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Volume 575: debated on Wednesday 12 February 2014

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Hillsborough stadium tragedy.

It is over a year now since Parliament last debated Hillsborough and the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. I hope the House will join me again in expressing my thanks and gratitude to the panel’s chairman, Bishop James Jones, and all his colleagues for their remarkable work. The contents of the panel’s report were truly shocking, and on the day it was published, the Prime Minister apologised to the families of the 96 for what he described as a “double injustice”. The first injustice, he said, was the appalling events; the second was the treatment of victims by the press.

I would like to pay tribute to the bereaved families, the survivors and all those who have campaigned on their behalf. As Home Secretary, I have met a number of the bereaved families, and I have always been impressed by the dignified way they and their supporters have continued their search for truth and justice. I would also like to pay tribute to those in the House who have campaigned on behalf of the families, including the hon. Members for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) and for Halton (Derek Twigg) and the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham).

So significant were the conclusions of the panel’s report that its publication on 12 September 2012 set in train a number of important events. By the end of that year, this had resulted in the High Court’s quashing of the original inquest verdicts and the ordering of fresh inquests, and the establishment of two major investigations. In a debate in the House following publication of the panel’s report, I said that

“after the truth must come justice; and after the apology, accountability.”—[Official Report, 22 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 721.]

As lead Minister, it is my responsibility to ensure that the various processes of Government and the criminal justice system are working effectively and are properly resourced to ensure that justice can be done, not only for those who died, but, just as importantly, for their families and all those who have campaigned on their behalf ever since.

Today, I would like to update the House on the progress made in respect of the new inquests and the new investigations. First, I shall deal with the inquests. Last year, and within two months of the decision by the High Court, Lord Justice Goldring was appointed as coroner to conduct the fresh inquests. A number of pre-inquest hearings have already been held. The police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigations are working in support of the coroner to a timetable determined by him, and the Government welcome the fact that Lord Justice Goldring has made it clear that the fresh inquests will start on 31 March.

I have always made it clear that the Government will support the families in their quest for justice and, as part of that commitment, we are funding a comprehensive legal representation scheme. Work began on this immediately after the original inquest verdicts were quashed, and the scheme that is now in place will ensure that the families are properly represented and supported at the inquests.

In addition to the inquests, there is the investigative process, to which there are two elements. The first is led by the IPCC. This is its biggest-ever investigation, and its principal focus is on police involvement in the aftermath of Hillsborough. It is worth reminding the House that this includes not just the role and actions of the South Yorkshire police, the force responsible for policing the match, but the West Midlands police, who played a significant role in the aftermath, providing support to Lord Taylor’s inquiry, producing the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions and assisting the then South Yorkshire West coroner, Dr Stefan Popper. I can therefore confirm that the experience of survivors, again brought to public attention in the last week, is part of the ongoing IPCC investigation.

The second element is a criminal investigation—Operation Resolve—led by Jon Stoddart, the former chief constable of Durham. He was appointed by me in December 2012 and his key role is to investigate the deaths at Hillsborough. Working alongside both investigations is a discrete Crown Prosecution Service team, through which lawyers from the CPS provide ongoing advice.

When he was the Bishop of Liverpool and sitting in another place, Bishop James Jones said that justice was about process as well as outcomes. The unique, complex and wide-ranging circumstances of Hillsborough meant that two major and large-scale investigations had to be created from scratch, and both had to have firm foundations. Suitable premises had to be found, acquired and fitted out. This has been done. Suitably skilled and appropriate staff had to be identified and recruited. This has also been done. It was inevitable that this would take time but the investigations are now located together on one site in Warrington—close to the source of the investigation—and are making good progress.

Like a number of the bereaved families and a number of those in this House, I have been to Warrington to see both investigations for myself. I have met some of the staff from the IPCC and Operation Resolve investigations and I was struck by their dedication and professionalism. I welcome the fact that the IPCC and Operation Resolve want their investigations to be open and transparent and both investigations have welcomed the opportunity to demonstrate to families the work they are doing.

I would like now to set out to the House some of the progress being made; first, in respect of the IPCC. Over 1,600 people have now responded to the IPCC’s witness appeal. This includes over 250 people who have never given accounts before. The IPCC is conducting detailed analysis of every response and is following up the evidence provided. Separately around 400 witnesses have made requests to the IPCC to see their original statements and the IPCC is helping people to access those statements.

