New policing powers to investigate Hillsborough

96 people died in the disaster Photo: Press Association

New laws giving extra powers to the police watchdog investigating the Hillsborough disaster and cover-up are set to become law after clearing Parliament tonight.

The legislation was passed by MPs last week and tonight it was agreed by the House of Lords following a fast-track procedure.

Ministers say the new powers are essential to remedy the injustice, uncovered by the Hillsborough Independent Panel report published earlier this year, suffered by the victims of the 1989 disaster.

The actions of up to 2,400 serving or retired officers could be considered by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation - the watchdog's biggest ever inquiry.

The Police (Complaints and Conduct) Bill, which has cross-party support, will enable the IPCC to compel serving officers or staff on other police bodies to attend an interview.

It will also have the ability to reinvestigate matters already considered by its predecessor, the Police Complaints Authority, in "exceptional circumstances".

The Bill before the House today is essential to achieve justice for the 96 innocent men, women and children who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster.

This short Bill provides the IPCC with the tools it needs to and marks one step further along the road to justice for the victims of Hillsborough. All who support this aim will, I'm sure, support this Bill.

– Lord Taylor of Holbeach

For Labour, Baroness Smith of Basildon said the tragedy had been compounded and amplified by the later cover-up and altering of statements taken by the police about what happened on the day of the disaster.

Lady Smith said the quest for justice had been "hard fought" but due to the tenacity and dedication of the bereaved families, the "truth will out".

Too many "barriers, lies and obstructions" had been placed in the way of the truth. Backing the Bill, she said: "We are now at the point where the truth is _emerging and justice can prevail."_

Independent crossbencher Lord Alton of Liverpool, who was Lib Dem MP for Liverpool Mossley Hill at the time of the tragedy, also welcomed the Bill.

Lord Alton said it had given significant comfort to those affected that Parliament had at last recognised the "terrible tragedy was compounded by injustice and falsification".

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, who chaired the panel and advises the Home Secretary on Hillsborough-related matters, said that despite previous inquiries, the families of those involved in the tragedy felt the truth had never been told.

He paid tribute to the "strength, dignity, fortitude and persistence" of the families in pursuing the truth.

The Bishop said the panel found the fans were not the cause of the disaster.

The seeds of the disaster were sown as early as 1981 when warnings went unheeded.

The disaster should never, ever, have happened.

Justice for me is making sure that the various investigations that are now taking place 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 given the opportunity to respond in a proper manner.

– Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones

He said the "journey to justice" must not now be a "long and winding road".

The panel's work was complete and "we owe it to the memory of the 96 to ensure that the next stage is done in a just and timely manner".

Tory Lord Wasserman, David Cameron's policing adviser, said he was not prepared to pass judgment on the actions of police officers during the course of the day's "horrendous" events but was "shocked" by allegations about how they had lied and covered up the truth subsequently.

He questioned why the reputation of the British police force for integrity and professionalism had taken such a knock in the last year or so.

I fear the explanation lies with the behaviour of some of our police leaders themselves.

No one who has even had the slightest interest in the work of the independent panel can fail to be shocked by the behaviour of our police leaders in the aftermath of that event.

– Lord Wasserman, David Cameron's policing adviser

Lord Dear, the former chief constable of West Midlands Police who led the initial investigation into Hillsborough, said the truth had first become public with the publication of Lord Justice Taylor's report three and a half months after the tragedy.

Referring to the independent panel's report, he said: "Some of the language used by the Prime Minister and others that this has finally brought justice ought to reflect on the fact that Lord Justice Taylor got to the truth 23 years earlier."

Lord Blair of Boughton, a former head of the Metropolitan Police and a crossbench peer, said he "fully" supported the Bill, but said police officers needed to believe its provisions were "fair".