My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
It is important that we remember why we are here today: the tragic events of 15 April 1989 resulted in the deaths of 96 innocent men, women, and children— 96 lives lost, and 700 people injured, many seriously. For those who survived, and those whose family members did not come home that day, the events that unfolded at Hillsborough changed their lives for ever. We must never forget that fact. Yet we are here today, 23 years on, still seeking justice—23 years of hurt and grief for the families, of not knowing the truth; 23 years suffering lies, rumours and innuendo in the media; and 23 years of the authorities actively obstructing the truth, by lying, amending statements and shifting blame for those tragic events on to the fans themselves. That is the “double injustice” to which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister referred. That is why we have brought forward this fast-track legislation: to help to tackle this double injustice.
The truth about the terrible events of that day is now known. The independent panel, chaired by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, published its report in September. I take this opportunity to record our thanks to the right reverend Prelate, and the rest of the panel, for their dedication and hard work. It has provided the foundation for us to move this issue on. Its work has not only exposed the truth about Hillsborough but helped to keep the needs of the families to the forefront of all our considerations.
I shall not detain the House by thanking the many individuals who could be singled out for their efforts, but I will mention the right honourable Member in another place, Mr Andy Burnham, without whose dedicated work the panel would never have been set up. Most importantly, before I move on, I put on record my thanks and deepest respect to the families and friends of the 96 victims of the disaster, and to the survivors. I was privileged to meet some of their representatives, whose dignity and dedication to the truth is truly inspirational.
The truth exposed in the panel’s report is both shocking and disturbing. The safety of the crowd was “compromised at every level”, the ground was inadequate, and earlier warnings of the potential for disaster had not been acted on. Once the disaster started to unfold, the correct action was not taken, and the emergency response was poor. Then, in the aftermath, the authorities responsible for protecting the public and exposing the truth made a concerted effort to conceal the truth. Statements and evidence were altered. The original inquests were flawed. Attempts were made to shift blame on to the fans themselves, implying that drunken behaviour was at the root of the tragedy.
To understand the extent of the attempted cover-up is a chilling experience, but it is vital that this truth is known so that, after 23 years, we can be sure that it is not the end. For the families who have suffered years of injustice, simply knowing the truth is not enough; we now need to move from the truth to justice. It is for this reason that we have brought this Bill before the House today.
Following the publication of the panel’s report, the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into the panel’s findings. That is a vital step in the transition from truth to justice and accountability. The IPCC investigation will look into the conduct of all officers at Hillsborough on 15 April 1989 and all those involved in subsequent investigations. It is important to note here that the investigation will look at matters of both misconduct and possible criminality. It will consider the actions of officers currently serving with the police and those who have subsequently retired. The investigation into the Hillsborough disaster will be on an unprecedented scale for the IPCC, which estimates that 2,400 officers could be within its scope. We recognise the additional burden that an investigation of this scale places on the commission and we have made a clear undertaking to provide it with both the resources and the powers needed to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the panel’s findings.
Since the independent panel published its report in September, the Home Secretary, my fellow Ministers and officials have been in close contact with the IPCC. The IPCC has made clear that, in order to fulfil its obligations in the Hillsborough investigation, it needs two additional powers and it needs them urgently. Those are the two powers contained in the Bill. There have, of course, been ongoing discussions between the Home Office and the IPCC for some time regarding the powers that the commission has and whether they are sufficient. I should be very clear on this matter: those discussions are still continuing. Should it become apparent that the IPCC needs reform or further additional powers in relation to its regular, day-to-day functions, then the Government will act. If legislation is required, we will bring it forward. The fact that we have introduced this fast-track Bill is testament to our dedication to ensuring that the IPCC has the powers that it needs to function effectively.
However, those questions of wider reform are not for today. The IPCC has been very clear; it needs the two additional powers contained in the Bill in order to conduct as thorough and comprehensive an investigation into Hillsborough as possible. In order to fully investigate the tragic events of the disaster, the IPCC is clear that it will need to hear from those officers involved on the day and in subsequent investigations. The commission already has the power to call serving or retired officers to give evidence where the officer is a subject of the investigation. Officers suspected of misconduct or criminality are already required to attend an interview when they are called. However, the IPCC needs to hear from a wider range of officers; perhaps those who were simply at Hillsborough on the day and who may have witnessed conduct that the commission needs to be aware of, such as colleagues altering statements. The testimony of such witnesses will be vital to the IPCC investigations into Hillsborough.
Clause 1 extends the existing power, which compels officers who are themselves the subject of an investigation to attend the interview. The clause will provide that serving officers and police staff can be compelled to attend as witnesses. This can bite when the interview arises as part of any investigation managed by, or independently undertaken by, the IPCC. This power will apply to officers in Home Office forces and other policing bodies, such as the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Of course, in the vast majority of cases, I expect that both serving and retired officers will attend an interview willingly, recognising the importance of assisting the IPCC to investigate as serious a tragedy as Hillsborough. Any decent human being would.
The power in Clause 1 applies to individuals still serving with the police. The IPCC will not be able to compel a retired officer to attend an interview as a witness through the use of this power. I am aware that some noble Lords may believe that, given the significance of this investigation, this power should extend to retired officers as well as those still serving. However, we must recognise the status of retired officers. Once officers retire, they are in the same position as any other member of the public. They are no longer bound by the same responsibilities and obligations as serving officers, and are not subject to the same penalties that can be imposed through police conduct regulations. The police themselves do not have the power to compel an ordinary member of the public to attend an interview as a witness. If the police want to compel an individual to attend an interview, they must arrest them as a suspect.
To give the IPCC powers of compulsion over retired officers would be to extend the commission’s powers beyond those held by the police. I do not think that any Member of this House would be comfortable with that, and such a matter would require careful and detailed consideration. Let us remember that the IPCC can, and will, investigate retired officers for misconduct and criminal behaviour, and it has the powers to compel such individuals to attend interview. The power contained in Clause 1 will be used in relation to witnesses, and it is proportionate that this applies to serving officers only. However, as I said before, I expect that many retired officers will attend voluntarily. The IPCC is currently scoping its investigation, and intends to start calling witnesses early in the new year. Noble Lords can be in no doubt, therefore, of the urgency behind this short Bill.
I turn my attention to Clause 2. This allows the IPCC to investigate matters that were previously subject to an investigation by its predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority. The power will be exercised by the IPCC only when it is satisfied that there are “exceptional circumstances” that justify its use. This is a high threshold. The need for this power is clear, because the PCA investigated certain aspects relating to the Hillsborough disaster. In particular, it considered the decision to open exit gate C at the Leppings Lane end of the ground and not to close the tunnel. Those decisions had a huge impact on the events of the day and, without the power in Clause 2, they could not be considered by the IPCC. We must ensure that no aspect of the events of that day is out of scope of the investigation. This power is therefore central to the eventual success of the investigation and, in turn, central to maintaining the trust of the families and the people of Liverpool. Although the power is essential, it must be tightly drawn if we are to avoid the prospect of reopening every old PCA investigation and turning the IPCC into a cold-case review body.
There must also be a sense of finality to the investigations concluded by the PCA or the IPCC. That is why the power in Clause 2 provides the IPCC with the discretion to reopen cases where the matter meets the high threshold of “exceptional circumstances”. This test will allow matters relating to Hillsborough to be considered, but the IPCC itself has stated in the briefing on the Bill that it has given to noble Lords:
“Unless there are powerful public interest reasons, as well as exceptional circumstances, it must be right that scarce resources are not diverted from addressing our extremely important current work”.
The commission goes on to say that,
“the IPCC must be in a position to resist becoming an historic cases body, which it is not designed nor resourced to be … The Commission will therefore want to take a rigorous approach to the application of this clause in other cases, and it would be helpful if it was clear during the Parliamentary debate that this was Parliament’s intention”.
I can confirm that the IPCC has precisely set out the Government’s intention. We do not want the IPCC to spend its time reinvestigating cases that have already been closed, and we see this power being used only in truly exceptional cases. Hillsborough is truly exceptional and it is right that these matters are reinvestigated. It will be for the IPCC as the independent body overseeing the police complaints system to determine whether a case meets this exceptional circumstances threshold, and it is appropriate for it, as an investigatory body, to hold that decision-making power.
The Bill before the House today is essential finally to achieve justice for the 96 innocent men, women and children who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster. The Bill is narrow in scope, focusing on two powers that the IPCC needs to fulfil its obligations relating to Hillsborough. Rightly, it does not stray into the territory of wider reform of the IPCC. That would not be appropriate for a fast-track Bill. This short Bill provides the IPCC with the tools that it needs and marks one step further along the road to justice for the victims of Hillsborough. All who support this aim should support this Bill, and I commend it to the House.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comments and for his explanation of the detail in the Bill before us.
On 15 April 1989, across the nation people watched with increasing incredulity and horror the unfolding tragedy of events at Hillsborough. It was hard to comprehend that people were dying in front of our eyes on what should have been an exciting day for the FA Cup semi-final. The loss of life was staggering: 96 innocent men, women and children were killed; 700 people suffered injuries, some serious; and thousands more were traumatised by the events of that day. It remains one of the biggest losses of British life in a single day since the end of the Second World War.
While many of us shared in the shock and horror on the day, those directly affected have been living with the aftermath ever since. That is not just because of the loss of loved ones or the injuries and trauma they suffered, but because, although at the time it seemed that we had witnessed the full extent of the horror, it has become clear that the tragedy of that day has been compounded and magnified by the 23 years of lies and obstructions put in the way of those trying to get to the truth of why and how something so terrible and dreadful could happen.
