THE House of Commons will hold its first full-scale debate on the Hillsborough tragedy next Monday.
It will also be the first in response to an e-petition after almost 140,000 people – 40,000 more than the qualifying number – backed calls for a parliamentary discussion on the grounds of clear public interest.
Walton MP Steve Rotheram then convinced the cross-party business committee the terms of the e-petition’s motion must be debated and, barring a last-minute government climbdown, voted upon.
The motion calls for all government documents pertaining to the disaster, including cabinet minutes and No 10 discussion papers, to be released in an “unredacted, unedited and uncensored form” to the Hillsborough families and the independent panel currently scrutinising unseen documents relating to the tragedy.
The government, which appealed in the high court against full disclosure, insists it has every intention of releasing all papers to the panel.
But ministers have kept a get-out clause which could allow them to invoke precedence curbs on cabinet minutes from the time when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.
Mr Rotheram believes his debate will put irresistible pressure on ministers.
He said: “It has taken 22 years, which is far too long, but at long last momentum is on our side.
“We need to ensure ministers fulfil their obligations because the families have been let down so many times previously.”
Mr Rotheram won the debate largely because 96 fellow MPs – the number was purely coincidental – backed his move.
They were from nine parties – the three mainstream ones and others from Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland parties – and included every Merseyside MP, former ministers, and those spanning both the left and right wing.
The debate will start at 7pm next Monday and will last three hours.
Unless the minister responding – most likely home secretary Theresa May – agrees to the motion, there will then be a Commons vote.
That is expected to be overwhelmingly behind the Hillsborough families because few MPs will want to be seen voting against.
Such a vote would mean, under parliamentary rules, the files could be released in full within a day or two – unless ministers try to appeal again.
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