My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement delivered in the other place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the Hillsborough stadium disaster, the determinations and findings of the fresh inquests presided over by Sir John Goldring, and the steps that will now take place.
Twenty-seven years ago the terrible events of Saturday 15 April 1989 shocked this country and devastated a community. That afternoon, as thousands of fans were preparing to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, a crush developed in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace. Ninety-six men, women and children lost their lives as a result. Hundreds more were injured, and many more were left traumatised. It was this country’s worst disaster at a sporting event.
For the families and survivors, the search to get to the truth of what happened on that day has been long and arduous. They observed the judicial inquiry led by Lord Justice Taylor. They gave evidence to the original inquests, which recorded a verdict of accidental death. They have seen further scrutiny, reviews and a private prosecution. They suffered the injustice of hearing the victims—their loved ones and fellow supporters—being blamed. They have heard the shocking conclusions of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and they have now, once again, given evidence to the fresh inquests presided over by Sir John Goldring.
I have met members of the Hillsborough families on a number of occasions and, in their search for truth and justice, I have never failed to be struck by their extraordinary dignity and determination. I do not think it is possible for any of us to truly understand what they have been through. Not only in losing their loved ones in such horrific circumstances that day, but to hear finding after finding over 27 years telling them something that they believed to be fundamentally untrue. They have quite simply never given up.
I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the right honourable Member for Leigh, who has campaigned so tirelessly over the years on their behalf, and also the honourable Members for Liverpool Walton, for Garston and Halewood, for Halton, for Liverpool Riverside and for Wirral South.
Yesterday, the fresh inquest into the deaths at Hillsborough gave its determinations and findings. Its establishment followed the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, chaired by the right reverend Bishop James Jones. The contents of that report were so significant that it led to the new inquests and two major new criminal investigations: one by the Independent Police Complaints Commission examining the actions of the police in the aftermath of Hillsborough, and a second criminal investigation—Operation Resolve—led by Jon Stoddart, the former chief constable of Durham.
Since the fresh inquests opened in Warrington on 31 March 2014, the jury has heard 296 days of evidence. It ran for more than two years and was the longest running inquest in British legal history. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in thanking the jury for the important task it has undertaken and the significant civic duty the jurors have performed.
I will turn now to the jury’s determinations and findings. In its deliberations, the jury was asked to answer 14 general questions covering the role of South Yorkshire Police, the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Ambulance Service, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club and Hillsborough stadium’s engineers, Eastwood and Partners. In addition, the jury was also required to answer two questions specific to each of the individuals deceased relating to the time and medical cause of their death.
I would like to put on record the jury’s determinations in full. They are as follows:
Question 1: do you agree with the following statement which is intended to summarise the basic facts of the disaster?
‘Ninety-six people died as a result of the disaster at Hillsborough stadium on 15 April 1989 due to crushing in the central pens of the Leppings Lane terrace, following the admission of a large number of supporters to the stadium through exit gates.’
Question 2: was there any error or omission in police planning and preparation for the semi-final match on 15 April 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match?
Question 3: was there any error or omission in policing on the day of the match which caused or contributed to a dangerous situation developing at the Leppings Lane turnstiles?
Question 4: was there any error or omission by commanding officers which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace?
Question 5: when the order was given to open the exit gates at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium, was there any error or omission by the commanding officers in the control box which caused or contributed to the crush on the terrace?
Question 6: are you satisfied, so that you are sure, that those who died in the disaster were unlawfully killed?
Question 7: was there any behaviour on the part of football supporters which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles?
Further to Question 7: was there any behaviour on the part of football supporters which may have caused or contributed to the dangerous situation at the Leppings Lane turnstiles?
Question 8: were there any features of the design, construction and layout of the stadium which you consider were dangerous or defective and which caused or contributed to the disaster?
Question 9: was there any error or omission in the safety certification and oversight of Hillsborough stadium that caused or contributed to the disaster?
Question 10: was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday FC (and its staff) in the management of the Stadium and/or preparation for the semi-final match on 15 April 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed on the day of the match?
Question 11: was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday FC (and its staff) on 15 April 1989 which caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed at the Leppings Lane turnstiles and in the west terrace?