In addition, the IPCC has recovered around 2,500 police pocket notebooks. These pocket books had not been made available to previous investigations and are now being analysed by IPCC investigators.

The IPCC has also conducted further analysis of the 242 police accounts now believed to have been amended. In this context, it has completed more than 160 interviews and these interviews continue. Alongside the IPCC investigation, the police investigation—Operation Resolve—has, first, worked to the coroner’s priorities and timetable, meeting all the deadlines set by him; secondly, has worked in parallel on other aspects of the criminal investigation that are complementary to the work being done for the coroner; thirdly, has obtained access to the best quality audio-visual material and carried out extensive analysis and, in doing so, has drawn on advances in digital imagery and forensic technology not available to previous investigative teams; and fourthly, has now completed more than 1,000 interviews of witnesses.

The work being done by Operation Resolve is aimed at providing the fullest possible picture of what happened at Hillsborough, both to ensure that the inquest is able to answer the questions that the bereaved families still have and in support of the criminal investigation.

As Jon Stoddart has said,

“If we find there were health and safety breaches or evidence of wilful neglect, we will seek to ensure the appropriate action is taken against those responsible. If we find that, with the benefit of hindsight, there are lessons to be learned, we will endeavour to ensure that they are addressed. And if we find evidence of criminal behaviour, including manslaughter through neglect, we will seek to lay charges and put people and organisations before the courts.”

As I have said, this new phase of work on Hillsborough began with the publication of the independent panel’s report. One particularly important aspect of the way in which the panel approached its work was its consultation with the bereaved families and I was keen to learn from and build on that dialogue. So I was pleased when Bishop James Jones agreed to act as my adviser on Hillsborough, bringing with him his knowledge and experience from his time as chair of the independent panel.

Operation Resolve and the IPCC have invested significant effort engaging with families, including by offering the opportunity for families to visit their offices in Warrington. “Family forums”, proposed by Bishop James Jones and building on work done by the IPCC, the Crown Prosecution Service and Operation Resolve, are now taking place regularly. The forums provide a regular and structured opportunity for bereaved families to have face-to-face discussions with those conducting and advising the investigations, and they provide an important opportunity for the families to probe and ask questions.

Bishop James Jones, in recent conversations with me, has described the families’ position as being “encouraged” but not “persuaded.” Mr Speaker, this is a sentiment I can understand. As we approach the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, it is the sentiment that underlies my continuing commitment to do everything I can to ensure that the process of disclosing the truth, started by the panel, is followed by the process of justice.

I commend this statement to the House.

Order. Just before I call the shadow Home Secretary and then other colleagues, it might be helpful if I emphasised to the House that the special inquest has not yet formally opened. I think there have been pre-hearings, but the hearing itself has not opened. Therefore, the matter is not sub judice. However, colleagues might think it wise to exercise a degree of restraint and to weigh their words carefully if they seek to express opinions on matters that plainly fall to be determined by the inquest. That is not in any sense intended to chill; it is simply to make the point to colleagues, who will exercise their own judgment as to how to proceed in this matter.

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and welcome the points she has made updating the House on the progress made in getting justice for the families of the 96 people who lost their lives at Hillsborough.

This year we approach 25 years since that dreadful day. I pay tribute, alongside the Home Secretary, to the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Hope for Hillsborough, which have shown such determination in their campaign for their loved ones. None of us should underestimate the strength they have shown and what they have endured over the last quarter of a century, or how difficult it is still for them as the inquest approaches—something that no family would ever want to go through. We should show them our respect and our support in their pursuit of justice.

In October 2012, when the Home Secretary last addressed the House on the disaster, we all welcomed the independent panel report and paid tribute to the panel, led by Bishop James Jones. I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) and the work he did to establish it, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), who I know spoke to her about giving today’s statement, my hon. Friends the Members for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) and for Halton (Derek Twigg), and colleagues in all parts of the House who continue to support their constituents in the pursuit of justice.

The list of failures exposed by the panel at that time was extensive, shocking and deeply distressing—the failure to improve the safety of the ground in the years before Hillsborough; the holding of the game at a ground without a safety certificate just four years after the Bradford fire; the failure to organise crowd safety; the failure to close the tunnel; the failure to help fans speedily; and also the failure to be honest about what happened and to investigate, and the falsehoods that were perpetuated afterwards. This House came together to make clear our view that it was a betrayal of victims and their families.

