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Volume 553: debated on Tuesday 20 November 2012

4. What recent representations he has received on an inquest into the death of Kevin Williams in the Hillsborough disaster; and if he will make a statement. (128881)

In relation to the death of Kevin Williams I have received a number of representations. I acknowledge the significant public support for Kevin Williams’s case to be accelerated. However, the evidence that supports a new inquest into Kevin Williams’s death is basically the same as that in relation to the deaths of all the other victims of Hillsborough. My duty is to act in the public interests of all the victims of Hillsborough and I consider that the wider public interest requires a single application to be made in relation to the inquests. I have made good progress on preparing an application to the High Court for new inquests in these cases and I expect to make the application in December.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Will he join me in recognising the role that Mrs Williams has played in fighting for justice for the 96 in setting up the charity Hope for Hillsborough?

I entirely acknowledge her key role in this matter and am particularly troubled to hear of her ill health. As I have said, I will do everything I can to take this process forward as quickly as possible, but I have to consult properly. There are a number of things that I simply cannot short-cut. I am endeavouring to do it as fast as possible and, as I said a moment ago, I hope that I can stick to the timetable that I have identified.

I know that the families will welcome what the Attorney-General has said about making an application in December and I thank him for that. Anne Williams is seriously ill and all she wants is official recognition of why her son died. I know that the Attorney-General understands that, but could I urge him to do all he can to grant her wish before it is too late?

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, but he must also appreciate that my application is to quash the existing inquest verdict and, if that happens, for the court to order a fresh inquest or inquests. Once I have carried out my task of presenting the case to the court, my function will be at an end and I obviously cannot predict the time it would then take for the fresh inquests to take place. I have no doubt that, if the original inquest verdicts are quashed, it would be greatly in the public interest for the matter to move forward as quickly as possible, although, as I have told the House before, some criminal investigations might affect the time scale.

The e-petition calling for a speedy new inquest into Kevin’s death has passed the 100,000 mark in the past hour. May I add my voice to those of Government and Opposition Members calling for a speedy inquiry into Kevin’s death?

I fully appreciate the good reasons why many would sign such a petition. I acknowledge that entirely. I can only do my job properly and professionally. As I have said, a number of things have to take place, such as consultation with each individual family. Medical evidence also has to be reviewed so that I can reassure the court that any new inquest could reach an informed decision on the cause and time of death even on the basis of the paper documentation available. For that purpose, I have retained the services of an expert forensic pathologist. That just gives the House a flavour of what I have to do.

Could the Attorney-General assure the House that he has all the resources available to him to expedite this matter as quickly as possible?

Yes, this is not a resource issue; it is a mere time issue. We have written, for example, to the families—we have to consult them—and I think it is reasonable to give them a calendar month in which to respond, and that date has not yet expired. I hope that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that no short-cuts can be taken to take the matter to the court.