Further to Question 11: was there any error or omission by Sheffield Wednesday FC, (and its staff), on 15 April 1989 which may have caused or contributed to the dangerous situation that developed at the Leppings Lane turnstiles and in the west terrace?
Question 12: should Eastwood and Partners have done more to detect and advise on any unsafe or unsatisfactory features of Hillsborough stadium which caused or contributed to the disaster?
Question 13: after the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by the police which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster?
Question 14: after the crush in the west terrace had begun to develop, was there any error or omission by the ambulance service, SYMAS, which caused or contributed to the loss of lives in the disaster?
Finally, the jury also recorded the cause and time of death for each of the 96 men, women and children who died at Hillsborough. In all but one case the jury have recorded a time bracket running beyond the 3.15 pm cut-off point adopted by the coroner at the original inquests.
These determinations were published yesterday by the coroner, and I would urge the reading of each and every part in order to fully understand the outcome of the inquests.
The jury also heard evidence about the valiant efforts made by many of the fans to rescue those caught up in the crush. Their public-spiritedness is to be commended, and I am sure that the House will want to take this opportunity to recognise what they did in those terrible circumstances.
Clearly, the jury’s determination that those who died were unlawfully killed is of great public importance. It overturns in the starkest way possible the verdict of accidental death returned at the original inquests. However, the jury’s findings do not, of course, amount to a finding of criminal liability, and no one should impute criminal liability to anyone while the ongoing investigations are still pending.
Elsewhere the jury noted that the commanding officers should have ordered the closure of the central tunnel before the opening of gate C was requested, as pens 3 and 4 were full. They should have established the number of fans still to enter the stadium after 2.30 pm. And they failed to recognise that pens 3 and 4 were at capacity before gate C was opened.
While the inquests have concluded, this is not the end of the process. The decision about whether any criminal prosecution or prosecutions can be brought forward will be made by the Crown Prosecution Service on the basis of evidence gathered as part of the two ongoing investigations. That decision is not constrained in any way by the jury’s conclusions.
The House will understand that I cannot comment in detail on matters that may lead to a criminal prosecution. I can however say that the offences under investigation include gross negligence manslaughter, misconduct in public office, perverting the course of justice and perjury, as well as offences under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
I know that those responsible for the police and IPCC investigations anticipate that they will conclude the criminal investigations by the turn of the year. We must allow them to complete their work in a timely and thorough manner, and we must be mindful not to prejudice their outcome in any way.
I have always been clear that the Government will support the families in their quest for justice. So throughout the ongoing investigations we will ensure that support remains in place in three ways.
First, the family forums, which have provided the families with a regular and structured means of engaging with the investigative teams and the CPS, will continue. They will remain under Bishop James’s chairmanship, in a similar format, but will reflect the fact that they will be operating after the inquests. The Crown Prosecution Service, the IPCC and Operation Resolve will remain part of the forums.
Secondly, now that the inquests have concluded it is the intention to reconstitute the Hillsborough Article 2 Reference Group, whose work has been in abeyance during the course of the inquests, under revised terms of reference. The group has two members: Sir Stephen Sedley, a retired Lord Justice of Appeal, and Dr Silvia Casale, an independent criminologist.
Thirdly, we want to ensure that the legal representation scheme for the bereaved families continues. This was put in place, with funding from the Government, following the original inquests’ verdicts being quashed. Discussions are currently taking place with the families’ legal representatives to see how best the scheme can be continued.
In addition, I am keen that we capture and learn from the families’ experiences. I have therefore asked Bishop James, who is my adviser on Hillsborough, to write a report that draws on these experiences. This report will be published in due course, to ensure that the full perspective of those affected by the Hillsborough disaster is not lost.
I would also like to express my thanks to Bishop James again for his invaluable advice over the years. There is further work to be done, so I have asked Bishop James to remain as my adviser and I am pleased to say that he has agreed to do so.
The conclusion of the inquests brings to an end an important step since the publication of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s report. Thanks to that report and now the determinations of the inquests, we know the truth of what happened on that day at Hillsborough. Naturally, the families will want to reflect on yesterday’s historic outcome, which is of national significance. I am also clear that this raises significant issues for the way that the state and its agencies deal with disasters. Once the formal investigations are concluded, we should step back, reflect and act, if necessary, so that we can better respond to disasters and ensure that the suffering of families is taken into account.