As we heard from the Minister, totally untrue but appalling and hurtful accusations and allegations were made about Liverpool fans and then reported by some as facts. That such lies were told and took so long to be corrected has created enormous anger and great sadness. Those lies and that lack of justice have made the search for the truth too long and unnecessarily hard and traumatic. Yet, that fight has made those affected only more determined to get to the truth. We in your Lordships’ House agree that they should not have had to have that fight.
The Bill and the welcome announcement by the Attorney-General yesterday that he is seeking to quash the original Hillsborough inquest verdict of accidental death is part of the way forward. As the Minister also said, it is appropriate. I am sure that your Lordships’ House would welcome the opportunity to pay tribute to the families and organisations that have fought for justice, to their supporters and to their legal advisers, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who will be speaking in this debate today, as well as those politicians and community leaders who have fought for truth and justice and who have taken courageous, sometimes unpopular decisions.
We must also pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and I look forward to his contribution to this debate. I have no doubt that the report of the independent panel which he chaired, while deeply distressing, is finally helping the people of Liverpool to move beyond that search for the truth and focus on their quest for justice. It is the shocking findings of that report that have led the Attorney- General to take his decision and also to the IPCC reopening the investigation. This Bill will assist in that quest for justice. There are a number of aspects to that quest and a hugely significant part is the investigation by the IPCC; the Bill seeks to ensure that it has greater powers to conduct that investigation.
There is genuine cross-party support for this Bill and it is cross-party, united action that has brought us to this point. We raised with the Government the issues in this Bill and we put on record our appreciation for the willingness and readiness of Ministers to engage in and listen to the concerns raised by my right honourable friend in the other place, Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, regarding the powers that were available to the IPCC. Without reservation, I thank the Government and the noble Lord for bringing this Bill forward largely to address those concerns.
We agree with the Government that is not the end of the debate or the end of the changes that need to be made. We also agree that what we have before us today is appropriate for fast-track legislation and note unanimous support for the Home Affairs Select Committee in the other place for the content of the Bill and its approach to it, while raising issues that are not covered by the Bill.
If the IPCC is fully to investigate the potential criminal and misconduct issues raised by the independent panel, it needs these greater powers in order to examine the conduct of the police on 15 April 1989 in addressing the culpability of the individuals and organisations involved and the safety standards, planning and operational decisions that led to the disaster. These greater powers are also needed to examine the evidence that suggests a massive cover-up following the disaster that has continued for years. The Minister gave some examples of that cover-up, but to those I can add that 164 statements were taken by the police and it is incredible that the panel found that 116 were altered in some way. This is how the tragedy was compounded and magnified and why my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper called for the inquiry to have greater powers.
Now I turn to the specific clauses of the Bill and look at Clause 1. At present, the IPCC can require police officers to give evidence if it believes they have committed a crime. However, the IPCC has been clear that in order to gain the fullest picture of events it also needs to be able to obtain evidence from police officers and police staff not themselves suspected of any criminal activity or misconduct but who are witnesses. The IPCC has expressed its concerns about the convoluted current process if an officer chooses not to attend an interview as a witness, which it considers can seriously undermine public confidence in its work. The IPCC, in a report to Peers, has informed us that it does not keep specific records of non-co-operation by the police and police staff but that, in what I assume was a quick exercise, it readily identified at least 25 cases involving over 100 police officers where they have refused to attend for interview as witnesses. Those involved cases such as death, serious injury, police shootings, road traffic incidents and the use of excessive force. Clearly that is a serious problem and one that the Bill seeks to address.
I also want to say something about what the Bill does not do, and invite the Minister to comment. As he explained, the Bill does not compel police officers or staff to answer questions. Although the IPCC is not asking for this power, in the debate in the other place it seemed to me to be clearly the intention of Parliament that, if called for interview, police officers and staff would be expected to co-operate fully with the IPCC. Indeed, we would argue that there is a moral duty to do so. Will the Minister confirm that refusal to co-operate, after being called by the IPCC to give evidence as a witness, would be a misconduct matter? Can that be clarified in regulations? Can he give further information to your Lordships’ House about the sanctions that would be available in these circumstances? It would be helpful if he could inform your Lordships’ House whether any disciplinary action following non-co-operation with the IPCC would be at the discretion of the chief constable of that police force, or if this will be specified in guidelines or in secondary legislation. There needs to be a national standard that provides clarity to police officers and staff about the need to co-operate and the consequences of not doing so. It is unfair on police officers, when called to give evidence, that different police forces have different standards.
I would hope that the majority of police officers will recognise their duty to co-operate—although that does not appear to be the experience of the IPCC to date—and that sanctions will rarely be required. However, clarity is needed for cases of the kind already mentioned where co-operation is not forthcoming.
I also recognise that, as the Minister said, the Bill cannot force retired police officers or staff to attend interviews as witnesses. I understand why that is—a retired person is a private citizen—and why the Government consider that it is not appropriate to deal with the issue in fast-track legislation. However, it is a serious issue and I hope that the Government will consider and seek to remedy it.
I trust that provision can be made to ensure that early retirement cannot be used as a way of avoiding giving evidence to the IPCC. Will an officer or staff member be able to have a retirement application considered after they have been asked to give evidence to the IPCC? I know that Ministers have discussed this issue. The shadow Home Secretary, the shadow Police Minister, the right honourable David Hanson, and other Ministers are aware that this issue needs to be addressed and I would be grateful for any indication that the Minister can give of the action the Government intend to take.
It would also be helpful to have clarification of an answer given by the right honourable Damian Green in the Commons to the right honourable David Hanson, the shadow Police Minister. Damian Green said that even if an officer had retired, the investigation will continue into criminal or misconduct matters. Can the Minister confirm whether that means that a retired officer will still be required to give evidence if he or she is the subject of an investigation; or can he or she only be compelled to do so prior to the date of his or her retirement? I am also unclear about whether the authority of the IPCC to compel witnesses who are police officers or police staff extends to civilian staff and private contractors working for the police.
On Clause 2, as the Minister said, currently the IPCC cannot investigate any matters previously considered by the Police Complaints Authority. If that situation were to continue, it would seriously hamper the work of the IPCC in investigating matters relating to Hillsborough.
The Bill will allow the IPCC to make investigations if it is considered that there are exceptional circumstances. The Minister discussed this in his comments. The IPCC is understandably concerned that, within its resources and other work, it will be unable to take on all cases where it might be considered that the circumstances are exceptional. It wants to be sure that it is able to confine itself to those cases that are exceptional and involve powerful public interest reasons. I know, understand and agree that the Government do not want the IPCC to become a bureau reinvestigating historical cold cases and the Minister’s comments on that were helpful. However, I am concerned that qualifying “exceptional circumstances” by ensuring that powerful public interest reasons are also involved could mean that without a powerful public campaign exceptional reasons would not be considered.
I do not think that is what either the IPCC or the Minister means to happen—there needs to be a balance. The exceptional circumstances have to be about the merits of the case and not the public interest—using the meaning of public interest as public enthusiasm or publicity about a case. The point I am trying to make is that this should not be about those who shout the loudest because there may be exceptional circumstances that the IPCC should look at but that are not the subject of a massive public campaign.
In the other place, David Hanson asked about the concerns raised by the Police Federation and the Police Superintendents’ Association about the lack of consultation. They had issues regarding the Bill that they wished to discuss with Ministers. The Minister said that he had a meeting scheduled with the Police Federation and was happy to meet the Superintendents’ Association. Have those meetings now taken place and is there any information from them that the Minister can share with your Lordships’ House?
We have this Bill before us today—and yesterday we had the welcome announcement from the Attorney-General on the inquest verdicts—because of the tenacity, dedication and faith of the families and the faith of those who supported them that truth will out. That quest for the truth and justice has been hard fought—it is of deep regret that it has been so hard fought. Too many barriers, lies and obstructions have been placed in the way of the truth. We support and welcome the Bill. It is not the end of the process but part of it. As indicated, there are other issues that we will return to. Through the independent panel and the work of families, their lawyers and supporters, we are now at the point where truth is emerging and justice can prevail.
My Lords, I am not from Liverpool but I am acutely aware of how central football can be to the DNA of the citizens of a city, and I mean more than loyalty to a particular club. In my home city, if you support Manchester City you celebrate when Manchester United loses, but tragedy brings people together. I have a vivid early memory of the air crash at Munich when Manchester United was returning from Belgrade. The shockwaves were felt throughout Manchester, among firm City supporters no less than others. Looking the other day at some information about that crash, I realised that of those who died there were as many reporters as players. That prompted me to reflect that, had that crash occurred in 2008 not 50 years earlier, the press would have behaved differently—and probably much more intrusively.
I mention the Manchester United air crash because I think I have some understanding of how the whole of Liverpool felt and still feels affected personally by the tragedy of Hillsborough—qualitatively quite differently from the public more widely. I say “feels” in the present tense because the tragedy is not just a past event. Of course, it never could be for the families of those killed or injured, or for those who were there, but the current sense of insult and outrage for the whole city and all right-thinking citizens who care about the reputation of their public services is something that is not in the past.
