Theresa May has been urged to back a new law that would force officials and business owners to co-operate with investigations into major tragedies such as the Hillsborough Disaster and Grenfell Tower blaze.
More than 90 Labour MPs have signed a letter to the Prime Minister asking for her support for the so-called “Hillsborough Law”.
The bill would force officials and private firms running sports stadia, shopping malls or social housing, to come clean about wrongdoing and failures.
And it would introduce new criminal offences for senior managers who have covered up institutional failures.
The proposal, which was originally sponsored by Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Green, SNP and SDLP MPs, passed through the commons without opposition on its first reading.
But June’s snap general election stopped it in its tracks.
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: “The families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster have spent decades fighting for justice. They have called for a lasting legacy to prevent other families from going through what they have suffered.
“The Hillsborough Bill is an important part of that legacy, it requires public officials to tell the truth and challenges the culture of denial which far too often pervades public institutions.
“The appalling tragedy at Grenfell tower highlights the urgent need for a law to ensure truth and justice prevail. The Prime Minister says she wants to tackle injustices. She should demonstrate this by supporting the Hillsborough Law and making sure victims and their families get justice.”
Here’s the letter in full:
Dear Prime Minister
We are writing to urge you to support ‘Hillsborough Law’ (The Public Authorities (Accountability) Bill 2017). After the conclusion of the recent Hillsborough Inquest in April 2016 the families called for a lasting legacy to prevent other families having to go through what they suffered for more than 27 years.
The Bill codifies duties on public authorities and officials, and private entities that are public-facing such as owners of sports stadia, shopping malls or social housing, to act in the public interest and with candour.
If enacted, the law would require that officials would have to come clean about wrongdoing and failures and cooperate proactively with investigations, inquiries and inquests. The draft law provides victims and their families with a legal ‘toolbox’ to enforce such transparency, and new criminal offences would apply to senior managers who have wilfully failed to comply or covered up institutional and individual failures. The law requires institutions to have ethical policies and it would empower ordinary officials to require their organisations and managers to be transparent. The second part of the Bill provides for parity of provision for victims with the public authorities involved in inquests and inquiries.
The Bill was presented to Parliament on 29 March 2017 for its first reading and passed without opposition and with cross-party support. In recent years there has been parliamentary consensus on Hillsborough and the families made clear that the law could only be advanced with real cross-party support. Its formal sponsors included Andy Burnham MP, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Tim Farron MP, Caroline Lucas MP, the SNP and SDLP. The Bill was unable to proceed during the General Election.
The struggle of the Hillsborough families for truth and justice has been epic but it is not unique. The ongoing proceedings relating to the Birmingham Pub bombings, the Blood Contamination scandal and the Child Abuse Inquiry are all examples of where official failures have arisen and may have been covered up.
The recent appalling tragedy at Grenfell Tower once again highlights the urgent need for a law to ensure truth and justice prevail over institutional defensiveness and the culture of denial which has been displayed after too many disasters. The Hillsborough Law would require the public authorities – the Council, the Fire Authority, and Government –and the privatised management company, the architects, various building contractors and sub-contractors, to cooperate fully with the police, Coroner and other official inquiries. The proposed law would ensure full disclosure and proactive acceptance of wrongdoing and failures. It would also enable the families to challenge any lack of candour before relevant tribunals and courts and would ensure they had proper representation.
You stated in Parliament on 28 April 2016 that you were clear that the history of the Hillsborough disaster raised significant issues for the way that the state and its agencies deal with disasters. You also announced an inquiry by the Right Reverend James Jones, former Bishop of Liverpool, into the lessons that could be learned from the experience of the families. We are aware that the Bishop’s report will be published on 1st November.
The families of those who died in the Hillsborough disaster have now spent 28 years fighting not only for justice for their loved ones, but to ensure that no one else is treated in the way that they were. The families have all made it very clear that they strongly support the passage of the Bill and hope that it can be passed as soon as possible with support from all parties. The Bill has gathered widespread support across the country and it is not partisan. Many hope that you will support the Bill and will ensure that there is Government time for its passage. If you do so, it is clear that there would be a consensus in Parliament for a legacy which would mean that good could come from this historic tragedy.
We look forward to an early response.