Introduction to Public Inquiries

There have been around 40 major inquiries, mainly public inquiries, in the United Kingdom since 1990 covering subjects including health, transport and policing.

Lord Justice Clarke, in the Thames Safety report, identified “two purposes of a public inquiry, namely ascertaining the facts and learning lessons for the future.” Set up in the face of a failure by the government or an incident about which there is public concern, public inquiries “matter greatly to the public, especially those directly affected by the events under investigation.”

This section discusses the history and evolution of public inquiries, from the early commissions, through the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, to modern public inquiries held under the Inquiries Act 2005. It introduces some of the controversy which has surrounding the passing of the Inquiries Act.