Tribute has rightly been paid to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool—I am embarrassed to be speaking before him—not just for the report but for the whole process. That the panel made contact with at least one member of each bereaved family says so much about how it approached its task. Again, tribute is rightly paid to the families and survivors whose grit, determination and dignity were recognised by the panel and the public. The panel’s report is powerful, telling and very shocking. I was pulled up short by its reference to,
“a narrative of hooliganism … against a background of times when football was perceived as a national disease”,
and shocked by the,
“confluence of establishment interests”.
I do not need to recite the shocking events related by the report and their quite extraordinary scale.
My other general point is that as a society we seem too often to shy away from saying “sorry”, perhaps because we focus too much on the implications for liability. That seems to have spilled over. We use weasel words like, “apologise if any inconvenience has been caused”. I want to emphasise the importance of apology. From time to time, things will go wrong—maybe badly wrong. Detail is important for those affected and those against whom allegations are made, but as well as investigating what happened, a simple apology can make clear that it is understood that there are real people with real feelings involved.
Like others, I am cautious about fast-track legislation but to delay the Hillsborough investigation even further or not to give the investigators the tools that they identified are required would not be right. I am prepared to trade extended parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill for scrutiny of the event. But having fast-tracked it, there is no excuse for not moving forward with the investigation with speed and determination. I hope that the IPCC will emulate the panel and work across agencies, individuals and issues in a co-ordinated fashion.
I will not ask the Government today when we might see legislation to address the issues that they themselves have identified as outstanding—or, on the other hand, an announcement that they have determined that legislation is not necessary. I refer here to things such as sanctions for serving officers refusing or failing to attend an interview, and the wider issues around sanctions and their application to former officers, including those who are now employed by companies providing contracted-out services, which is a growing issue. These issues are relevant to more than Hillsborough. I understand that 31 officers refused to be interviewed after the death of Mark Duggan. Conversely, there is the issue of the application of a caution before questioning. But as I say, I do not expect the Government to pursue those matters today.
There has been discussion of the term “exceptional circumstances”. It seems appropriate that the IPCC itself should assess exceptionality. The ability to make that assessment goes towards the very independence of the IPCC. It is worth reminding ourselves that the commission has the function—not just an aspiration—enshrined in statute of securing the establishment and maintenance of public confidence in dealing with complaints and possible criminal offences or behaviour.
I support the Bill, as the Home Affairs Select Committee put it,
“for the pursuit of justice for the Hillsborough families and for the future effectiveness of the IPCC”.
My Lords, the report published on 12 September by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, chaired by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, meticulously examined every aspect of the disaster at the Hillsborough Stadium on 15 April 1989, in which 90 men, women and children lost their lives.
The right reverend Prelate, from whom we will hear shortly, and those who worked with him deserve our gratitude and wholehearted appreciation. Their report exposed a number of significant failures and associated shortcomings in the investigation that followed the disaster. The welcome Bill before us today emerged from their findings. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for the way in which he introduced the debate on what, as he said, is an exceptional Bill.
The Independent Panel’s report concluded that police and emergency services had made “strenuous attempts” to deflect the blame for the disaster on to fans. One hundred and sixty-four police statements had been altered, 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the policing of the match. The report also said that 41 of the 96 who had died had had the “potential to survive”—grounds, certainly, for ordering new inquests.
Lives that were lost can never be brought back but it has given significant comfort to those personally affected by Hillsborough that Parliament has at last recognised that a terrible tragedy was compounded by injustice and falsification, as the noble Lord said. Flawed and delayed investigations do significant damage to delicate and crucial finely balanced police-public relationships, and this Bill is a recognition of that. The Bill—and the new inquests—will allow the Independent Police Complaints Commission to bring some solace to the families and their supporters, whose signal resolution and dignity have been exemplary.
Twenty-three years ago, one of my saddest duties as a Liverpool Member of Parliament was visiting families of those bereaved at Hillsborough. Several of my constituents had died, including a child. Another, Andrew Devine, then aged 22, was left in a persistent vegetative state. Andrew was caught in the crush, deprived of oxygen, and following the resultant brain damage his parents were told that he would die within months. Ever since, his extraordinary parents, Hilary and Stanley, have lovingly cared for Andrew, who emerged from his coma in 1994.
The deaths of 96 people and the long-term trauma were compounded by the infamous aftermath, which combined vilification and procrastination. Agony was piled upon agony with the insulting and wholly fallacious attempts to smear and blame the victims. They had, it was suggested, brought the calamity of Hillsborough on themselves. Thanks to the Independent Panel’s report, 23 years later that calumny has finally been laid to rest.
For me, however, the most shocking aspect of the tragedy has always been that it could have been averted and that it had been predicted. In the month before the match, a Liverpool fan who had witnessed an earlier game at Hillsborough told me that staging the semi-final at Hillsborough would be unsafe. Following that conversation, I wrote to the then Sports Minister, Colin—now the noble Lord—Moynihan, to express my concern. This correspondence is referred to in a parliamentary reply which appears in Hansard. In 1989, the Minister said:
“The hon. Member wrote to me on 22 March about the arrangements at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough on 15 April. No other representation was received. The arrangements for the match will be among the matters to be considered by Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry”.—[Official Report, Commons, 24/4/89; col. 414.]
So ground safety and ticket allocation at Hillsborough had been an issue before the game. Many of us were reassured that Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry would examine why sufficient weight was not attached to those concerns, as well as examining the events of the day.
Although much-needed changes would subsequently be made to ground safety, Liverpool fans found themselves branded by Kelvin MacKenzie as liars—for which he has now unreservedly apologised. Acting, he said, on information given to him by the police, his newspaper alleged that drunkenness was to blame. At the time, I questioned Ministers in Parliament about the fans’ behaviour, asking the then Minister at the Home Office, Douglas Hogg,
“at what level the publication of statements on 18 April by South Yorkshire police concerning the conduct of Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough semi-cup final was authorised; if he will publish a copy of that statement and the name of the officer who made it; and if he will make a statement”.
“Statements made by officers of the South Yorkshire police are a matter for the chief constable. It would not be helpful for me to publish statements or counter-statements which have been made about the circumstances leading to the tragedy, or to name those who made them. It is for Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry to establish the facts”.—[Official Report, Commons, 24/4/89; col. 404.]
The names of the officers who gave the authorisation were not subsequently made known and the falsehoods were allowed to stand. Taylor did not establish the facts; nor did he discover the truth. It was left to the grieving families to demand answers and to insist that justice should be done.
As the years went by I made repeated requests for the legal cases to be reopened. In the House of Commons in June 1992, the Solicitor-General at the time, Sir Derek Spencer, responded that he would,
“take a decision on an outstanding formal application for consent under section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988 as soon as possible”.
“As soon as possible” is a phrase which has been used again and again since 1989.
In 1992 I asked the Minister if he had any understanding of,
“the sense of grief felt by many people, including my constituent Philip Hammond whose boy was tragically killed at Hillsborough, and their sense that no line can be drawn on the issue until every legal remedy has been exhausted?”.
I urged him to,
“assure the House that that announcement will not be long in coming and that he will try to understand the feelings of the relatives involved, who do not feel that the inquest process has been exhaustive”.
Twenty years ago, the then Solicitor-General replied that he was,
“conscious of the continuing grief and anxiety of the many individuals affected by that tragedy. For that reason, the decision must be carefully considered—and it will be. We shall make a decision as soon as possible”.—[Official Report, Commons, 15/6/92; col. 644-45.]
Three years had then elapsed since the tragedy—and a further 20 now. If we had acted in 1992, telling the coroner to reopen the cases, it would not now be possible to cite “the passage of time” as the reason why details of what occurred will not and cannot be accurately recalled. It is not just the passage of time that is shocking: it is our lamentable failure to provide justice— as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said in his remarks earlier—in a country which prides itself on the rule of law.
In 1998, in your Lordships’ House, I once again challenged the failure to re-examine the Hillsborough deaths and asked:
“What account the Home Secretary and Lord Justice Stuart-Smith”,
“in deciding against a fresh inquiry into the Hillsborough tragedy, of missing video tapes, changed statements by police officers, conflicting medical evidence and complaints of lack of impartiality in the original coroner’s process and in the granting of immunity from prosecution to police officers upon taking early retirement”.
That was a point alluded to earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith.
The then Minister, the late Lord Williams of Mostyn, replied:
“Lord Justice Stuart-Smith considered all the material evidence submitted to his scrutiny about the Hillsborough disaster. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary”—
“accepted his conclusion that there were no grounds for a fresh inquiry”.
The Minister told the House that,
“there was no new video evidence”,
“the only missing video tapes were two tapes stolen on the day of the disaster, which remain missing. They were not police tapes and the judge was satisfied that they would not have shown anything significant”.
He added that the Director of Public Prosecutions had considered whether police officers should be prosecuted,
“but concluded that no officer should face prosecution”,
and that because one officer had retired on ill health, it would,
“have been unfair to pursue what was, in essence, a joint charge against one officer only”.
Imagine if any of us here were involved in a bank robbery, a fraud, manslaughter or a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Would the police decide that because one of us had retired they would take no action against the other? That is simply implausible. It also raises a worrying question about the ability of the IPCC to question retired officers. Ministers, of course, have got it wrong before. In 1998, the Minister was clear that,
“allegations of irregularity and malpractice are not substantiated”,
and that it had been found that there were,
“no grounds to suggest that the original inquests were flawed or that complaints of bias against the Coroner were justified”.—[Official Report, 23/3/98; cols. WA 232-33.]