Since the panel’s report, I welcome the overturning of the original coroner’s verdict, at the instigation of the Attorney-General, and the plans to reopen the inquest next month. I welcome the Home Secretary’s agreement to our proposal for more powers for the IPCC and her decision to provide more resources for such a substantial investigation. I welcome the work by the Stoddart and IPCC inquiries and the substantial investigations that are under way. She is right to highlight the importance of support, including information and legal support for the families, but let me ask her some further questions about developments.

The Home Secretary will obviously know the importance of the inquest to everyone and the concern at how long everything takes. Can she assure the House, first, that the inquest will start on 31 March and that every effort is being made to ensure that all evidence and papers are in place, and that there are no further delays? Secondly, will she tell the House what more she is doing to ensure that every police force organisation and agency provides full disclosure to the Stoddart investigation and the IPCC, and does not simply wait to be asked for information? She will know the distress it has already caused to find that important and shocking information was never revealed to the independent panel—the pocket books she referred to—but also that far more police and witness statements were altered.

We have heard, for example, the disturbing testimony of one witness, who was a teenage student at the time. He told the BBC’s “Newsnight” programme that he was threatened with prosecution for complaining about failings by South Yorkshire police, saying:

“I’m a 19-year-old boy, three weeks out of Hillsborough, traumatised, and he’s threatening me that he’s going to put together a case for wasting police time because he didn’t like my evidence”.

I know that the Home Secretary would agree with me that it is a matter of deep concern that full information was not given to the panel at the time and would welcome the work done by the investigations to get more evidence since, but will she give a direction to all forces to provide all information related to the Hillsborough disaster to the two investigations?

The Home Secretary will also be aware of concern among the families about surveillance operations against families in the aftermath of the tragedy. I understand that the IPCC is not currently investigating those claims or concerns. Will the Home Secretary commit today to ordering the release of any material on surveillance, including intercept surveillance, of Hillsborough families in the aftermath of the disaster to the IPCC?

Thirdly, will she update us on the progress that has been made on the wider investigations that go beyond the inquest and on decisions on prosecutions? Clearly, the main focus of the investigations has been preparing information for the inquest, but what progress has been made in investigating criminal wrongdoing? According to what timetable does she believe files will be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service from the IPCC and the Stoddart investigation?

Finally, will the Home Secretary reassure us that the IPCC will have the resources it needs and that she will ensure that the inquiries work effectively alongside each other? She will know that concerns have previously been raised about co-ordination between the inquiries. Will she keep that under review to ensure that the investigations are fully co-ordinated?

The last quarter century has been immensely difficult for the families of the 96, and they know that the coming months will be very hard, too. The House should pay tribute to them and to their faith and determination over a quarter of a century, as well as to those who have stood by them, particularly the people of Liverpool. We should strain every sinew to ensure that they get justice now.

I thank the right hon. Lady for her comments and echo her point about how difficult it will be for the families when the inquest starts to have to relive the tragedy yet again. None of us can fully appreciate how difficult and traumatic that will be for the families and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.

As for the date of the inquest, as I said in my statement, Lord Justice Goldring has said that the fresh inquest will start on 31 March. That is obviously a matter for him and not for me as Home Secretary, but I am sure from the way he has conducted matters so far that he will recognise the significance of the inquest over which he will preside and the importance of ensuring that it goes ahead according to an appropriate timetable.

The right hon. Lady asked about disclosure, what information is available to the two investigations and what information was not made available to the panel. The panel saw some 450,000 documents from more than 80 organisations, so it did an extremely good job and, having seen all that evidence, it was able to come up with its shocking results about what had happened at Hillsborough. However, everybody has been perhaps not surprised but disappointed that further documents have emerged as a result of the two investigations, particularly the police pocket notebooks and other such documents. I have written to both Dame Anne Owers, as chairman of the IPCC, and Jon Stoddart—they are in charge of the investigations and it is up to them to amass the information they need—to ask whether they were having any problems getting material and whether it would be helpful for me to write to the chief constables of all police forces to ask them to look for any material that they might have.

The right hon. Lady asked about possible undercover operations and although no formal complaint or allegation has been made to the IPCC, it is aware of the concerns and is considering how best to address them. It is reviewing the material on Hillsborough so if it discovers any evidence in its investigation that suggests that surveillance such as that which has been suggested took place it will pursue that evidence.