I want to end by saying this. For 27 years, the families and survivors of Hillsborough have fought for justice. They have faced hostility, opposition and obfuscation, and the authorities that should have been trusted have laid blame and tried to protect themselves instead of acting in the public interest. But the families have never faltered in their pursuit of the truth. Thanks to their actions, they have brought about a proper reinvestigation and a thorough re-evaluation of what happened at Hillsborough. That they have done so is extraordinary. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to their courage, determination and resolve. We should also remember those who have sadly passed away while still waiting for justice.
No one should have to endure what the families and survivors have been through. No one should have to suffer the loss of their loved ones through such appalling circumstances, and no one should have to fight year after year, decade after decade, in search of the truth. I hope that for the families and survivors who have been through such difficult times, yesterday’s determinations will bring them closer to the peace they have been so long denied. I commend the Statement to the House”.
My Lords, I declare an interest as someone who has given advice to the Hillsborough families over the last five years. I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Home Secretary’s Statement. The Home Secretary promised the families that she would do her best to see the wrongs that they had suffered righted, and she has been true to her word.
The facts that the Home Secretary’s Statement narrates are truly terrible. Yesterday the jury gave an unequivocal verdict. They found that the 96 who had died were unlawfully killed and that there was no fan behaviour that did or might have caused or contributed to their death. How could it have taken 27 years for the truth to emerge? The South Yorkshire police force put protecting itself above care for the fans, the families and the truth. It had relationships with the media that made it possible for it falsely to smear the families and the fans. In all too many cases, the media colluded with the police in perpetrating those smears. In the justice system, the families for too long could never compete with the resources of the public bodies and the private companies that they faced in court.
The inquest that has just concluded has produced a verdict that completely vindicates the fans and the families. The jury delivered its verdict, which clearly was thought out as it included reasons, not just the yes/no answers that the Minister rightly went through in the Statement. It was clear that it had thought about the matters and come to clear and simple conclusions. The inquest itself, though, involved the smears continuing. Lawyers for retired police officers repeated the slurs about drunken behaviour. The current South Yorkshire force tried to establish that others were responsible for the opening of the gate. Apologies made now by the South Yorkshire Police ring very hollow indeed.
There are a number of areas that this House and the other place should look at in relation to what happens in future. First, I agree with all that the Home Secretary has said in relation to subsequent criminal proceedings. Can the Minister give us an update on the timing of decision-making? In particular, do we really have to wait until the end of the year before decisions are made?
Secondly, on the issue of disciplinary proceedings against the police, the Policing and Crime Bill currently going through the other place proposes a 12-month time limit after retirement during which disciplinary proceedings can be taken. Will the Minister consider whether, in the appropriate cases, there should be no time limit so that people cannot retire in order to avoid proper disciplinary proceedings?
Thirdly, there is the position of the South Yorkshire police force. As I have indicated, it continued with a number of allegations detrimental to the fans in this inquest, despite what it said immediately after the Hillsborough Independent Panel reported, and despite the remarks of the Lord Chief Justice when he set aside the previous inquest verdicts. What steps does the Minister think should be taken to deal with the present position of the South Yorkshire Police? Does a root-and-branch review of the South Yorkshire Police now appear appropriate? Is the position of the chief constable of the South Yorkshire Police now untenable?
Fourthly, there is the collusion between the media and the police. No one has ever been held to account for the smears in the media relating to the families and the fans. Noble Lords will know that on the Wednesday after the Saturday, the Sun produced a headline saying, “Hillsborough: The Truth”, and made entirely false allegations about the behaviour of the fans. Libel proceedings were obviously not a possibility, for a whole range of reasons. The relationships between the police and the media were to be investigated by the second stage of the Leveson inquiry. That is no longer going ahead. The relationships between the police and the media were a considerable source of the 27-year delay. Is it the Government’s intention to go back on their promise—not to these families, although they were included in the group, but to all those who had suffered from media smears—or is the second stage of the Leveson inquiry going to take place?