As the Prime Minister made clear in his Statement on 12 September, we now know otherwise and that allegations of irregularity and malpractice were indeed substantiated. Mr Cameron told Parliament that the Liverpool fans had “suffered a double injustice”, both in the,
“failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth”.
In offering a full apology, he also admonished those who had denigrated the deceased and suggested,
“that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/9/12; cols. 285-86.]
In October, the IPCC published its Decision in Response to the Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which makes it clear that despite the fact that it does,
“not have investigative powers over all of the parties referred to in the report”,
its desire is,
“to go forward in the spirit of the Panel’s work, to seek to ensure that there is a coordinated approach”—
a point which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to—
“that can encompass all the issues, agencies and individuals involved, and which liaises closely with the families”.
We can all welcome that.
It would, however, be helpful if, arising out of the exchange of letters on 10 December and 4 December between the right honourable Damian Green MP and the All-Party Group on the Hillsborough Disaster and the chair of the IPCC, Dame Anne Owers—concerning the decision not to specify effective sanctions in this Bill—the Minister will clarify precisely what action will be taken if serving officers refuse to attend an interview with the IPCC if required to do so. Will he also list the documents which the IPCC says were not given to the right reverend Prelate’s panel and say who is now looking at them, why they were not given to the panel in the first place and whether they are going to be made public?
Last week, the Home Affairs Select Committee said that there should be safeguards for police officers interviewed by the IPCC. This would surely point to the use of interviewing under caution. Perhaps the Minister will say whether that procedure will indeed be invoked. The Home Secretary, the right honourable Theresa May, gave a commitment in the House of Commons that the IPCC would be given the powers and resources it needs to carry out its investigation “thoroughly, transparently and exhaustively”. Perhaps the Minister will tell us more about resources and how that work is to be expedited.
When the Prime Minister made his Statement in September the Attorney-General, the right honourable Dominic Grieve MP, said he would make a decision in the forthcoming two months about whether to apply to the High Court for the original verdict of accidental death to be quashed. Yesterday the Attorney-General said:
“My application has now been lodged with the court. It is my intention to appear to argue the case at the hearing that will take place in the High Court. I believe that the case for the High Court to quash the original inquests is a good one”.
What is envisaged as the timetable for those new inquests? In particular, on 27 November I asked the Government,
“what consideration they have given to the petition by Anne Williams”—
supported by 100,000 people—to accelerate the new inquest into the death of her 15 year-old son Kevin at Hillsborough,
“and what consideration they have given to fast-tracking the request on compassionate grounds”.
The Advocate-General for Scotland, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, replied:
“The Attorney-General is in the process of preparing an application to the High Court to quash the original inquests and order new inquests into the deaths of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. The evidence which supports an application in respect of Kevin Williams is essentially the same as that which supports an application into the other deaths and the Attorney-General expects to be in a position to lodge the application in December”.—[Official Report, 27/11/12; WA 38.]
Sadly, what is not the same as in other cases is that Anne Williams has terminal cancer. I hope that the Attorney-General, whom the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester—who is in his place and was himself present at the Hillsborough game—and I will see tomorrow, will ensure that Kevin’s new inquest will be given the highest priority so that it does not come too late for his grieving mother, Anne. Otherwise, one tragedy will be compounded by another. When he comes to reply, I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us the precise timetable which will be followed so that these new inquests will be held without delay, and whether the Lord Chief Justice is likely to make an announcement before Christmas.
Having taken 23 years to uncover the truth, the bereaved families and survivors have a right to expect that the investigations by the IPCC and the inquests are taken forward as expeditiously as possible. I am grateful to the Government for bringing forward the Bill, to the Prime Minister for acting so decisively and to the right reverend Prelate and his independent panel. This time, the words need to mean more than the ones previously uttered and, in seeking justice, our institutions need to examine how and why these tragic events were allowed to fester and to be covered up for so long.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the clarity of his exposition of the reasons why we need the two clauses in the Bill. It is a great privilege to be able to speak in today’s debate. With your Lordships’ agreement, I would like to take the opportunity to speak more generally about the Hillsborough tragedy and, in particular, about the work carried out by the Hillsborough Independent Panel. It was a humbling honour to be entrusted with the task of chairing the panel.
I also declare an interest. As the Home Secretary announced in another place on 22 October, she has asked me to act as her adviser on Hillsborough-related matters and I was happy to accept that invitation. She was particularly keen that the principles that the panel had established in terms of engagement and consultation with the families should not be lost. In this role, I am very aware of how the families of the 96 and the survivors are following closely the different judicial processes and are understandably anxious that the momentum established by the panel’s report is not lost.
The 1989 Hillsborough disaster was Britain’s worst sporting tragedy. Ninety-six men, women and children lost their lives, many were injured, and the effects of the tragedy have been felt by many more: the relatives of those who died; the survivors who experienced the horror in pens 3 and 4, or who were elsewhere in the ground on that day; and those members of the emergency services who helped the dying and the injured. There have been, over the years, a judicial inquiry, an inquest—at the time the longest-running inquest in English legal history—scrutiny of evidence carried out by a senior judge and a private prosecution. However, despite all these inquiries and investigations, the families have always felt that the truth about Hillsborough had never been told. Instead, they felt and believed that the truth had been obscured.
As Bishop of Liverpool, it became apparent to me that a deep wound continued to exist within the community and it was on the occasion of the 20th anniversary in 2009 that the anger and frustration that had built up over the years was vented at the then Secretary of State, Andy Burnham. I was present and presided over the act of remembrance, which was attended by more than 30,000 people. Mr Burnham was visibly moved by this outpouring of anger, and it was a great credit to him—for this, along with other noble Lords, I pay him huge tribute—that he went back to the Government and the idea of a full-document disclosure process was developed.
Discussions took place over the next few months within the Government involving a number of prominent MPs, including Maria Eagle and Derek Twigg. Representatives from the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the group that represents the largest number of bereaved families, were also involved in these discussions. I pay particular tribute today to the bereaved families for their strength, dignity and fortitude, and their persistence in pursuing the truth. Without that persistence, it is unlikely that the work of the panel would ever have taken place.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel was established in January 2010. I place on record my thanks to my fellow panel members for their dedication. Each of them brought to bear their unique knowledge and expertise in a quite remarkable and exemplary manner. I also put on record the debt of gratitude that I and all those associated with the panel owe to Ken Sutton and his team of civil servants who formed the secretariat. They are the finest example of the British Civil Service.
At the outset, we had defined terms of reference, and these established three broad objectives: to oversee the disclosure of the documents to the maximum possible degree, initially to the families; to report on our work, outlining the ways in which the information disclosed adds to the public understanding of the tragedy; and to make recommendations about a permanent Hillsborough archive.
The panel met for the first time on 4 February 2010. That meeting was significant. Rightly, it took place in Liverpool, and it was at the very start of the meeting that for the first time the panel met representatives of the three family groups: the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Hope for Hillsborough. Meeting the family groups for the first time in this way and listening to their views provided the panel with a sense of unity and common purpose that endured throughout our work.
Enshrined in the panel’s terms of reference and central to its work was the need to consult the bereaved families. This we did. We also met with those families that were not part of one of the three representative groups. Perhaps I could add here that, during the panel’s work, the families said to me on more than one occasion that this was the first time in 20 years that they were being listened to and taken seriously. That sentiment has given me much cause for reflection on some of our judicial processes that, by contrast, seem to distance the very people whom they are intended to assist.
The scope of the disclosure process was significant and complex. It covered documentation held by central government, local government, other public agencies and some private bodies relating to the events of the Hillsborough tragedy and its aftermath. Spanning two decades, this necessarily included material that was produced before the tragedy occurred in 1989 and extended to 2000 and the private prosecution of former Chief Superintendent Duckenfield and Superintendent Murray.
The panel developed a system for cataloguing and archiving relevant material, based on the principle of maximum possible disclosure with minimal redaction. We identified a wide range of relevant organisations, and the process involved us reviewing more than 450,000 pages of material from 85 separate organisations and individuals. The material was subject to analysis and research so that it could be considered in the context of the panel’s report. Throughout, the panel has been guided by the fundamental principle of “families first”—in other words, the bereaved families would be first to see the report and the disclosed material. As chair of the panel, I am grateful to all who accepted that principle.
The panel’s report and the disclosed material were made available to the families on 12 September in Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral. This was a very moving occasion. Those of us on the panel and from the secretariat who were present felt privileged to be with the families on that day. The cathedral protected the dignity of the families, which had so often been at risk over the previous 20 years. It provided a safe place for them to hear and absorb what we knew would be for them traumatic information. It allowed them to regain their composure before being exposed to the world’s media, and above all, it did this within the sanctity of a sacred place where they could remember and honour the 96.
The disclosed documents show that multiple factors were responsible for the deaths of the 96 victims and that the fans were not the cause of the disaster. It is also clear from the documents that the seeds of the disaster were sown as early as 1981, when warnings went unheeded.
The disaster should never have happened. The deficiencies at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough, the end occupied by the Liverpool supporters, were well known. Overcrowding had occurred at the turnstiles in 1987 and on the terrace of the equivalent FA Cup semi-final match in 1988. The risks were known and the crush in 1989 was foreseeable.
