support, which I'm very grateful for, Counsel General, will you begin the work here in Wales to ensure the Welsh Government will do all it can to support Keir Starmer and a Labour Government in implementing and bringing forward a Hillsborough law now?

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour

Well, can I first of all thank the Member for his continual and consistent advocacy of the rights of those people who are victims of major tragedies? Can I also make the comment, and it's one that I've made before, that the real answer to this is the fact that legal aid should be made available to people as a matter of right. There would be no great complexity in actually including a provision whereby when a major incident occurs, legal aid will be made available.

The UK Government is bringing forward a Victims and Prisoners Bill. It includes provisions for the UK Secretary of State to appoint an independent public advocate to support victims of major incidents in England and Wales. It is not at all clear who those people would be, what their status would be, what their role and their functions would be, what their powers would be and whether they're there to support and give assistance, because if that's the case, it really isn't adequate. It has been difficult to get clarity from the UK Government as to what their thinking is on this, so there are, of course, ongoing engagements to ascertain what that would be.

I have quite a number of concerns, because were there to be a major incident within Wales, we would want to ensure that the Welsh Government was able to provide a mechanism whereby citizens of Wales were impacted. Of course, events, when they occur, are very rarely just tied to one particular country. Quite often, there are also conflicts between those people who are impacted, so there are all of those issues that have to be thought through as well.

What I can say is that I do think we have to explore everything that we can do within our powers to help people secure access to justice in all circumstances. We do support the idea of an advocate for victims in the wake of major incidents, but we have real concerns that these provisions do not properly reflect the devolution settlement; they've not been properly thought out yet and there's still quite a lot of discussion and work to be ongoing to see where these provisions go. I support the commitment that Keir Starmer has given to the fact that they will introduce a Hillsborough law, but in the meantime, we will certainly continue to explore this, we’ll continue to work, and I thank you for your engagement, for raising this issue.