Public inquiry

From Academic Kids

In the politics and government of Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, a public inquiry is an official review of events or actions ordered by the government. A public inquiry differs from more general inquiries or reviews in that evidence submitted to the inquiry is heard in a public environment. Interested members of the public and organisations may not only make (written) evidential submissions as is the case with most inquiries, but also listen to oral evidence given by other parties.

An inquiry is usually chaired by a well-known and well-respected member of the upper echelons of British society, such as judge, lord, professor or senior civil servant. The conclusions of the inquiry are delivered in the form of a written report, given first to Government, and soon after published to the public. The report will generally make recommendations to improve the quality of government or management of public organisations in the future.

Typical events for a public inquiry are those that cause multiple deaths, such as public transport crashes or mass murders.

Pressure groups and opposition parties are likely to ask for public inquiries for all manner of issues. The Government of the day typically only accedes to a fraction of these requests. Inquiries are requested not only for the genuine public good, but also in attempt to make the Government look bad - either by allowing the inquiry to go ahead and uncover mistakes by the Government or by making the Government refuse and leave the impression that they have something to hide. A public inquiry generally takes longer to report and costs more on account of its public nature. Thus when a government refuses a public inquiry on some topic, it is usually on these grounds.

Inquiries are governed under Section 1 of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act of 1921. The chair of the inquiry is mandated by Parliament to carry out the inquiry by a Warrant of Appointment. The terms of reference of the inquiry are given as part of that warrant.

List of selected British public inquiries

See also


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