24/08/2011 15:55 BST | Updated 22/10/2011 06:12 BST

Hillsborough Files To Be Released, Promises Government

The Government has insisted it has no objection to the release of the Hillsborough files - confidential documents relating to the tragedy which took place in Sheffield more than 20 years ago. But the Cabinet Office says the papers need to be released in an orderly manner, with the relatives of the 96 people killed in the disaster seeing the files first.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said on Wednesday that the government wouldn't drop its appeal of the Information Commissioner's decision to order their release, even though the number of signatures on a government e-petition calling for confidential papers on the Hillsborough tragedy to be released has passed 100,000.

This is the level at which an e-petition will be passed to the Commons Backbench Business Committee, for possible consideration for debate by MPs.

96 Liverpool FC fans were killed in a crush at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium on the 15th of April 1989, a disaster which unfolded live on Saturday afternoon TV. Relatives of the dead and injured have been calling for the government to disclose exactly what conversations took place at the highest level of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet. Ministers have refused to do so, despite a ruling last month by the Information Commissioner for the files to be disclosed.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said on Wednesday evening: "The Government has confirmed its commitment to full transparency about the Hillsborough disaster through full public disclosure.

"All papers had previously been shared with the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The Government is happy for all the papers to be released as soon as the panel so decides, in consultation with the families.

"We expect them to be shared with the Hillsborough families first and then to the wider public."

The current government is in the process of appealing that decision by the Information Commissioner, and its decision to appeal was the trigger for the e-petition. The government says it's not opposed to releasing the files in principle, but wants the families of those killed in the crush that day to be the first to see findings of the long-running Hillsborough Independent Panel, which is sifting through thousands of documents.

It's the second e-petition to pass the critical 100,000 signature mark, the first being one calling on those involved in the recent riots in England to lose their benefits.

Campaigners will now have to wait a few weeks until Parliament returns from its summer holidays, when the new and increasingly influential Backbench Business Commiteee will consider whether or not to send these two e-petitions - and any others which pass the 100,000 mark in the meantime - to full debate on the floor of the Commons.