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The Hillsborough Debate

Larry Neild on the emotional and historic evening in the Commons. Now we will wait and see

Written by . Published on October 18th 2011.

The Hillsborough Debate

ONE thing is certain after last night’s historic and emotional debate in the House of Commons on the Hillsborough tragedy: the hiding places are running out.

Families of the 96 are hotter than ever on the tails of those responsible for causing the tragedy – those who, in some cases, have covered their tracks with dust that is 22 years old.

If there is nothing to hide
there is nothing to fear

Once the papers, kept secret since 1989, are revealed to the families, the real work will begin.

Home Secretary Theresa May lay her cards on the table at the start of what was a four-hour “debate” - although in the event there was little argument from any side of the House.

She, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, would ensure everything was handed on a plate to the families. No cover-ups, nothing hidden.

The revelations are set to unleash a quest for justice cruelly denied to the bereaved and lost for decades; the first tangible chance for the real culprits and those who tried to hide the truth to be brought to book over their attempts to pervert the course of justice. 

Teresa May Promises Full DisclosureTeresa May Promises Full Disclosure

For if there is nothing to hide there is nothing to fear. 

At the time, had those responsible owned up and admitted there had been the mother of all cock-ups, leading to so many deaths, the course of history may have been different.

But leaving the grieving families fighting for the truth, while constantly having to dispel the web of lies that have added such insult to injury, changes the landscape of justice.

It’s true the tragedy was caused by a combination of cruel factors, conspiring to unleash the greatest ever tragedy on British football. Central to this was the failure of command by South Yorkshire Police, a point made time and time again last night by MPs.

Almost 140,000 people signed a Parliamentary petition prompting the first ever public debate in the Commons, a coup for our Culture Year Lord Mayor and Liverpool Walton MP, Steve Rotheram.

He will go down in history as the first ever Parliamentarian to generate a lengthy debate in the Palace of Westminster on the basis of a public petition. Steve Rotheram would give his right arm to have avoided being branded as a history maker.

Steve RotheramSteve RotheramIn years of eavesdropping on Parliament this was a gripping performance by MPs of all parties, yet they were not playing to the cameras but to their own hearts.

House of Commons strict protocol was smashed when the families sitting in the Strangers Gallery applauded Steve Rotheram, and again when they applauded tearful mum-to-be Wirral South MP Alison McGovern. Aged eight at the time of the disaster, she said today was essentially about the truth, the uncensored truth. Voice trembling, she reminded the House that not one person has paid for their dereliction of duty.

One of the most powerful speeches came from Garston and Halewood MP Maria Eagle. Hillsborough was not an accident and could have been avoided. South Yorkshire Police failed spectacularly but, rather than admit it, spent years blaming the fans.

Every Mersey MP took their turn to speak passionately – Stephen Twigg, Louise Ellman, Luciana Berger . Halton MP Derek Twigg, who was at Hillsborough on the day spoke, as did Knowsley MP George Howarth, Sefton Central’s Bill Esterson,St Helens North MP Dave Watts, Ellesmere Port & Neston MP Andrew Miller, ex-Lord Mayor and Lancashire West MP Rosie Cooper, Birkenhead’s Frank Field, Wirral West Conservative Esther McVey, Southport Lib Dem John Pugh and of course Liverpool-born Andy Burnham.

During the debate a number of MPs backed calls for News International, still reeling from the Hackgate scandal, to apologise for the scurrilous attacks in the Sun on Liverpool fans, to issue a full apology. Indeed some want all media outlets to ban the then editor, Kelvin McKenzie, from their screens, airwaves and print all together.

Steve Rotheram, in an amazing speech referred back to throughout the evening, read out the names of the 96 who died, essentially so they will be mentioned forever in the official record of Parliament, Hansard.

After reading out the 96th name, he looked overwhelmed and simply said…..”Rest in peace. Justice for the 96.” Hansard, unusually, reported the response from the gallery: [Applause.]

The waiting game begins and it will be next year before families discover whether the Government really will allow the beans to be fully spilled.

Steve Rotheram concluded the debate saying he had already received texts from many people, including Jamie Carragher and Kenny Dalglish, praising the House of Commons.

I was also pleased to see Joey Barton, who did so much to promote the e-petition, join us in the Public Gallery tonight, as well as Andy Gray. I would also like to thank successive managers of Liverpool and Everton football clubs, who have so effectively used their profiles over the years to support and promote the cause, especially David Moyes. The players who played on that fateful day also felt the effect of the tragedy, none more so than John Aldridge, who has been unstinting in his support for the families.”

And the unaminous decision of Parliament:

Resolved, That this House calls for the full disclosure of all Government-related documents, including Cabinet minutes, relating to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster; requires that such documentation be uncensored and without redaction; and further calls for the families of the 96 and the Hillsborough Independent Panel to have unrestricted access to that information.

'They blood-tested the dead for alcohol—even children'

HERE is a transcript of Maria Eagle's speech to the Commons.


"South Yorkshire police failed spectacularly in their duty on 15 April 1989 but, rather than admit it, they spent years trying to blame the Liverpool fans who attended the match and the victims for what had happened.

South Yorkshire police...simply set about persuading the South Yorkshire coroner of
their story, preferring to try to engineer
historical revisionism rather than to
face up to the fact that they were at fault'

"That was an orchestrated, sustained and deliberate campaign to blacken the names of the victims and of Liverpool supporters who attended on that day to enable South Yorkshire police to evade their responsibility.

"Twenty-two years after the event, the families should not still be having to defend their relatives who died from the lies and innuendo that appear every time the disaster is discussed in the public arena.

"They treated families who arrived on the scene to look for missing relatives as if they were criminals.

"They blood-tested the dead for alcohol —even children — but there was worse to come. South Yorkshire police briefed The Sun that the victims had caused the crush and that fans who merely sought to assist the injured and dying were stealing from them and urinating on them — vile and untrue smears that heaped appalling distress on top of unbearable sudden bereavement.

"It is about time we knew who gave those stories to The Sun and I join the families today in calling on News International to tell us.

"South Yorkshire police quickly established a “black propaganda” unit which systematically set about altering police statements in an attempt to influence Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry into the causes of the disaster.

"This was no less than a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. South Yorkshire police kept the black propaganda unit in place and simply set about persuading the South Yorkshire coroner of their story, preferring to try to engineer historical revisionism rather than to face up to the fact that they were at fault.

Maria EagleMaria Eagle"Despite all that disgraceful behaviour, the chief constable did not resign. The two senior officers in charge on that day were retired on medical grounds and with large pensions to avoid their having to face disciplinary action.

"No one responsible has ever had to account for the loss of control on that day or for the extended quite despicable behaviour that followed for years thereafter.

"Indeed, one member of that black propaganda unit, responsible for the smears, is a serving chief constable to this day: Sir Norman Bettison (former Chief Constable of Merseyside). No wonder the families are suspicious of officialdom."

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Interesting timesOctober 18th 2011.

I find it interesting that the Christopher Chope, MP, the man who tried to elbow in on this debate and possibly phillibuster it, is none other than the MP of David Duckenfield, the then Chief Con of South Yorkshire Police who has retired to leafy Christchuch in Devon

AnonymousOctober 18th 2011.

well done to everyone involved

Tracey Moore-was Sherwin shared this on Facebook on October 18th 2011.
London RoadOctober 18th 2011.

As Kelvin McKenzie works for the filthy Daily Mail, isn't it time we boycotted that?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 18th 2011.

Boycott the Mail? I thought that anyone with an ounce of common sense already did.

Reader XxxOctober 22nd 2011.

Excellent report, Larry. Well done to everyone who supported this debate.

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