Lastly, there is the unlevel playing field. The inability of the families properly to fund themselves at the first inquest led to findings of accidental death and a cut-off time of 3.15 pm that meant there was no proper inquiry in the first inquest. There was an appeal to the Divisional Court but that was rejected. What steps are the Government now going to take to ensure that families such as the Hillsborough families are not left alone and outgunned in court?
It was wonderful to be in the court yesterday, on the day when the justice system acknowledged the truth. The families were vindicated. However, it was filled with so much sadness about the lives ruined by the darkness of those 27 years and the very many people who had died over the period, never seeing the person they loved being able to rest in peace. Our institutions failed the families time and again. Liverpool Football Club and the City of Liverpool never wavered in their support of the families. They were with them during the years when there was no hope, but mostly the families were alone. The best of our country and its true values were demonstrated by the families who never gave up. We should honour them and do our best to ensure that what happened to them will never happen to anyone else.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for the thorough and important Statement. When you meet the Hillsborough families, you are immediately in an emotional bond with ordinary, loving and decent people—remarkable and loving people—who, over 27 years, with great dignity and heads held high, have taken on the establishment to get to the truth. Much is owed to those who researched the evidence; to the indefatigable supporters’ groups led by families; to the independent panel chaired by the then Bishop of Liverpool; to those who finally listened and agreed to a second inquest; to the jurors who spent years examining the evidence, and to all those involved in legal support for the family, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton.
On this day of all days the front page of the Sun speaks volumes for the real levels of remorse shown by that newspaper. There will be no complete justice until those responsible for the events at Hillsborough—for the monstrous cover-up, the lies and the years of organised deceit—are properly called to account. Thanks to many people, the families of the 96 dead and nearly 700 injured have never walked alone. What plans do the Government have for arrangements for access to justice to ensure that ordinary people always have full opportunity to get their complaints heard in the face of inaction or opposition from the authorities? In my city we say, “At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky”. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and survivors today.
My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their contributions. In doing so, I acknowledge the noble and learned Lord’s own contribution. I know he has worked with the families and I pay tribute to his work in this respect. The noble Lord, Lord Storey, said that he is of Liverpool, as are many in this House, and I declare an interest as a lifelong Liverpool fan. I remember the tragic events of Hillsborough very well. The verdict yesterday was a very notable moment for the whole city and particularly for the families.
Turning to the specific questions raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, about subsequent criminal proceedings and the timeline, he will know better than many that there is obviously due process to be followed. It is right now that we look towards the CPS and the two ongoing investigations and he and many others will know from their own experience that the CPS has been working very closely with both those inquiries so one would hope, with the evidence that has already been shared and assessed, that they will move forward. In terms of those two particular inquiries, we are certainly looking towards the end of the year.
The noble and learned Lord suggested an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill relating to police officers who may choose to retire, or indeed resign, to absolve themselves of responsibility for such tragic events. It was certainly the Government’s intention to bring forward such an amendment, and that is why the Home Secretary and my right honourable friend the Minister for Policing inserted a clause in the Bill that reflected the 12-month retirement period. I am informed that, following representations by the shadow Home Secretary, the right honourable Member for Leigh, the Home Secretary has agreed to meet him and the shadow Minister for Policing to see how we can best take forward that provision in the Bill.
Turning to South Yorkshire Police and the statements that have been made, one would have hoped that the force would have accepted without any reservation the findings of the inquest. At this juncture, I just say that what we have seen coming out from South Yorkshire Police is both of concern and regrettable. It is important to ensure that anyone who serves in any area of public life, but particularly in the important role of policing, takes responsibility and has the confidence of the public, which has clearly been lacking in this instance.
The noble and learned Lord also talked about the media, the police and Leveson part 2. As he will know, and as I am sure many noble Lords will be aware, criminal proceedings connected to the subject matter of the Leveson inquiry, including the appeals process, have not yet been completed. The Government have been clear that these cases must conclude before we consider part 2 of the inquiry.