The scope of responsibility for the tragedy extends well beyond the role of the South Yorkshire Police. From the documents provided to the panel, it is clear that the crush at the Leppings Lane turnstiles outside the stadium was not caused by fans arriving late for the kick-off. The turnstiles were inadequate to process the crowd safely and the rate of entry was insufficient to prevent a dangerous build-up outside the ground. The documents do not detract from the conclusion of the judicial inquiry at the time that there were police failures, but for the first time the documents reveal the extent of the shortcomings in the emergency response. The ambulance service’s failure fully to implement the emergency incident plan is thrown into sharp relief by the disclosed documents.
The panel’s report reveals that the medical evidence from pathologists, who had conducted post-mortem examinations on the deceased, was central in establishing a picture of a single, unvarying pattern of death within a few minutes of crushing. This evidence was the basis for the assertion by the coroner and others that the outcome was predetermined from an early stage for all who died. This in turn underpinned the imposition of the 3.15 pm cut-off on the generic inquest and the repeated assumption that the emergency services’ response could not have helped. The panel’s access to all the relevant documents has confirmed that the notion of a single, unvarying and rapid pattern of death in all cases is unsustainable. Lives could have been saved.
It is evident from the disclosed documents of the multiple investigations that, from the outset, South Yorkshire Police sought to establish a case emphasising exceptional levels of drunkenness and aggression among Liverpool fans, alleging that many arrived late at the stadium without tickets and determined to force entry. In seeking to make this case, South Yorkshire Police went as far as to vet the written statements made by its officers. Once vetted, changes were made. As we have already heard, the panel found that 164 statements were altered significantly. Of those, 116 were amended to remove content that was unfavourable to the police, including on its lack of leadership.
The final chapter of the panel’s report looks behind the media headlines to the origins, promotion and reproduction of unsubstantiated allegations. Drawing on papers provided to the panel by the Sun newspaper, the panel is able to explain the background to the stories that appeared in a number of papers at the time. The documents show the role played by a local news agency in Sheffield, but also the part played by a local MP and a number of police officers. I hope that whatever emerges as the result of Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry will be tested against the experience of the Hillsborough families and survivors. Misrepresentation and distortion by the press can endure for a generation or more. The press should be accountable not just to its readers but to an independent body that inspires confidence that truth and justice will be the benchmarks of a free press.
The Government’s response to the panel’s report has been unequivocal. We have already heard from the Minister, and the Prime Minister spoke very powerfully and clearly for us all in the Statement in another place on 12 September when he acknowledged that the families had suffered what he described as “a double injustice”. He went on,
“the injustice of the appalling events—the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth; and then the injustice of the denigration of the deceased—that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/9/12; cols. 285-86.]
The panel has been enormously encouraged by the cross-party consensus and by the overwhelming reaction of support to its report and publication of the disclosed material. It is right that the publication of the panel’s report and the disclosure of the material should now allow us to move from truth to justice, a phrase which was coined by the Prime Minister in his Statement and echoed in this House today, but justice, for me, is making sure that the various investigations that are now taking place—and they are to be welcomed—allow the law to take its proper course. The panel interrogated documents, not people. Organisations and people who may be the subject of allegations need now to be give the opportunity to respond in a proper manner, for justice is about process as well as outcomes.
There have already been speeches from the Government and Opposition Benches in support of the principles of this short Bill. I will therefore not add to them, other than to say that I welcome any proposal which takes forward the panel’s work in a correct and proper manner.
I think back to the day when it was announced that I would be chairing the Hillsborough Independent Panel. I was asked what I thought would be achieved by the disclosure of the documents. I replied, not knowing fully the impact of my words, “Truth has its own pressure”. That is an article of faith that I believe generally. In the context of Hillsborough, it is something that I now believe specifically, not least in the week that the Attorney-General has been persuaded by the disclosed documents to make application to the High Court to quash the inquests of the 96.
In conclusion, I am grateful to your Lordships’ House for allowing me the opportunity to speak more generally about Hillsborough and, in particular, about the work of the panel, its context, the content of its report and the consequences. Hillsborough was a national tragedy, and it is right that the events there and in the aftermath should never be forgotten. The names of the 96 victims of the tragedy are publicly remembered each year at the annual memorial service at Anfield but, as we have already heard, the families, friends and survivors have to live with what happened every day of their lives. The sad fact is that it has taken 23 years to get to the point we have reached today.
In the preface to the report, I quoted a 4th century north African Christian philosopher called Lactantius on his definition of justice. He wrote:
“The whole point of justice consists precisely in our providing for others through humanity what we provide for our own family through affection”.
If members of our family had died on 15 April 1989, we would not have wanted to wait 23 years until truth could call out for justice. If we can put ourselves into the shoes of the Hillsborough families, then the journey of justice must not now be a long and winding road. The families know that justice delayed is justice denied. The panel’s work is now complete; we owe it to the memory of the 96 to ensure that the next stage is done in a just and timely manner. In short, the journey from truth to justice must itself be just in order to deliver true justice for the 96.
My Lords, had I known a few days ago that I would be speaking directly after the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, I might not have spent any time writing a speech of my own. I probably would simply have congratulated him on the magnificent way in which he led his team in a very difficult and painful task and suggested that we all remain silent for a few moments and think about what he said in his illuminating, thoughtful and very moving speech. However, I did not know until noon today that I would be speaking directly after him, and because I feel very strongly about these issues, I prepared some remarks of my own. I beg the indulgence of your Lordships’ House if I deliver them now.
A distinguished Member of your Lordships’ House—alas, no longer with us—is reported to have said, “A week is a long time in politics”. I was reminded of that comment when, over the weekend, I read the Hansard report of the consideration of this short Bill in another place last Wednesday afternoon. Reading those proceedings, I was struck not by the discussion of those horrendous events of 15 April 1989; these are seared in the memories of all of us old enough to have been around at that time. I was not even shocked by the references to how police officers on duty at the ground that day had mismanaged the tragedy once it had begun to unfold and thus unwittingly contributed to the toll of deaths and injuries. The pressure on those officers at that time is impossible for us, sitting in this place at this time, to comprehend fully. I, for one, am not prepared to pass judgment on their actions on this basis.
No, what shocked me about the debate in another place last Wednesday was the way in which one speaker after another, on both sides of the House, referred to how police officers had behaved in the subsequent investigation of the tragedy. There were endless references to officers as having lied, covered up the truth and obstructed the course of justice. Several Members referred—as did several noble Lords today—to the fact that 164 witness statements had been amended, 116 of which were changed in some way as to remove or lessen the culpability of police officers and others. As one Member described it, this was,
“deceit on a huge scale”.—[Official Report, Commons, 5/12/12; col. 935.]
It was this which shocked me. Here were Members of another place describing ordinary, English police officers as guilty of lying, obstructing justice and covering up the truth, and doing so without interruption, without apology and without shame.
Contrast that debate with the debate in your Lordships’ House on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill on 27 April 2011. In our debate, less than 20 months ago, noble Lords were falling over each other to extol the international reputation of the British police service, particularly its reputation for integrity and professionalism. We were told that our police leaders are the envy of the world and the introduction of police and crime commissioners would put that reputation at risk, precisely because PCCs, directly elected by the people, were unlikely to adhere to the same high standards of personal and professional integrity that were the hallmarks of the British police officer. Indeed, we were warned that PCCs would facilitate, if not encourage, the growth of the culture of cover-up and corruption that would undermine the cherished integrity of our police service.
I have to admit that I, too, enthusiastically participated in that chorus of praise for the British chief officer of police. I went so far as to say that I believed that it was their,
“outstanding ability, unquestioned integrity, a high level of professionalism and a deep commitment to public service”,
which would keep us,
“safe from the sort of corruption dangers which other countries have faced and which some noble Lords have mentioned as one of the problems inherent in the Bill”.—[Official Report, 27/4/11; col. 209.]
How sentiments have changed since those words were spoken. I am not sure about a week being a long time in politics but to judge from this context 19 months certainly is long enough to effect a fundamental change in public opinion and, hence, in the political narrative.
Why has that happened? Why has the reputation of the British police service for integrity and professionalism taken such a knock in the past year or so? Why has our policing brand—undoubtedly the most respected in the world until so recently—become so tarnished so quickly, not only in this country but, thanks to the internet, all over the world? I fear that the explanation lies, sadly, with the behaviour of some of our police leaders themselves. No one who has ever even had the slightest interest in the work of the independent panel on the Hillsborough tragedy, which the right reverend Prelate led, can fail to be shocked by the behaviour of our police leaders in the aftermath of that event. One hundred and sixty-four witness statements were altered, 116 of them significantly, as part of a massive cover-up. What does that say about integrity and professional standards?
But the Hillsborough report, as shocking as it is, would not have produced the kind of reaction we heard in another place last week if it had been a one-off, isolated event, describing something that had occurred more than 20 years ago. No, I fear the truth is that the right reverend Prelate’s report triggered the kind of debate that took place last week in another place because it was not an isolated event. It triggered that reaction because it was simply the latest, if the most shocking, in a series of reports to have emerged in the past two years about corruption, cover-ups and collusion in our police service.
For most members of the public, the biggest shock came some 18 months earlier on Sunday 17 July 2011 when the media reported in screaming headlines that Britain’s top police officer, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had accepted a free five-week stay at a top health spa and that this had been justified by a Metropolitan Police spokesman by the fact that the managing director of the spa had been a friend of the commissioner. The very next day, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, in an Oral Statement related only tangentially to the health spa story, added to the sense of public shock about police leadership by saying that allegations about phone hacking were,
“not, unfortunately, the only recent example of alleged corruption … in the police”.—[Official Report, 18/7/2011; col. 623.]
