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MS 5 - Hillsborough Inquiry
#1
Mr Speaker,

I beg leave to rise and offer the following statement to the House.

Mr Speaker it is not a common occurrence these days for me to rise and give the House an update on domestic issues however this issue is such an important one for me and my constituents that I asked the Prime Minister for permission to take the lead on it.

Mr Speaker the Hillsborough Disaster is a sore topic in my constituency, an era defining occurrence which has hurt my constituents and indeed my entire city to its core. I would like to commend all members of this House from Liverpool for the way they have conducted themselves in a bipartisan manner to try and seek both answers and justice for our friends, family, and neighbours who perished that fateful day. I have lost track of the number of constituents I have had at constituency surgeries who have been in literal floods of tears because their friend, brother, father, sister, cousin, the list goes on, died, or was seriously injured, on that occasion. The Prime Minister and I recently met with representatives of the Hillsborough Justice Committee to discuss next steps for the process.

Mr Speaker the inquests and inquiries that have happened so far have been too narrow in scope to examine the whole situation in a holistic way. This Government is committed to a far broader inquiry covering the events of the entire day and all actions that were undertaken by the authorities and the fans. This inquiry shall have space on it for a representative of the Hillsborough Justice Committee, it shall have no limit on the amount of time it can deliberate, and it shall have no limit on calls for evidence. Mr Speaker I will repeat, this inquiry will be broader than all that came before, this government is committed to finding out the truth of what happened and taking the appropriate action.

Mr Speaker the Government aims to have the inquiry report in the Summer of next year although should more time be required we will facilitate such a request. After that it will be for the Government to consider next steps and the implementation of recommendations. The inquiry will have the power to recommend criminal proceedings and further actions for the Government to take and this Government looks forward to reading them.

Mr Speaker once again I would like to reiterate my thanks to the members of this House from my home city of Liverpool for their dedication to cross-party working on this issue, I would like to thank my constituents for their strength and unity of purpose, and I would like to thank the Prime Minister for facilitating this new inquiry. I commend this statement to the House and urge all to support it.
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#2
Mr. Speaker,

The Foreign Secretary's announcement brings up a lot of pain for my constituents, for his and for the hundreds of thousands of us across the Merseyside region. Hundreds of thousands of us that are patriotic, hard working and well to do members of this country. And yet hundreds of thousands of us who have been treated as other in the aftermath of a tragedy. It is my hope this announcement can end that pain, and can now be a moment of relief and healing. 

The Foreign Secretary thanks Members of Parliament across the Merseyside region for their bipartisan manner in dealing with this issue, Mr. Speaker. That thanks is much appreciated. But it has been a battle, and one made hard until relatively recently by this government. When fighting for my constituents, the Home Secretary accused me of using this matter deep to mine and my constituents heart and pressing the government to meet the Hillsborough Justice Campaign's demands as 'politicising the deaths of fellow citizens.' It only gets worse from there, Mr. Speaker: the security Minister called people from Liverpool 'workshy hoodlums' and put responsibility for the disaster on them with no evidence.

We know the rot and resistance has gone right into the heart of the Thatcher government, with it being unwilling and actively hostile until now at the prospect of making secret documentation which has no bearing on national security public - quite why, we do not know, and I have a feeling we will find out.

But progress is here at last. While I'd like to thank Members of Parliament across the Merseyside region, we know it is the indeterminable spirit of the people of Liverpool and their tireless campaigning, particularly those in the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, that has brought us here. When we said you'll never walk alone, we have meant it every step of the way. 

I have a few questions for the Foreign Secretary, though:

While I agree with him that it was important for him personally to make this announcement today, can he confirm that the Home Secretary and Prime Minister will be working on this on a ministerial level? If so, with the Home Secretary's previous comments attacking representatives from the Liverpool region for campaigning on this issue for the demands of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign as set out today, what steps will the Home Secretary take to reassure the people of Liverpool he can be an objective, independent force? 

Can the Foreign Secretary also confirm that the chair of this inquiry will be independent, and will have links to the Liverpool city region to build trust amongst people within the region?
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#3
Mr Speaker,

I thank the Honourable Lady for her comments and would like to acknowledge both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition for allowing two Liverpudlian MPs to lead this debate despite the issue coming under neither of our jurisdictions cleanly. 

With reference to the Honourable Lady's questions I can confirm that the Prime Minister himself will be dealing with this inquiry at a Ministerial level, he will have the responsibility of appointing an inquiry chair and the inquiry will report to him directly.
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#4
Mr Speaker,

I want to thank the Foreign Secretary and all Liverpool’s MPs for all the work they have done on this issue. But the credit for this announcement and the Inquiry lie with the Hillsborough Justice Committee. Their grit and determination to discover all of the facts of what happened on the fateful day of 15 April 1989 is why we are here now, discussing steps to discover the truth and allow justice to be done. I thank them for their courage – and I am pleased that they have agreed that one of the members will be represented on the Inquiry.

I have appointed the Bishop of Liverpool, David Sheppard, to chair this Inquiry. Working with representatives of other faiths, including the Archbishop of Liverpool, he has already done much to stand up for justice and truth relating to the Hillsborough Disaster. The Bishop of Liverpool has dedicated his entire life to standing up against injustices around the world, particularly in the case of racial discrimination. I am delighted that he will be doing so again in the months that follow. And while I and many in my party may disagree with him, I have no doubt that he will chair this inquiry with the integrity and decency that is required throughout his life. 

I have given the Bishop of Liverpool and the Inquiry as a whole up to two years to report to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. While I do hope that the Inquiry can, as the Foreign Secretary said, report by the summer of next year, I do recognise the scale of the challenge and the need for a full understanding of all the facts of what happened. That simply takes time.

But I can guarantee that I and the Home Secretary will be fully available at any time should the Inquiry report to us. We both consider it vitally important to our country and to Liverpool itself.
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