Hillsborough: MPs back release of disaster files

THE Government vowed to release all documents relating to the Hillsborough disaster after MPs backed a motion calling for full disclosure.

Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday insisted that all the material will be made public with only select details held back.

After an emotionally charged debate in the House of Commons, triggered by an online petition signed by 140,000 people, the motion tabled by backbench MPs was approved unopposed.

Addressing a sombre House of Commons, Mrs May said she was “sorry” for the anxiety caused to relatives of the victims by the Government’s initial refusal to release papers.

She said all government documents - including cabinet minutes - would be handed over to the independent panel set up by the former Labour government to review the papers for public release.

Once the panel had completed its work, all the documents would be made public, she said, with only “minimal redactions” covering details such as the names of junior officials and private information relating to the victims.

“As Home Secretary, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the families and the public get the truth,” she said.

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“No government papers will be withheld from the panel, no attempts to suppress publication will be made, no stone will be left unturned.

“The principle underlying the process is that of maximum possible disclosure and disclosure to the families first and then to the wider public.”

Ninety-six Liverpool football fans died in the crush as supporters tried to enter the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield for an FA Cup semi-final on April 15 1989.

A petition calling for the release of all government-related papers concerning the disaster was launched after the Cabinet Office turned down a request under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act for the documents to be made public.

Mrs May acknowledged that the way the Government had handled the request had caused distress among the victims’ families.

“The Government’s position has absolutely nothing to do with attempting to suppress the release of these papers or to somehow hide the truth. And I am sorry that the way the Government responded to the FoI request caused anxiety among the families and concern on Merseyside and beyond,” she said.

Opening the debate, Labour’s Steve Rotheram, a former lord mayor of Liverpool, attacked the “smears” and “establishment cover-up” which led to fans initially being blamed for the disaster.

He said Mr Cameron had delivered a Commons apology to the victims of Bloody Sunday in Londonderry and called on him to do the same for those affected by Hillsborough.

“I call on the Prime Minister to make a statement in this House and apologise for the mistakes that were made and the mishandling of this whole tragedy on behalf of a previous government,” he said.

The families particularly want to see the minutes of a meeting between the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher and South Yorkshire Police, which they believe was the source of “scurrilous” newspaper reports that the fans were to blame.

“Misdirection, obfuscation and damn lies were all used as smokescreens to deflect attention away from the guilty,” Mr Rotheram said.