I recognise, particularly given what has happened over the past 25 years, that everybody is keen to ensure that there should be no sense that the timetable is not be followed appropriately. I discussed the matter with Operation Resolve and the IPCC when I was in Warrington. They are keen to ensure that at every stage they do everything properly so that there can be no opportunity to challenge their results. We would all agree that that is appropriate, but it takes time to do that. I can assure the right hon. Lady that I am making resources available to the IPCC and we talk to it and Operation Resolve regularly about what is necessary.

I was pleased to see—I am going to use the term appropriate again—the appropriate level of co-ordination between the two investigations. They are considering separate issues, although of course the IPCC is managing part of the Operation Resolve investigation, and they are working together in a manner that is fit and proper, ensuring that everything that is being done is being done in a way that will ensure that people have confidence in the results when they come out, whether they result in criminal charges or other findings.

Will the Home Secretary assure us that any questions that the relatives have can be asked and answered? What level of co-operation is she receiving from retired police officers?

There is indeed a level of co-operation from retired police officers. Not everybody whom the IPCC has wished to interview has been willing to come forward for interview, but we are talking about people who are being interviewed as witnesses. The fact that an officer is retired would have no relevance if somebody were to be found to be suspected of criminal activity. The investigation would of course proceed as appropriate.

As for the families and their access to information, there are two ways in which families can ask questions. First, they can go to Warrington and meet members of the investigation teams and talk to them. When I was in Warrington, I was taken through the sort of information that the investigators could provide to the family of a particular individual. Families rightly have questions. One benefit for those involved in the investigations when families go in to talk to them is that they can identify any questions that the families might ask that might not be the first to come to mind for the investigators. The forums are also important, as they provide families with the opportunity to raise questions face to face. As I have said, they are ably chaired and managed by Bishop James Jones.

I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement and express my continued admiration for how she is leading this process. People might think of the families’ battle as being won, but in truth only now are they entering the most difficult period of all. Parents such as my constituent, Delia Brown, are only now finding out basic details about what happened to their sons and daughters between 3.15 and 4 o’clock. With that in mind, does the Home Secretary share my disgust and disbelief that South Yorkshire police have today, using public money, rerun slurs about alcohol that were dismissed by Lord Justice Taylor in 1989 and by the Hillsborough Independent Panel in 2012?

The right hon. Gentleman’s comments about the families are well made. This is a very difficult time and, as he says, it is only now that some families are in any sense able to fill in the picture of what happened to their loved ones. I am concerned by his reference to South Yorkshire police and would be grateful if he and I could have a further discussion about that matter. I am certainly prepared to look into it.

I join the tributes to the Opposition MPs who have led the persistent campaigns for the families. Sadly, in the 1980s I was involved in two sets of crushings. The first was at an archbishop’s funeral, when 14 people died around me. The other was at the Heysel stadium, where, within 200 feet of me, 39 people died. As well as finding out what went wrong at Hillsborough and after Hillsborough, which I hope the inquest will achieve, we ought to pay tribute to the Police Federation for being the first to call for the safety of grounds from the 1930s through to the 1970s. May I say to my right hon. Friend that perimeter safety and crowd safety could be another tribute to those who sadly lost their lives?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We should all be constantly aware of the need to ensure safety at stadiums when large numbers of people are at football matches and other events. It is extremely important that we learn the lessons from the tragedies from the past to ensure the safety of those who attend such events in the future.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for agreeing to update the House today. In her statement, she said that in 2012 the Prime Minister apologised for a double injustice, yet now we learn that Hillsborough may have been a treble injustice. Ever since the disaster, the families of the 96 have expressed concerns that their phones may have been hacked and electronic communications monitored. First, families lost loved ones, then they were criminalised, and now it seems that they may even have been shadowed by terrorists. I have one simple question, so that the right hon. Lady can put the families’ minds at rest. Will she confirm unequivocally that at no stage since the disaster were the families subjected to surveillance by the police or security services of this country?

I fully appreciate the point that the hon. Gentleman makes about the families’ concerns, but he will recognise, as I am sure his right hon. and hon. Friends will too, that we do not identify those who may or may not have been subject to interception in any form. I know that this is difficult and I know that some would prefer a somewhat different answer, but it has always been the case that the police do not confirm or deny whether an individual has been subject to interception. There are two avenues that I would refer to in relation to the hon. Gentleman’s question. The first is that, as I said in response to the shadow Home Secretary, the IPCC is aware of these concerns and is considering how best to address them. If it does find any evidence during its investigation that suggests that surveillance has taken place, it will pursue it. It is also available to those who feel that they have been subject to unlawful interception by the authorities, to refer that to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which provides an independent forum for investigating complaints.