I turn to the very valid issue of access to justice and legal representation. I pay tribute to all those who were involved in the inquest—in particular, the jury. As I am sure noble Lords know, they sat for 296 days over two years, and that shows their resilience. I pay tribute to them and am sure all noble Lords across the House join me in doing so. The inquest underlined the importance of having not just access to justice and legal representation but access to quality legal representation. Therefore, I am delighted that the Bishop of Liverpool has agreed to stay on as an adviser to the Home Office, and to the Home Secretary directly, on this issue to ensure that all the lessons learned from this tragedy are encapsulated. I am sure that they will be presented in his report and in his direct advice to the Home Secretary. We hope that through that process the issues that have arisen, including access to quality legal support, will be addressed—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Storey.
My Lords, I crave noble Lords’ indulgence for a moment while I say where I come from. I was a new Member of Parliament covering the area around the Hillsborough stadium in 1989 and I am now married to a doctor who was a volunteer in the hospital in Sheffield on that evening. I myself visited some of those who were injured that weekend.
I commend the Statement and I commend the families and those working with them for seeking and gaining the truth and looking for justice. I hope very much that the work of Bishop James Jones will be able to incorporate the proposals of my noble friend Lord Wills, which were debated three months ago in this House and to which I contributed. I hope that the Minister agrees that they would contribute towards meeting the challenge of ensuring that families in circumstances such as these do not have to go through what those families have gone through over the last 27 years.
I have a question for the Minister. In dealing with the immediate future, it will surely be crucial that the people of South Yorkshire, many of whom played a signal part on that day by taking people into their homes, letting them use their landlines and, in many cases, running people back to Merseyside, do not now pay the penalty of costs arising from further investigation and work on top of the costs that have been incurred. Nor should members of the force, most of whom are dedicated, committed officers, find themselves in a situation where they cannot carry out their duties properly. Would it not be a fitting tribute if we were able to move forward with sensitivity and rationality in ensuring that the people of Merseyside receive the justice and truth that they have sought, and that the people of South Yorkshire do not find themselves penalised, financially or in terms of policing, because of what happened 27 years ago?
My Lords, first, I agree with the noble Lord about the ordinary people on that tragic day who did indeed open their doors. In other tributes that have been paid, it has been widely acknowledged, even by those who were themselves suffering the tragedy, that the people around the stadium of Hillsborough—the ordinary people of Sheffield—showed the warmth and hospitality that really defines our nation, opening their doors to strangers at a time of acute need. That was reflected by many.
On the issue of police officers specifically, as we witnessed on our television screens, and as those in the stadium witnessed, there were individual police officers who tried to act in the best interests of the fans who were clearly suffering in this tragedy. It is important that we now see that the people of Liverpool—particularly the families of the 96 tragic victims—have suffered far too long. Twenty-seven years to wait for justice and truth in a country such as ours is plainly and simply unacceptable. Therefore, I am sure that I express the sentiments of all—and it is resonating—when I say that we look forward to the conclusion of the two ongoing inquiries and the inquiry that the CPS will launch to ensure that we get the justice that the 96 tragic victims need.
My Lords, my question concerns Lord Justice Peter Taylor, whom noble Lords may remember was later appointed Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and who sadly died in office in 1992 or 1993. It was Peter Taylor who conducted the first inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster. He published his report only three and a half months after the disaster had taken place. Although he laid blame in a number of directions, he was quite clear in the main thrust of his report that he wanted to focus on three issues: first, that the fans were absolutely blameless; secondly, that South Yorkshire Police had largely caused the disaster by their lack of control of the crowds at the Leppings Lane end; and thirdly, in fulsome manner, he criticised South Yorkshire Police for the then emerging criticism from South Yorkshire, who were trying, as he put it, to shift the blame from themselves on to the fans. His clear findings were largely submerged by the growing flow of lies, half-truths and misinformation that occurred before, during and after the first inquest. Bearing in mind that what he said and what he found was entirely mirrored and repeated by the inquiries carried out by the Lord Bishop of Liverpool and by Lord Justice Goldring in the current and shortly to be concluded inquest, will the Minister do everything possible on every appropriate occasion to reflect on the fact that it was Lord Justice Taylor who got to the truth first, even though that truth was later obscured? He was the man who spoke the truth and gave the signpost. In making this statement, I remind the House that it was I who led his inquiry and produced to him the evidence on which he based his findings.
