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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Patrick Edrich

Suella Braverman's parliament snub shows 'failure of respect' to Hillsborough families

The home secretary Suella Braverman showed a "devastating failure of responsibility and respect" after failing to attend a Hillsborough parliamentary debate.

West Derby MP Ian Byrne asked an Urgent Question in the Houses of Commons in response to yesterday's police apology for their role in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Leaders from the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs' Council responded to Right Reverend Bishop James Jones' 2017 Hillsborough Families Report by apologising for "police failures".

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, College of Policing CEO, and Martin Hewitt, National Police Chiefs' Council Chair (NPCC), said: "Ninety-seven men, women and children were unlawfully killed. Police failures were the main cause of the tragedy and police failures have continued to blight the lives of family members ever since."

READ MORE: Police apologise for Hillsborough failures and for 'blighting lives' of families

Ninety-seven football fans died as a result of a crush at a match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in April 1989. They were unlawfully killed amid a number of police errors, an inquest jury ruled in 2016.

The police are the first major public body to respond to Rt Revd Jones report - but the apology, on behalf of forces across England and Wales, is the first 34 years on from the disaster. Despite the police apology, the government still has not responded to the former bishop's report. Rt Revd Jones appeared on BBC Breakfast and said the lack of action from the government was "intolerable".

And today, Wednesday, February 1 Mr Byrne, who is a Hillsborough survivor, called on the government to respond to the 2017 report which was commissioned by the then prime minister Theresa May, Mr Byrne said the police apology was "far too little, far too late," and called on the government to implement a Hillsborough Law for "future generations".

Home Office minister Chris Philp said the government would engage with Hillsborough families, and added the government would try and respond to the 2017 report "this spring". Mr Philp fielded questions during the parliamentary session instead of home secretary Suella Braverman.

Mr Byrne's Urgent Question followed Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs), which Ms Braverman attended. She was seen leaving the chamber after the culmination of PMQs. Her absence from the Hillsborough discussion drew severe criticism from MPs.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Ms Braverman's absence showed a "devastating failure of responsibility and respect" to the Hillsborough families. She added: "Where is she today, because previous home secretaries have shown the respect to the families and to the appalling ways in which they have been wronged by being here to respond and it is a devastating failure of responsibility and respect to them not to be here to respond."

MPs from both benches spoke strongly about the 1989 disaster and the subsequent events. Two former Tory ministers, as well as former prime minister Theresa May, were highly critical of the government and the role it has played. Kevin Foster, MP for Torbay, said "the lies, smears and coverups were an absolute disgrace", while Sir Christopher Chope called on the government to stop "blocking" a bill.

A number of other Merseyside MPs, including Dan Carden, for Walton, Maria Eagle, for Garston and Halewood, Alison McGovern, for Wirral South, and Paula Barker, for Wavertree, spoke to support Mr Byrne - and shared their own experiences of supporting Hillsborough families.

The ECHO's coverage yesterday heard from Lou Brookes, whose brother Andrew died at Hillsborough. She said she did not accept the police apology as "it was just promises on a piece of paper". She added the wait "becomes more and more painful for the families" the longer the government fail to respond.

Speaking today in parliament, Mr Philp said: "The government are not blocking progress on the issue. But there is a process to go through to get cross-Government agreement on this. The MoJ (Ministry of Justice) are working on it and will respond as quickly as possible."

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