As a special constable, I can vouch for the fact that most police officers are hard-working and honest, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that if there is evidence of any wrongdoing by any individual police officers, they will face the full force of the law?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the purpose of the work that is being undertaken is to ensure that we can provide justice for the families. Jon Stoddart has made it absolutely clear that at whatever level they find that errors have been made, be they in relation to health and safety or criminal activity, appropriate action will be taken. If it is criminal activity, people will be charged and prosecutions will be brought.

The tenacity of the bereaved families has led to the exposure of organised deceit following the Hillsborough disaster and to where we are today with a new inquest and a major inquiry. How will the Home Secretary ensure that she maintains the trust of those bereaved families, and will she denounce the outrageous slur that Bishop Jones’ independent panel might have had its own agenda?

I am very happy to reject completely the suggestion that Bishop James Jones’ panel had its own agenda. It did an extremely good job. It identified a significant number of documents, and some are still coming forward. It did the first important task, which was to reveal to all of us the validity of the comments and claims made by the families over the years, who had not been believed and had not been listened to. The panel showed that the families were right and that errors and potential criminal activity needed to be investigated. The work of the independent panel was crucial. It was essential in enabling what is now happening in terms of trying to ensure that we get justice for the families. Had it not been for the independent panel’s inquiry and the results that it had, we would not be in the position that we are in today with two investigations.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the update to the House today. Many people will be surprised to learn about the number of police notebooks that have suddenly become available. I am sure that the Police (Complaints and Conduct) Act 2012 has facilitated some of the investigation, but does she agree that there is a moral imperative for the Police Federation to ensure that all serving and former police officers co-operate fully with the investigation?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Most people will be surprised to know that police officers retain their police notebooks in the first place, and secondly that in this instance they kept them and did not reveal them to the panel. It is good that around 2,500 notebooks have now been made available to the investigators. I encourage anybody who has any information relating to Hillsborough—any documents, any files, anything—to come forward with that. I also support my hon. Friend’s suggestion that the Police Federation encourages all police officers and former police officers, who may have information relevant to these investigations, to make that information available.

I think that I speak on behalf of all my colleagues from Sheffield and the people of Sheffield when I commend the Home Secretary for both her statement and its delivery, and the work that she has been doing. I endorse the tribute paid by the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary to the families and the concern that they expressed for them as we approach the 25th anniversary.

Finding the information in the form of the handbooks that have just been discovered will have shocked all of us once again, as will the information that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) mentioned. Those of us who are concerned to ensure that successor bodies are both open and transparent, and to ensure that we get to the truth and hold to account those who were responsible 25 years ago, should co-operate in any way possible. I would be prepared to join my right hon. Friend and the Home Secretary in dealing with any allegations that are made about South Yorkshire police or any other local body that may at this point in time be acting inappropriately.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments and for his offer. As he says, it is extremely important that all those who can encourage others to act appropriately, do so, and are willing to challenge those who are not acting appropriately.

If I may, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman) asked another question, which I did not answer, about how I could maintain the trust of the families. I see the families from time to time, and as I have explained, Bishop James Jones is my adviser on the matter and he is seeing the families through the forums. I have made it clear both to Bishop Jones and to the families that if they have any concerns at all they should feel free to raise them directly with me and I will look into them.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for her update today and the work that she is doing on this issue. I pay tribute to the strength of the families who have been pursuing justice through this dreadful almost 25 years. Will the Home Secretary clarify whether she believes that criminal prosecutions will take place and whether she believes that criminal prosecutions must take place to provide justice for those families?

I recognise my hon. Friend’s concern around this issue. It is not my place to say whether a criminal prosecution will take place. The investigation takes place and the Crown Prosecution Service will independently determine whether prosecutions are appropriate. What I can say is that all those involved in the investigation are absolutely clear that where they find criminal activity, they will do their best to ensure that that is pursued, because everybody wants justice for the families.

I also welcome the Home Secretary’s statement and thank her for updating the House in the way that she has. May I take her back to the questions of the hon. Members for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey)? The right hon. Lady is right that we should encourage people to co-operate, but I understand that 13 police officers have refused to be interviewed by the IPCC and two have declined to respond to its letters. She may have better figures. We do not just need encouragement; we need compulsion. They need to be made to co-operate so that we get to the truth.