My Lords, the moral culpability of those who participated in the cover-up is particularly grave. Will the Minister do all he can to encourage the prosecution authorities to come to an early conclusion as to whether criminal proceedings should follow?
As I have said, we all agree that it is important that we reach an early decision, but it is also important that the CPS carries out whatever investigations it needs to and that the two ongoing inquiries reach a full conclusion. I reiterate that the two ongoing inquiries will report back at the end of this year.
My Lords, as a Minister involved in setting up the Hillsborough Independent Panel, I add my thanks to the Government and congratulate them on the way they have followed through the setting up of that panel and its aftermath and on the outstanding work done by that panel, which led to the verdicts yesterday. However, most of all, like other speakers, I once again briefly pay tribute to the courage, dignity and persistence of the bereaved families and their campaign for justice. Their extraordinary work has ensured that their loved ones who died at Hillsborough will never be forgotten, and they have honoured their memory.
However, now that the jury has reached its conclusions, the wider public policy lessons must be learned; I very much welcome what the Minister said about that today. In particular, however, I pick up on the point made by my noble friend Lord Blunkett and ask whether the Government will now agree to adopt at least the principles and the guts of my Private Member’s Bill, which seeks to provide all similarly bereaved families in future with a right to the support and transparency which, finally, the Hillsborough families have received. There must be no complacency about what has happened. It is time to ensure that no other similarly bereaved families in the future have to suffer and endure what the Hillsborough families suffered and endured for 27 years.
I pay tribute to the noble Lord’s efforts in this respect. With regard to his Private Member’s Bill, I will be delighted to meet with him and I suggest that we also include the Bishop of Liverpool in that to see how best we can move this forward.
My Lords, during the 27 years that have elapsed since the Hillsborough disaster, the double spectre of loss and injustice has hung over the people of Liverpool. Among the 96 who died were former constituents of mine, including a child. Those deaths of loved ones were compounded by the denial of criminal negligence, callous indifference, the subversion of our justice system, collective character assassination and demonisation. If the Minister has had a chance to read the material I sent him this morning, including the letter I sent before the game was played at Hillsborough which questioned the safety of the ground, he will realise that there are still many unanswered questions. I would be grateful if he told us more about the timetabling of the continuing inquiry, which is being held with great diligence and meticulousness at Warrington; I have had a chance to visit it and talk to the people about the way they are going about their work. Will he also answer the question which the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, put to him a few moment ago about the further judicial proceedings that will be necessary and the timetabling for decisions? We certainly cannot wait another three decades.
To take the noble Lord’s last question first, it would certainly be inappropriate for me to straitjacket the CPS in any respect, but the CPS, the two ongoing inquiries and everyone involved in them are fully aware of the sensitive nature of this issue. As we said, there is a responsibility on all involved in these inquiries to make sure that we reach a decision which ensures that justice prevails as soon as is possible and practicable, but it is very much for the CPS to lead on this. I confess that I have not had time to reflect on the detail of the information the noble Lord sent to me this morning, but I certainly will, and look forward to discussing it with him.
My Lords, I declare an interest because I come from Liverpool and most of my family still live there. My grandmother lived on Anfield Road at the time of the tragedy—no one in Liverpool was so remote that they did not know someone who was affected by it. People who have not been recognised in the comments so far are those such as Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez, who gave huge amounts of money to support families and did so without expectation of gratitude or publicity. A lot of individuals, like them, showed enormous generosity at a time when the cause was not popular. Can the Minister assure us that the independent panel sets a model for how such investigations ought to be continued in the future in similar circumstances, with objective scrutiny of documentation? Also, does he think that current levels of press regulation under IPSO—before we get to Leveson stage 2—would be in any way stronger in preventing the sort of press abuse that continued until only three years ago?
I thank the right reverend Prelate for those questions. We have learned lessons from every element of the inquiry, and from the panel in particular. We will take forward all the issues, particularly good governance. We have set up an ongoing relationship with the former Bishop of Liverpool. On the issue of press regulation, as I have said already, we are waiting until the Government can look at the second part of the Leveson report to ensure that a comprehensive response can be given. On press regulation and review, we live in a very different world now from that of 27 years ago—indeed, of 10 years ago—and the press, along with everyone else, need to reflect on their responsibilities, particularly when reporting such tragedies as Hillsborough.