A few days later, the public learnt that both the Chief Constable and Deputy Chief Constable of Cleveland had been arrested in a dawn raid on suspicion of corruption. Four months later, on 13 December 2011, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary published a report following up the Home Secretary’s comments on phone hacking. Entitled Without Fear or Favour, the inspectorate’s own press notice described its findings as follows:
“Corruption not endemic in the police service—but police need more robust systems”.
If noble Lords can think of a better example of damning with faint praise, I would love to hear it.
And it does not end there. A story in the Guardian on 14 September 2012 began as follows:
“A crisis is brewing at the top of English policing after another chief constable was suspended on suspicion of serious misconduct”.
The report went on to say that this brought,
“the number of the country’s most senior officers who have faced or are facing disciplinary action or investigation by the police watchdog to nine. It is unprecedented for so many senior serving officers to be the focus of investigations at the same time”.
A month later, in October, we learnt that the chief constable who had been arrested in that dawn raid had been sacked for gross misconduct after a disciplinary panel found that he had lied to the IPCC and ordered a member of his own staff to lie to the IPCC. The IPCC described his actions as “shameful.”
Is it any wonder that Members of another place reacted so strongly when discussing this Bill and were so anxious to give the IPCC the powers that it needs to get to the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy? I am inclined to think that their reaction would have been very different two years ago. They probably would simply have suggested that this matter be followed up by ACPO. We must take the same robust stance. We owe it to the police service to save it from itself by helping it to restore its reputation for integrity and professionalism. We can help the police service best by sending it a clear message that we are prepared to provide the IPCC with whatever support it needs to do its work effectively. More importantly, we can help the police service best by sending a clear and unequivocal message to police officers at all levels that we expect them to put their own house in order as a matter of the greatest urgency and, to this end, we expect every serving police officer and other police staff to co-operate fully with the IPCC’s investigation. This does not mean simply showing up when summoned to do so; it means answering all questions put to them fully and truthfully.
As for retired police officers and staff who know something which could help the IPCC’s investigation, we should send a clear and simple message to them as well. Although the IPCC itself has not asked for legislation to compel you to attend interviews as witnesses, the reputation of the police service in which you served so proudly, and which served you so well, has been badly damaged. You can help to repair that damage and restore the reputation of the uniform you wore by coming forward voluntarily with any information which might help the IPCC to get to the truth.
The last thing the police service of this country needs at this time are headlines announcing that retired officers and staff have declined to help to get at the truth of the Hillsborough tragedy. This must not happen. I very much hope it will not.
My Lords, I declare an interest: I am acting, pro bono, for the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which includes members of over two-thirds of the families of the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster. I apologise to the House that I am not able to attend the winding-up speech. I have apologised personally to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who has kindly urged me nevertheless to intervene in the debate.
I greatly appreciate the House having the opportunity to reflect on Hillsborough and to think about the way forward. The tragedy on 15 April 1989 was entirely foreseeable. The tragedy which befell the Liverpool supporters who came from all over the country that day was unspeakable and unimaginable for them and for the families of those who were injured or died. They could have expected the state, the organisations involved and the media to support them, and some did. However, elements in the state, in the organisations involved and in the media did not support them; instead, they vilified them without justification. They blamed Liverpool fans—both those who died and those who lived—for what happened in order to deflect blame from their own responsibility.
The inquiry by Sir Peter Taylor—later, Lord Taylor of Gosforth—rejected the police’s attempts to blame the fans and put the blame four-square on the police. However, as the right reverend Prelate has indicated, the inquiry gave no consideration to the role of the emergency services because it accepted the theory of a uniform and quick mode in relation to each of those who died, and, as a result of the right reverend Prelate’s commission, we now know that to be wrong. The inquests which followed saw the police seek to put the blame back on the fans in a way that Lord Taylor had rejected. The 3.15 pm cut-off meant that the truth was never investigated, let alone revealed. The courts and the judges subsequently did nothing to redress the balance in the years to come.
The families of those who died never gave up. Andy Burnham said in a debate in the other place in October:
“Those truths have been told only because of the sheer love of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters … a love that provided strength when hope was lost and provided dignity in the face of provocation”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/10/12; col. 795]
I thoroughly endorse those words. The resilience and courage of the Hillsborough families has led to the truth coming out and the cover-up being revealed. Their role and their achievement dwarfs all other contributions to the revelations that have come out in the past few weeks. They were supported by the people of Merseyside, who stuck with them through thick and thin when almost the rest of the country had abandoned them. The Merseyside MPs, whom it is invidious to name but I name five of them—Andy Burnham, Derek Twigg, Maria Eagle, Alison McGovern and Steve Rotherham—stuck with them throughout; the Liverpool Echo stuck with them throughout; David Conn of the Guardian stuck with them throughout; and Jimmy McGovern, who wrote and produced a drama-documentary which made a real difference, and Phil Scraton, who was on the bishop’s panel, stuck with them.
The role of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool has been stunning and fundamentally transforming of what has happened to the position of the families. He did not say it about himself but he should have: he listened when the state, the establishment and the other organisations involved stopped listening pretty soon after the Taylor inquiry. The bishop’s panel revealed that the families were right and the establishment was completely wrong in the way it had been addressing the matter.
The Prime Minister’s response on 12 September 2012 was conspicuous in its decency and leadership. It has been quoted on a number of occasions, but he unequivocally accepted the injustice that the families had suffered and he unequivocally apologised to the families for what the state had done. His attitude was incredibly important in making it absolutely clear that the families had been right.
What of the future? The Bill is helpful and we support it. I do not want to go into the detail of these issues but, in relation to what happens now as regards the investigations following Hillsborough, perhaps I may make the following points. First, the families have waited 23 years for justice. Many of the families did not discover how their loved ones had died until the bishop’s panel produced its report 23 years after the event, which is an appalling indictment on the institutions that should have been looking after those families. The consequence of that 23-year wait is that the state should do everything that it reasonably can to ensure that the criminal investigation, any prosecutions that follow and the process of any inquest—if the High Court agrees to it—take place as quickly as reasonably possible.
Secondly, it would appear that more than one body will be involved in the criminal investigations. By that, I mean the IPCC and the police. It is imperative that those investigations should be properly integrated. It would be intolerable if any sort of disagreement between the bodies involved led to anything short of complete integration or any repetition and unnecessary duplication in the investigations that take place.
Thirdly, the work of the panel provides an incredibly good route map for the investigation. There is no doubt, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool acknowledged, that there is a need for further investigation, but the investigation now knows so much more about what happened than any other normal police investigation. Build on it, do not reinvent the wheel and use it as a route map.
Fourthly, it is important to make sure that all the investigations that take place and any subsequent prosecutions are properly resourced. I know from my own experience within government that properly resourced investigations are incredibly effective and focused. In the past 15 years, we have seen investigations take place in relation to particularly heinous crimes. This can happen in this case. Resources are important.
Fifthly—again, I pick up a point made by the right reverend Prelate—it is important to consult the families throughout the investigation and the processes. The families have said directly to the Home Secretary, who was sympathetic and incredibly decent in her response—and they said it in my presence—that trust has to be earned back in the light of what has happened. Regaining that trust will be greatly assisted by consulting the families and discovering what their wishes are—not to compromise independence but to ensure that their views are taken into account.
Sixthly, it is necessary to build into the process something that does not deprive the investigation and the prosecution of their independence but makes sure that the process has drive and momentum, even when the searchlight of publicity has moved on.
Finally, from beginning to end, until 12 September, this has been a series of processes whereby the state and other bodies have failed—and have failed the families and the people they were supposed to serve—including the football authorities, the football grounds involved, the media, the police, the emergency services, the prosecution authorities, the judges and the coroner’s court. They have all been found wanting, as the panel’s report strongly indicates. What happens now is an opportunity for those bodies to prove that they have learnt the lessons of Hillsborough. In a sense, for the past 23 years it is the people who were at the game who have been on trial. Now it is the bodies that let them down that are on trial. I hope they can prove that they are worthy of the trust that the country should be able to have in them.
In this excellent and emotive debate, I wish to speak briefly as someone who is very proud to have been born and brought up in the city of Liverpool. My church was Holy Trinity, Wavertree, and I remember being confirmed there by the then Bishop of Warrington who used three words as the theme of his sermon that day: love, faith and courage. He was a clever bishop because he knew that many of us would remember “love”, “faith” and “courage”, spelt out by the initials LFC, our football team. It is love, faith and courage that the families and friends of the victims in 1989 have shown these twenty-three and a half years.
Liverpool people are generally proud of our city, but they are aware, too, of prejudices held against it by some who know little about it, its people and its culture. I am sure that I am not alone in fearing that elements of prejudice against the city contributed to the terrible events at Hillsborough—the false allegations that were made in some newspapers and the cover up of responsibility for 96 deaths that persisted for 23 years. Questions are still being asked. How can it have taken 23 years to get to this point? Why have police officers in the past not been compelled to give evidence in such cases until now? Is it right that evidence about the death of 96 people cannot necessarily be taken, even with these proposals, from people who have retired or resigned from the police?
