Senior members highlight Public Inquiry problems to House of Lords Statutory Inquiries Committee

26 March 2024

Pete Weatherby KC and Anna Morris KC

Pete Weatherby KC and Anna Morris KC have identified four significant problems with Public Inquiry processes.

In their written evidence to the House of Lords Statutory Inquiries Committee, Pete and Anna pointed out that Public Inquiries:

  1. take too long,
  2. are far too expensive,
  3. result in recommendations which are not considered or implemented,
  4. do not properly respect the right of those most affected to participate effectively.

In terms of why these issues arise, Pete and Anna cited three underlying causes:

  1. A pervasive culture of institutional defensiveness, sometimes referred to as a culture of denial.
  2. An inability to recognise the importance of having those most affected embedded within the process.
  3. Weaknesses in the procedural processes to address the above.

By way of solutions, Pete and Anna highlight four measures which would substantially improve Public Inquiries and the related processes. They are:

  1. Codifying a ‘Duty of Candour’ with practical and effective compliance and enforcement mechanisms.
  2. Providing a process which supervises the expeditious consideration and implementation of recommendations from Inquiries, reviews and inquests (INQUEST terms this a National Oversight Mechanism).
  3. Provisions ensuring that those most affected are able to access representation related to that available to public authorities within the same process.
  4. Provisions which expressly require Inquiries and reviews to facilitate the effective participation of those most affected. For example, the right to consultation about scope, the nature and sufficiency of evidence to meet the terms of reference, and the right to question witnesses.

House of Lords Statutory Inquiries Committee Written Evidence of Pete Weatherby KC and Anna Morris KC

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