My Lords, the Minister said earlier that we would have to wait until criminal cases had finished before we—to use his phrase—“consider” phase 2 of Leveson. However, I remind him of what the Prime Minister said after phase 1 of Leveson in November 2012:
“When I set up the inquiry, I also said that there would be a second part to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/11/12; col. 446.]
He went on to say:
“It is right that it should go ahead, and that is fully our intention”.—[Official Report, Commons, 12/11/12; col. 458.]
I understand why criminal cases have to proceed before phase 2 can begin. However, can the Minister assure us that it will begin once those cases have finished, and that the Government will not then reconsider whether it should happen at all?
My Lords, we must consider the crass statement that was put on the South Yorkshire Police website this morning, and the fact that the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has just been suspended. In the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, said, and whoever is elected as Police and Crime Commissioner next week, South Yorkshire Police is going to need extra support. What support will the Government look at giving to solve the problem of the clearly dysfunctional senior management within the South Yorkshire police force?
The noble Lord raises an important point, particularly regarding the responsibility of the Police and Crime Commissioner. They will have an important role to play, but we will certainly be reviewing the situation. As further details emerge, I will write to the noble Lord about the steps we are taking. The important point is that there is a responsibility in the higher echelons of that police force. The noble Lord mentioned the statement put on the website which, as I said earlier, was both concerning and regrettable. There is a history of their making a statement and then retracting it. One would have hoped that, on this occasion, they would not have done so, but that is exactly what has happened.
My Lords, I may be the only member of your Lordships’ House who was present at Hillsborough 27 years ago. I subsequently gave evidence to Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry and to the Hillsborough Independent Panel. I join all other Members in commending both the Statement and the contributions from all sides of the Chamber today. This House has matched the mood perfectly. I think that the victims’ families will feel that they have been vindicated, certainly as far as this House is concerned. I have just one question. Does the Minister agree that what has made the victims’ families’ agony so much more unbearable has been the refusal by the South Yorkshire police force, consistently over the last 27 years, up to and including the period of the inquest itself, to put up their hands up and admit that they were at fault?
My Lords, perhaps I may express a personal view coloured by my experience of more than 30 years in the Police Service. I am concerned that what appears to have happened in this case—the police attempting to protect their reputation by covering up what happened—is not isolated to South Yorkshire Police and may be prevalent across the Police Service as a whole. This is based on a genuine concern that, in order to operate effectively, they have to have the trust and confidence of the public. However, clearly, they cannot cover up wrongdoing to win that trust and confidence because, inevitably, the truth will come out, as we have seen in this case. Can the Minister give an undertaking that this wider issue across other police forces will not be ignored and will be looked into as part of the Government’s response to this disaster?
The noble Lord is right to raise the issue of trust in a general sense. Speaking as any citizen would, we look to our police forces up and down the country—many of which do an incredible job—to provide safety and security for all of us. A high level of confidence in your police force is an essential part of going about your daily life. Where that has failed, particularly in the instance of South Yorkshire Police—I know an earlier question related to the fluid nature of what is happening in South Yorkshire at the moment—it is important that police forces and all those associated with their governance not only accept direct responsibility but make and act on the right decisions for themselves and, more importantly, for the people of their areas.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a director of Carlisle United Football Club. The composition of football fans today is rather different from 27 years ago, but I know that I speak for every single football fan the length and breadth of the British Isles when I say that we are pleased and proud that our fellow fans at Liverpool have been vindicated. They have shown up some of the key elements of British society—the police, the media and the legal trade. I am also pleased that nowadays, under our new freedom of information legislation and the mood that goes with it, the Minister is able to make such a Statement, which we all admire.
I agree with the noble Lord. Whichever club you support or wherever you live in this country, football is part of what defines our nation; it is part of our DNA. The exoneration yesterday of not only the victims but everyone who attended the event, or was involved with the football club or with the city, was a historic moment in moving forward in the right manner. I hope that, ultimately, once the CPS inquiry and the two other inquiries are concluded, we can give final solace and peace to the 96 tragic victims and ensure—if I may quote the noble Lord as a final comment on this—that they never walk alone.