The right hon. Gentleman is right: for the purposes of the IPCC investigation, 13 of the 242 officers whose statements have been amended have declined to be interviewed. Those who are being regarded as witnesses are not required to be interviewed at this stage, and there are those who have said that they do not believe that they have anything to add to the information that has been available in the past. I would therefore suggest a degree of caution in respect of how those who are not taking up the request for an interview are portrayed. As I have said, if the IPCC identifies someone who is potentially suspected of a criminal offence, that will not be an impediment, and the IPCC will act accordingly.

I was on the Lepping lane terraces at the FA cup semi-final of 1981. Around me, several spectators were crushed, and had to be treated by the medics. That was eight years before the Hillsborough tragedy. Can my right hon. Friend update the House on what lessons were learnt from previous FA cup semi-finals at Hillsborough, and will she arrange for that information to be published so that we can see what planning took place before the tragedy?

One of the things that emerged from the independent panel’s inquiry was that, sadly, there were apparently indications of problems relating to the ground, but not all the necessary lessons had been learnt from previous experience. That is why it is so important—as one of my hon. Friends said earlier—that in the event of an incident of any scale, but particularly an incident of the scale of the Hillsborough tragedy, lessons are learnt and people look at what went wrong. Part of the current process involves consideration of whether there was any neglect in relation to the ground and the operations that took place there. Sadly, as I have said, it appears that there were indications of problems, but lessons were not learnt before this particular football game.

Let me first record my appreciation of the work that the Home Secretary has been doing, and also my admiration for the families’ continuing and amazing drive to seek justice.

I understand that up to nine police forces are currently being contacted, but I want to concentrate on the Cheshire force and its former chief constable, Mervyn Jones. In a letter that I received from the IPCC, I was told:

“Records were found that indicated that 22 boxes of documents were recovered by South Yorkshire police on the 22nd of January 1998. These records indicated they were copy documents taken by Mervyn Jones.”

The documents had been kept in the armoury of Cheshire constabulary.

As the Home Secretary is aware, a number of those documents were policy files, and were rather important, because Mervyn Jones led the west midlands inquiry. He took them away with him after leaving the force. I found out today that they contain references to files that have since been deleted from the HOLMES computer system, which stores information about major incidents. May I ask the Home Secretary what lessons can be learnt from that? How can it can be ensured that in the event of any future major incident—or, God forbid, any future disaster—it will not be possible for a chief constable, or an assistant chief constable, to take files away rather than storing them at a central point?

The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important point. As he presumably knows—because it has been in touch with him about this particular individual—the IPCC is aware of the issue, has identified Mervyn Jones as a person who is of interest to it, and is planning to interview him.

This issue has raised questions in my mind about the ability of police officers to retain documents that have been relevant to them in a particular role, and to take those documents away with them as if they were personal possessions. That has been highlighted not just in relation to the question of the pocket notebooks, but, on a slightly larger scale, in relation to the case of one person, Mervyn Jones, and I think that we need to look into it further.

I genuinely congratulate the Home Secretary on the thoroughness of her approach, but may I ask how many police notebooks that may prove relevant later were not recovered?

About 2,500 police notebooks have now been supplied to those conducting the investigations. I would encourage any officer out there who may have a notebook that is relevant and who has still not provided it to do so, because I think it important for all the notebooks to be made available.

I pay tribute to the courage and bravery shown by all those affected by the Hillsborough disaster over the past 25 years, and especially in recent months.

May I ask the Home Secretary again about the police pocket notebooks? She has said that about 2,500 of them were not made available to those conducting earlier investigations. Does she know, or has she asked, why they were not made available?

I do not know why they were not made available, but the IPCC has them now, and will be looking at all of them as part of its investigation. Obviously, it will have had contact with the police officers who provided them.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement, and for her work on this most sensitive and troubling of issues. I also pay tribute to the Hillsborough families for their steadfast campaigning. They are about to enter a very difficult phase in the process.

I make no apology for returning to the issue—the shocking issue—of the disclosure of 2,500 police notebooks. May I ask two questions? First, the IPCC now has those notebooks, but will those involved in Operation Resolve have copies of them? Secondly, will my right hon. Friend ensure that there is a thorough review of the storage of police notebooks, given that the issue has implications for all historical investigations, criminal and civil?

I thank my hon. Friend for reiterating the point of concern about the police pocket notebooks. Although the two investigations are concerned with slightly different aspects of the Hillsborough tragedy, it has been made clear that information that is relevant to both should be available to both.