People in Liverpool and across the country are right to ask why previous Governments did not act more decisively to ensure that the truth that was well known in Liverpool was made more widely known nationally? This Bill is necessary. It will help to bring about the justice sought by the families and friends of the victims over almost a quarter of a century. The families of the victims have shown great resolve and determination in the face of much opposition to exposing the truth. They lost loved ones, and saw those whom they lost blamed unfairly for what went wrong. But because of their dignified, brave and consistent commitment to the cause of justice for the 96, they are finally beginning to get answers. They are all grateful, I know, to all those who helped to establish the truth by serving on the panel led so effectively by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.
The report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel has been universally accepted, although some of those responsible for the defamation of those who died have yet to accept any proper responsibility for what they said and did at the time. Some of those who colluded in decisions not to let the truth emerge have yet to explain themselves. There is now widespread agreement in all the major parties that confidence and trust in the police needs to be restored by looking carefully at all the issues surrounding how we police the police. This Bill goes some way towards addressing that question and from these Benches I am very pleased to support it.
My Lords, it is my privilege to try to record some new facts in this debate and perhaps to balance some of the comments that have been made today—indeed, some of the rhetoric that has been employed—and particularly to answer, if I can, some of the questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool.
As we have heard, the disaster at the Hillsborough Stadium occurred on Saturday 15 April 1989. The following day, I was asked to support Lord Taylor in the investigation of the causes of that terrible event. I was then chief constable of the West Midlands Police, which, I might add, is the largest police force in England and Wales, outside London. I met Lord Taylor in Sheffield on Tuesday 18 April and he expressed his wish to begin to take evidence in public within three weeks of the disaster. We discussed what would be involved to meet that three-week timescale; a timescale that had never before been attempted in circumstances of that magnitude and, I believe, has never been attempted since. Even with the 440 police officers that I was able to deploy to that inquiry, it was obvious to both of us that some extraordinary measures would have to be taken if we were going to work to that timescale. To speed the process, he directed that we should request South Yorkshire Police to arrange for police officers who were witnesses to the disaster to write their own statements and that their force would produce them for the inquiry. On that point, more later. I should also say that the procedure did not relate to the half dozen or so officers who would later be interviewed by my team to explore whether criminal charges should be brought against them personally.
To make the position clear, those decisions regarding the process concerning South Yorkshire officers and those timescales were his. I agreed with them and since his death in 1996, in post as Lord Chief Justice, I am happy to assume full responsibility for that decision. He was required to report, if possible, before the start of the next football season; speed therefore was of the essence. We concluded together this unusual approach hardly mattered. What did matter was that witnesses should be examined in a public inquiry as soon as possible, while memories were still fresh, and it was what they said in that inquiry that mattered, not what was or was not included in their witness statements.
Working to that timescale the West Midlands team, as you might conclude, faced a mammoth task. That investigation commenced six days after the disaster on 24 April. Special police offices were established in Sheffield, Liverpool and Birmingham. A free-phone telephone number was advertised and operated on no fewer than 28 different lines, all of them manned around the clock. They received 2,666 calls. Witnesses who were interviewed and had statements taken totalled 3,777. Many of my officers who were involved in those interviews were deeply emotionally affected. We have heard of the anguish, shock and horror of those in Liverpool who were caught up in this tragedy and this affected those officers as well. Some 3,777 statements were taken and 71 hours of CCTV footage were examined in detail. An inquiry into possible criminal charges was commenced. Most of that took place in only three weeks.
Lord Taylor began to take evidence in public exactly four weeks after the disaster occurred. He sat for 31 long days and examined 174 witnesses. Only three and a half months after the disaster, he published his report on 1 August. He had many conclusions but his major ones fell into three categories. First, he found there were a number of causes for the disaster. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool has already referred to the fact that there were serious misgivings from as early as 1981 and Lord Taylor reported on that and what had been done—and indeed not done—in the interim period. He was adamant, however, that the final and most serious cause of the disaster was the failure of South Yorkshire Police to control the crowd and to ensure its safety. Secondly, he looked at the conduct of the crowd and found there were a few very isolated examples of drunkenness, but there was absolutely no evidence that Liverpool fans had contributed in any way to what had occurred on the terraces. Thirdly, bearing in mind what we are debating today, he found that the oral evidence given by 65 South Yorkshire police officers impressed for the most part in inverse proportion to their rank. As he said, with some notable exceptions the senior officers were defensive and evasive witnesses, and did not, as he put it, show the qualities of leadership to be expected of their rank.
In particular, in his report at paragraph 285, he said:
“It is a matter of regret that at the hearing, and in their submissions, the South Yorkshire Police were not prepared to concede they were in any respect at fault in what happened”.
“The police case was to blame the fans for being late and drunk, and to blame the Club for failing to monitor the pens”.
“Such an unrealistic approach gives cause for anxiety as to whether lessons have been learnt. It would have been more seemly and encouraging for the future if responsibility had been faced”.
Finally, both he and the Football Supporters’ Association warmly praised West Midlands Police for the way in which the evidence had been gathered and presented at the inquiry.
So it seems a little strange, and not a little disappointing, that the hugely excellent report recently published by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool has been hailed as the report that finally exposed the truth when it roundly endorsed and mirrored the findings of the Taylor inquiry. It perhaps begs the question that some of the language used by the Prime Minister and others that this has finally produced justice ought to reflect the fact that Lord Taylor got to the truth 23 years earlier.
It might also reflect on the fact that Lord Taylor informally expressed serious doubts to the coroner about the coroner’s plans to limit his inquest by employing the 3.15 pm cut-off; and also that he did not agree with the coroner’s intention to have witness statements read in the inquest which effectively denied opportunity for cross-examination. He was unable to influence the course of that subsequent process, which was out of his hands, and it did not begin until several months later.
The truth was first made public by the Taylor report in 1986. As we have heard, the waters were muddied considerably, more and more with the passage of time. Immediately the Taylor report was published, the South Yorkshire Police went public—on to the attack, if you like—with a condemnation of the conclusions and stoutly maintained that the police were in the right and the Liverpool fans were in the wrong. The inquiry that will be eventually mounted by the IPCC will of course examine this aspect in detail, and especially whether attempts were made by South Yorkshire Police wrongly to attribute blame. The Bill seeks to facilitate that inquiry. I hope that we shall not have to wait too long for the results.
By common consent, Peter Taylor was a man of rare talent. Noble Lords will understand already that I held him in high regard and respect. He was prepared to move fast to expose the truth. His report employed elegant and economical prose and it managed to cover the ground in only 71 pages. It was published a mere three and a half months after the disaster with firm, clear, unequivocal conclusions. That is exactly the same passage of time that has elapsed since the publication of the report of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, and the IPCC is still scoping its inquiry and deciding on how it might begin to progress. I do not want to appear unduly critical, but I hope that we shall not have to wait too much longer for action.
On the Bill, perhaps the question at the forefront of the minds of many of us is: do hard cases make bad law? Nothing could be a harder case than the tragedy of Hillsborough. Is the Bill bad law? In some ways I think it is. The loophole that the Bill seeks to block by requiring serving police officers to attend for interview has been a small but recurring problem for investigators, on and off, for years, so why use emergency procedures to rush it through now? After all, that power will not much assist the Hillsborough inquiry by the IPCC because most of those it may wish to interview, as we have heard already, will no longer be serving. Mostly they are retired; in some cases, they are dead.
The power to require retired officers to attend interview is not sought, although one hopes that those who are approached will co-operate—and I fully concur with what has been said. Certainly I shall, if evidence is ever sought from me.
I am not sure whether Clause 2—the application of Part 2 of the Police Reform Act 2002 to old cases—breaches rules of double jeopardy. In particular, at this stage or shortly after, there have to be safeguards in place for police officers interviewed by the IPCC. The practice of sometimes interviewing an officer as a witness without first cautioning him, then using that witness statement against him in later criminal proceedings, has to change. Interviewing under caution is standard procedure for non-police officers and should be a protection afforded to the police as well. I endorse the recommendation of the Home Office Select Committee and believe that the IPCC should employ a more rigorous interpretation of the threshold set out in the Police Reform Act to ensure that it becomes the norm that officers are interviewed under caution in the most serious cases.
This is certainly a Bill in a hurry. Usually I would resist it on that ground alone, seeking more time and due process to consider the issues in depth. But having stood here and praised the approach of Lord Taylor, who identified the truth in double-quick time, I can hardly complain at another attempt to speed up the investigative process, when so much time has been wasted over the last 20 years or so chasing irrelevancies or trying to find a way through a fog of half truths and worse. So great is the public interest in Hillsborough for understandable reasons, and so important is it that this issue should be dealt with once and for all that, with some jurisprudential reservations, I support the Bill.
My Lords, I need to start by saying that I fully support the Bill. However, I have two caveats that I have already outlined to the Minister and to which I hope he will respond in a while. In asking the Minister about these two matters, I am not trying to weaken the Bill but to strengthen it. Put simply, it would be helpful if this House was to demonstrate that it understands that police officers themselves need to believe in the provisions of the Bill. They will best do that if they believe that the provisions are fair.
I was not at Hillsborough; I was not involved in Hillsborough; but I have no illusions about it. I am on record recently as describing in the Times what happened at Hillsborough as appearing,
“to be the most egregious example of deliberate dissimulation in the history of the British police”.
When I read the right reverend Prelate’s report, I felt thoroughly ashamed of my profession. So, like all noble Lords, I wish the IPCC and the future coroner well with all their efforts. I have no illusions about Hillsborough.
