The police watchdog has been given the names of more than 1,400 officers as it investigates South Yorkshire Police's role in the Hillsborough tragedy, MPs were told today.
Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) received the names from the force's top officer. Mr Vaz added: "The South Yorkshire chief constable wrote to me on Friday to say he sent a list of 1,444 names of former and serving officers of South Yorkshire to the IPCC. This is a huge number of names - more than we expected."
Ninety-six Liverpool FC fans died following the crush at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium in April 1989.
The "thorough and wide-ranging" IPCC probe will focus on "potential criminality and police misconduct in respect of police officers, both both serving and retired", Home Secretary Theresa May said.
She was opening a Commons debate on the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report, which last month revealed some fans could have survived if emergency services had responded sooner, and blamed police for an official cover-up designed to smear innocent supporters.
The Home Secretary said she would work with Labour to see if new laws were needed to compel former officers to co-operate with the IPCC, adding: "This includes proposals to require current and ex-police officers who were maybe witnesses to a crime to attend an interview, and whether this might require fast-track legislation."
Relatives of the 96 supporters killed were finally vindicated when the panel, led by the Bishop of Liverpool, cleared their loved ones of any blame for the disaster which happened as thousands of supporters tried to get into the Leppings Lane entrance of Sheffield Wednesday's ground for Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest.
Police statements, which had been altered by senior officers, accused Liverpool fans of arriving at the stadium drunk and without tickets, before defiling victims' corpses as the tragedy unfolded. Families who claimed there was an official cover-up were proved right by the bishop's report.
Mr Vaz called for a speedy IPCC investigation, saying: "The victims' families told the committee last week that, having waited 23 years, they do not want to face a long and drawn-out investigation process."
The Home Secretary told MPs it remained a decision for the courts whether the Hillsborough inquests would be reopened, despite the Attorney General confirming he is minded to make such a request. She said preparations were already under way to ensure any new inquests were conducted sensitively for the families. Mrs May said the Bishop of Liverpool had also agreed to a request to be her advisor on Hillsborough matters going forward.