Background to the report

After an event which gives rise to public concern the government may decide to hold an inquiry. Inquiries can fulfil multiple purposes including: establishing the facts, determining accountability, learning lessons and making recommendations. Inquiries are intended to be independent of government. However, they are funded by government and are accountable to Parliament for their expenditure. The government has spent more than £200 million on the 26 inquiries we have identified that have been established and reported since 2005. We identified 11 ongoing inquiries and, while we did not focus on those inquiries that have yet to conclude, the findings may be equally relevant.

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Content and scope of the report

Given the prevalence of inquiries, the frequency with which the government uses them following high-profile failures, their importance in relation to the public’s trust of authorities, and the public funds spent on them, we have conducted an investigation focusing on 10 of the 26 statutory and non-statutory inquiries that have started and concluded since 2005. This sample equates to two inquiries by those government departments that have sponsored the most inquiries during this period (Cabinet Office, Department of Health & Social Care, Home Office, Ministry of Defence, and Ministry of Justice). We also undertook a more detailed examination of one inquiry sponsored by each of these departments.

The report examines:

  • what framework exists for establishing and managing government inquiries;
  • the cost, duration and scale of inquiries established since 2005; and
  • how inquiries are managed in practice.


Publication details

Press release

View press release (23 May 2018)

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