However, it is vital to remember that although the Bill is occasioned by Hillsborough and the tragedy and failures there, it is not only about Hillsborough. Until and unless these provisions are repealed, they will provide powers to the IPCC and other organisations working under IPCC supervision that will cover all their investigations now and in future. I need to declare a rather unusual interest: I think I am safe to believe that I am the only Member of your Lordships’ House who has been interviewed by the IPCC as a witness. I have a personal duty to try to help get this matter right for the future. I shall say something briefly about both clauses.
I do not think that there are any noble Lords with a military background currently in the Chamber but if there were, they would recognise something that I am about to say. Servicemen and women are always uneasy at being interviewed by military police. It is the same for serving police officers when faced with people investigating complaints against the police. The powers in Clause 1 compel serving officers to attend as witnesses. We seriously need to distinguish between witnesses and suspects. I am not sure that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dear, about strengthening the idea of cautioning all police witnesses. Remember that all police witnesses if cautioned will be told, “You are not obliged to say anything”. We want them to feel obliged to say something, so we have to distinguish between witnesses and suspects.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. What I took him to be saying was that all police witnesses in serious cases should be interviewed under caution. Perhaps we can agree to get the definition of that right.
If we are talking about witnesses, it would be extremely unlikely that the Police Federation or any other representative body would be able to provide detailed legal advice to those officers, let alone a lawyer, so they will be going into the interview room accompanied only by a friend. We need to dispel the kind of uneasiness that they will be feeling. My suggestion to the Minister is that, when closing the debate, he makes clear his expectation that police officers being interviewed as witnesses by the IPCC investigators should be given the maximum disclosure of information—that is what proposed new Section 19F(3)(c) should mean.
In no way should a compelled witness have any cause to fear, as he or she enters the interview room, that he or she will be tricked. These are witnesses, not suspects. If they are suspects, they have to be treated differently. If they are witnesses, they must be treated with obvious and visible fairness. Whatever happened at Hillsborough, the men and women now serving in the police service deserve no less than that.
I entirely agree with the purpose of Clause 2. However, some IPCC investigations and those by its predecessor body can be—and have been—very long. Careers are put on hold and the pressure of such an investigation can sit at the back of the mind month after month, year after year. When, after such a long time, the investigation is finished and an officer is exonerated—if he or she is—they are largely entitled to expect that that is and will remain the end of the matter.
I therefore ask the Minister to make clear his expectations of the IPCC that the words “exceptional circumstances” in proposed new Section 28A(1), in relation to opening a closed inquiry, not only mean what they say but refer only to circumstances in which new evidence appears to have arisen or the level of public concern makes it imperative for the case to be reopened. Cases should not be reopened capriciously nor for political advantage. It is not enough for the Minister to emphasise that it is important that IPCC resources are not to be misused in this way. The majority of officers in England and Wales deserve no less than a statement today that fairness to officers is also a consideration.
Putting it bluntly, a police officer—like any other free citizen—has the right to refuse to assist the police in an investigation, but I also believe that any police officer who does so should forfeit the right to be a police officer. I want all police officers to believe that full compliance with the inquiry is their professional duty and I want their predecessors, now retired, to believe that their pride in their previous profession should also make them want to assist the inquiry. To do that, we should try to ensure that the working practices of the IPCC, outlined in this Bill, make fairness clear and obvious. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
My Lords, we are privileged to sit in this House and have been privileged today to have had the opportunity to participate in this debate. We have heard some impassioned and authoritative speeches, which have helped this House to consider this Bill, as it should do, in the proper context in which the Government have brought it forward.
I think that all noble Lords will have been emotionally touched by the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. The work that he has done in trying to build a bridge between the authorities and the families has been remarkable. In a way, this is a story of the failure of the establishment to properly engage with the families, to understand the distress of those who suffered loss or were injured or, indeed, those who were just at the match on the day. I hope that we can all help remedy that by our contributions here today.
I think that I can reassure noble Lords that this Bill has been brought to the House with the purpose of expediting truth and justice on this issue. I do not pretend that it can be easy; we have seen from the history of this matter that it is easy for people to make mistakes. Clearly, however, the investigatory role of the IPCC and of the police will be essential in clearing up the fog and mystery of misinformation and in providing clarity for the future.
There have been a number of speeches. I will start with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. Indeed, many of her remarks were echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his contribution. I readily understand the concern about what happens if officers attend but do not co-operate. There is a power to compel officers to attend if it is a matter of criminal investigation. If it is a question of witness, however, there are limits to the way in which legislation can achieve this objective, as I think the Government have acknowledged. But we are seeking to do that. Compelling witnesses to speak would be an unusual power to bring into a Bill of this nature. I hope that noble Lords will accept that we do not consider it to be appropriate.
However, I said in my opening address that people who volunteer to appear would want to help this process. There is a responsibility on all of us. When he gave evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee on November 27, Chief Constable Mike Cunningham said that where a police officer attended but refused to answer questions, he would have to consider whether the officer’s employment should continue. This sent a strong signal of how seriously non-co-operation would be taken by the chief constable. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Blair, said that he agreed that that was the right approach.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, also asked whether we would be issuing guidelines to chief officers to ensure that all forces treated refusal to attend interview in the same way. We have already committed to considering whether the existing conduct regulations should be amended or made clearer in this area, and whether misconduct sanctions should apply where an officer refuses to attend an interview as a witness. If we were to make such changes, we would also amend the relevant guidelines relating to the regulations to effect these changes.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, also asked about where retired officers may be suspects. I can confirm that any officer, whether serving or retired—or, indeed, an officer who retires part-way through an investigation —can continue to be investigated for criminal or misconduct matters. Officers can be compelled to attend an interview if they are a suspect. The noble Baroness asked also whether, when officers seek early retirement, their application will be considered if this prevents them from appearing as a witness before the IPCC.
It would not be appropriate to stop an officer from retiring who had been called as a witness, not as a suspect. However, the IPCC can investigate retired or resigned officers for criminal and misconduct matters, as it can with serving officers. Therefore, the IPCC will no doubt call retired officers to provide evidence during its investigation into Hillsborough, and I believe that in the vast majority of cases these retired officers will understand the importance of this investigation and attend willingly. If the police had reason to suppose that someone was retiring in order to avoid appearing, they may well consider that as suspect behaviour. However, that would be for the police to decide, not for us or the Bill.
The noble Baroness also asked, with regard to Clause 2, about the IPCC reopening cases where there is a powerful public interest. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Blair, is also concerned about what is meant by “public interest”. If I may disentangle the semantics, public interest in terms of popular interest is of course different from public interest as seen by the Government or by the IPCC itself. It is the IPCC that will determine where the public interest lies, and that is not measured by populist interest. I hope that I have made that clear; I think that I have a clear understanding of the interest.
The “exceptional circumstances” bar means what it says. They will be only cases where exceptional circumstances are involved; indeed, one of those exceptional circumstances is where the discovery of new evidence of high significance could then lead to a case being legitimately reopened. However, the purpose of this legislation is to deal with the particular instance which we have been debating today.
It was interesting to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who was a Liverpool Member of Parliament and able to talk about the incident as it appeared to someone representing the people of Liverpool. On the discovery of documents, I can confirm that the documents which will be available to the IPCC as part of its investigation will include some which were not available to the panel, because they were discovered after the panel had reported. It is clearly essential that every document is available to those taking forward the investigation. I assure noble Lords that that will happen, so fresh discovery will reinforce the IPCC investigations.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked whether witness interviews will be given to the IPCC under caution. That question was repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Blair. I should make it plain that the police issue a caution to those whom they wish to interview because they are suspected of having committed a criminal offence and therefore may be charged. However, we would not therefore expect anybody providing evidence as a witness to be so cautioned. I think that that is the only way in which I can answer that question.
As many noble Lords have pointed out, the Attorney-General has secured a hearing on the question of reopening the inquests. That was applied for yesterday but it is up to the courts to consider that application. We must not prejudge the outcome of this legal process and even if the Attorney-General’s application were successful, it would be for the coroner to decide how to conduct the inquest. Again, this is an independent, statutory role which the Government cannot interfere in. I am sure that all those involved will recognise the need to expedite this process. Public opinion, the pressure for the truth, will drive this through.
I appreciate that it was not possible for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, to stay until this point, but I shall answer his question about integration. Clearly, we are dealing with different authorities with different responsibilities, but they have a shared responsibility for providing reconciliation and truth in this matter, and, indeed, justice. The IPCC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Attorney-General and the coroner will all work together and the Government will work with them to ensure that they work effectively to provide an outcome. The imperative for this is understood by the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Blair, asked about disclosure. I can be clear that disclosure of information in relation to an interview by the IPCC, or, indeed, decisions as to how to conduct that investigation, are solely a matter for the IPCC, as the independent body with oversight over the police complaints system. Given that it has that independence, it would be inappropriate for Ministers or the Government to interfere or direct the commission on any aspect of the interview process or the investigation. I hope that that helps the noble Lord, although it does not provide him with an answer. I think that we have dealt with the question of the reopening of the inquiry.
I hope that I have answered most questions; it is quite probable, given the contributions that have been made, that I have not answered them all. I will be happy to write to noble Lords on the detail but our task today is to consider the Bill. We have had an excellent Second Reading; it is an important Bill to take forward reconsideration of the way the establishment dealt with the Hillsborough disaster in the first instance and an opportunity for Parliament, at least, to play its part in addressing this issue.
Bill read a second time.