In Brief

Are public inquiries a waste of time and money?

Public inquiries have cost £639m since 1990 and in many cases their findings appear to have been ignored

Public inquiries have cost British taxpayers £639m over the past 30 years, but only a handful have ever been followed up to ensure their recommendations were implemented, a new report claims.

 The Institute for Government is arguing that ministers should considers quicker, cheaper options - and claiming that most of the money spent on the 68 public inquiries since 1990 was wasted.

As the hearing into the Grenfell Tower fire reopens, the think tank publishes a list of failures that have followed high-profile inquiries. The main recommendation made by the inquiry into the death of Baby P was introduced then swiftly scrapped. The Harold Shipman inquiry’s suggestions were only partly implemented - and the second half of the Leveson inquiry into press ethics was shelved.

Some, like the £13m, seven-year-long Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war “have actually been labelled useless”, says the Daily Express.

The report concludes that, while inquiries offered ministers, “the means quickly to relieve political pressure in difficult circumstances”, they are “not always the best method for examining a tragedy, disaster or scandals”.

The Insitute for Government suggests alternative means of inquiry, such as coroners’ inquests, royal commissions and independent panels. The independent panel which investigated the Hillsborough disaster was praised by the families of victims for getting to the truth and prompting apologies from then prime minister David Cameron, The Sun and the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police. 

Inquiries, by comparison, “can develop a life of their own and their remit needs to be kept tight”, says The Times. The paper cites the Bloody Sunday inquiry, which lasted more than 12 years and cost £192m, “and had particularly loose and wide-ranging terms of reference albeit focused on the events of one night”.

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