Hillsborough files release call by MPs

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Walton MP Steve Rotheram at the debate

MPs have called on the government to release all documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster following a debate in the House of Commons, in a victory for the justice campaigners.

Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram also called on the Prime Minister to issue a formal apology, saying there had been a campaign to blame Liverpool fans for what happened on 15th April, 1989, when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield.

“It is claimed that truth is the first casualty of war, but the same can be said for Hillsborough,” Rotheram said in his moving opening speech in the debate which earned a round of applause at the end – an unusual occurrence in the House.

The motion for documents to be released was passed without a parliamentary vote since no MP objected.

The motion called for all government documents, including cabinet minutes and No10 discussion papers, to be released in an “unredacted, unedited and uncensored form” to the Hillsborough families and the independent panel currently scrutinising unseen documents relating to the tragedy.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The families of the 96 deserve the truth. The disaster and aftermath inflicted deep wounds that remain to this day on Merseyside. That is why the government fully supports this motion.”

Afterwards, Hillsborough Justice Campaign member Sheila Coleman told JMU Journalism: “I don’t want to be negative, however, we would have been happy with the release of all documents into the public domain.”

Coleman, who has previously expressed concern about the independent panel, said it was important that all families and those affected by the disaster were included: “Now we have to make sure we keep the panel treating everybody equally,” she said.

“Families in the HJC have not had the same access as the HFSG [Hillsborough Family Support Group]. We urge the panel to use its power responsibly and consider the survivors in this.”

During the debate, Rotheram read out the names of the 96 victims of the disaster, putting them on the parliamentary record for the first time.The majority of Merseyside’s MPs spoke at the debate, which took place after 140,000 people signed an online petition.

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said it had been “one of the greatest injustices of the 20th century,” adding: “I haven’t seen the files but I’m clear about one thing – the denial of families’ rights and denigration of their loved ones is a national scandal and demands a national response.”

Most of the MPs made an appeal to News International and The Sun newspaper, calling on them to disclose their sources for stories that put the blame for the disaster on Liverpool supporters.

Maria Eagle, MP for South Liverpool and Halewood, said: “There was an organised and sustained campaign to blacken the names of the victims. It began on the day of the disaster and continued for years.”

Several of the MPs were visibly moved during their speeches and many of them only just managed to keep their emotions in check. Alison McGovern, Wirral South, made the most emotional speech of the debate, struggling to keep her voice steady and her tears back.

She said: “The truth about Hillsborough has never been fully acknowledged. The strength of our community and our commitment to justice will not fade.”

Her speech earned applause from those in the public gallery, including many families of those who lost loved ones at Hillsborough. Coleman added that the gallery experience had been “unique” and “emotionally charged”.

 

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