As for my hon. Friend’s wider question, as I said earlier to the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), it is important for us to look at the issue of documents that are acquired by police officers in relation to investigations or to incidents that they attend and are required in the course of their duty, but which, in the cases that we are discussing, were treated as if they were personal possessions that officers could take home and deal with as they wished. That is an issue to which I shall want to return.

I, too, thank the Home Secretary both for her statement and for the way in which she continues to handle this most important issue. Does she agree that one of the truly alarming things that we have discovered in the recent past is the extent to which there was what could almost be described as an organised stereotyping distortion of what had taken place, and the extent of the prejudice against those who attended the game at Hillsborough—both those who lost their lives and those who survived? Does she agree that one legacy that we should really want is the knowledge that, in any future situations of this kind, such prejudices will be continually challenged and rooted out? The only guarantee that we can have that something like this will not happen again is a guarantee that those attitudes will be utterly condemned, and will become a thing of the past.

The right hon. Gentleman has made a very important point. As I said earlier, when the Prime Minister made his own statement in 2012, he said that the second injustice that had taken place was the treatment that the families had received at the hands of the press. However, the injustice was wider than that: it did not just involve the press.

The press set out their particular portrait of what had happened, and of the families involved, but a collective view was then taken by society as a whole. With very few—but notable and honourable—exceptions, people had that collective belief, and felt that it was not necessary to take the matter further. Like others, I pay tribute not just to the families who continued the fight, but to the Members of Parliament and others who consistently challenged that view and said that it was not right to let the issue lie. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: while I hope that we never see an incident of this sort again, it is important for those who try to set a public perception on such issues to be challenged.

On the question of the police notebooks, will the Home Secretary find out—it will be difficult, but not impossible in this computer age—how many police notebooks relating to the Hillsborough inquiry were used by the same police officers who in the 1984 miners strike compiled notebooks and statements all saying the same thing in the first few sentences?

My concern in relation to Hillsborough is to ensure that all the information is made available to those who are investigating the tragedy, so that we can see justice properly being done for the families and in memory of those who lost their lives.

May I add my praise for the families, whose tenacity and courage are an example to us all? I know from speaking to many of my constituents how difficult this is for them. What plans does the Home Secretary have to offer counselling and additional support to the friends and families of the victims, who are going to relive the trauma of 1989 during the impending inquests?

The hon. Lady makes an important point; this is going to be a very difficult time for the families. Additional consultation space will be provided for them so that they can have meetings with their legal teams, and every effort is being made to ensure that, in every practical sense, attendance at the inquests is made as easy as possible for them. We recognise that support of the kind she describes needs to be provided to those involved, and the Department of Health, the Ministry of Justice and the coroner are working together to ensure that that is made available.

I should like to echo other Members in thanking the Home Secretary for her statement and for paying tribute to the families, campaigners and Members of the House for their work on this matter over the past 25 years. May I take the Home Secretary back to the issue of Lord Justice Goldring’s deadline of 31 March for fresh inquests? Understandably, she has said that that is a matter for him, but does she understand that it is important for the families that everything that can possibly be done is being done to ensure that that deadline is met?

I fully accept the hon. Gentleman’s point. I know that the investigatory teams are aware of the importance of meeting Lord Justice Goldring’s timetable in relation to the support they are giving him as coroner. Indeed, up to now they have met all his deadlines. They are clear that, in order for him to do his job, any requests put to them should be dealt with in the timetable that he has set.

The Home Secretary has made a welcome commitment to look again at the issue of the police withholding evidence. Does she not agree, however, that the fact that the notebooks, and other alarming acts, have only just been uncovered, despite all the previous investigations over many years, shows that the current system of police accountability and scrutiny is not fit for purpose, despite having been strengthened? She must know that she would get support from right across the House if she were to announce a radical overhaul of the system.

I recognise the hon. Gentleman’s concern about this matter, but the Government have already acted in a number of ways in relation to this question. We have enhanced the powers of the IPCC to deal with these issues, and we will be giving it more resources to enable it to investigate all serious and sensitive complaints against the police itself, rather than passing them back to police forces. That is an important change. Also, I have already announced to the House a number of steps that are being taken in relation to the wider question of police integrity. The findings of the Hillsborough panel have raised a very real question in people’s minds about police integrity, and I welcome the steps by the College of Policing to introduce a code of ethics. A number of steps are being taken to improve that issue, so that people will feel that they can have full confidence in the police. The vast majority of police officers work day in, day out for our protection and to cut crime, and they work honestly and with integrity. However, when there are those who do not, it taints the picture that people have of the others. It is our duty to encourage and enhance people’s confidence in their police.

