THE BRITISH PRIME Minister has been urged to apologise for the police failures and alleged government cover-up surrounding the Hillsborough disaster as MPs voted for the release of all documents relating to the tragedy 22 years ago.
David Cameron was asked to apologise to the families of the 96 Liverpool supporters who died in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium in the same way he had apologised to the people of Northern Ireland in the wake of the Bloody Sunday inquiry.
The call came from Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram, one of a number of Merseyside-based MPs who gave emotional statements to the House of Commons in a three-hour debate.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, South Yorkshire Police conspired to cover up their failings and shift the blame on supporters even though an independent inquiry later found the blame rested primarily with the inadequacies of policing on the day and the dilapidated stadium.
In his statement Rotheram attacked the “smears” and “establishment cover-up” in the aftermath of the disaster and read out of the names of the 96 men, women and children who died on 15 April 1989, at times close to tears. At the end he was given an unusual round of applause.
Fellow Merseyside MP Alison McGovern also got a round of applause from the public gallery where families of the 96 looked on following her emotional speech:
Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said that the withholding of documents related to the disaster and the role played by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was “one of the biggest injustices of the 20th century”.
He admitted his party should have done more when in government to open the archives.
Home Secretary Theresa May said that all government papers including uncensored minutes of cabinet meetings in relation to the disaster would be released to the families and the independent panel examining the documents, set up by the last government, which is expected to report next year.
The debate had been triggered following an online petition which attracted the signatures of 140,000 people demanding MPs hold a debate to demand the full disclosure of all documents.
The online campaign was supported by the likes of musician Billy Bragg and actor Simon Pegg as well as current Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and footballer Joey Barton who was in the public gallery last night and later tweeted how emotional a day it had been.
Trevor Hicks, who lost both his teenage daughters in the disaster, welcomed the debate and said he wanted to ensure that there was “no possibility that the shutters will come down” on the issue.
He said that with the release of the documents the focus should be on the Sunday morning after the disaster where he believes a cover up began.
Hicks told The Times (subscription required): “We believe we are justified to believe that the stitch-up occurred probably on that Sunday morning.”