The Home Secretary has referred in previous answers to the police notebooks being kept by individual officers. Will she clarify whether all the 2,500 notebooks were recovered from individual officers, or whether some of them were collectively stored by the police and deliberately withheld from previous investigations?

I apologise to the hon. Lady and to the House if I gave the impression that all the notebooks were held by individual officers. I believe that some of them had been held in storage and had not been brought forward previously.

A number of police forces, including South Yorkshire, have failed to provide evidence about Hillsborough. Does the Home Secretary think that that is due to a lack of resources or does she think that there is a worrying, ongoing reluctance to get to the truth?

It is extremely unfortunate that, at various stages, South Yorkshire police did not provide all the evidence, but I was pleased that they were willing to respond to and provide information to the independent panel. It is in everyone’s interests that we should be able to get to the full truth and to see justice done.

Perhaps the biggest risk to safety in football stadiums today is that posed by a panic mass evacuation, following a bomb scare, for example, or a terrorist incident. Will the Home Secretary confirm that there is no requirement on any stadium to have a test mass evacuation using real people, that no such tests have been carried out and that every football stadium in the country relies on computer simulations to determine whether its mass evacuation plans will actually work?

I will certainly look into that matter. If I may, I will write to the hon. Gentleman on the issue.

I am sure the Home Secretary will recall that when we debated these issues in the House some time ago, the overwhelming sentiment on both sides of the House was that there was a need for full transparency and disclosure, not just as a prerequisite for justice but as a first step towards resolution. In the light of that, may I return to the question of the 13 retired police officers who have refused to comply with the IPCC’s requests for interviews? Does she agree that, rather than it being a matter for those officers to decide, before any interviews take place, that they have nothing to add, the IPCC should be allowed to discover whether that is the case during the process of such interviews?

As I said in response to earlier questions, those who have refused to be interviewed so far have been regarded as witnesses, which means that there is no requirement for them to take part in an interview at this stage. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point about who should be the judge of whether they have anything to add to the investigation, but as I have said, they are being regarded as witnesses and are therefore not required to be interviewed.

I hope that this question will not be regarded as trivial, but at a meeting I attended recently with my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), it was suggested that the facilities for the families at the inquests—toilets, tea and coffee-making facilities, catering and comfortable seating, for example—were not quite as good as they should be. Will the Home Secretary check that they are in fact up to scratch, because it is essential that those families should be made to feel as welcome and as comfortable as possible at the inquests?

The hon. Lady makes a valid point. As I said earlier, it is my understanding that every effort is being made to ensure that the facilities are appropriate for the families, and that it will be as easy as possible for them to attend. She will have noted that the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes), is in his place. He will have heard her comments, and I am sure that he will take them away to the Ministry of Justice.

I am sure the Home Secretary is aware that the families have asked for one person to be put in charge of the entire investigation so that they can co-ordinate all the various investigations that are going on. Will she consider doing that?

I have had a number of discussions with representatives of the families about this matter and what the most appropriate structure is to have in place. I believe that we do have the right structure at the moment, because the two investigations are looking at different aspects of this tragedy. It is of course important that there is co-ordination between them, and as I said earlier, the IPCC is managing part of the Operation Resolve investigation. What I have seen from visiting Warrington is that both investigations are conscious of not only those areas where it is necessary for them to co-ordinate, but those areas where it is necessary for them to recognise the difference in their investigation.

I acknowledge the worthy statement of the Home Secretary on the double injustice, but why should the ethic of apology and accountability not extend to the third possible level of injustice—the hostile surveillance of victims’ families? What standing policy says that evidence in that regard can continue to be withheld? Surely that is what would tell us how far and how high this syndicate of deceit and vilification actually reached. Before the Home Secretary tells me, as she told my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), that families can go to the IPT, will she tell us what the IPT’s record is of upholding complaints or ever giving a reason?

I will disappoint the hon. Gentleman, in that I will not be giving a different answer to the one I gave earlier. As I indicated, the IPCC is aware of this issue and is considering how best to address it. If it finds evidence of surveillance that has taken place, it will deal with that as appropriate.