An analysis of legal and political influence on the form and nature of post-2005 public inquiries and their significance

Ireton, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-4106-1697, 2020. An analysis of legal and political influence on the form and nature of post-2005 public inquiries and their significance. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Abstract

Public inquiries are major instruments of accountability, convened to address matters of public concern. Every time a new inquiry is convened, decisions are made by government ministers and inquiry chairs to determine their form and nature, which in turn affect their independence, powers, subject matter, and openness to public scrutiny. This research is a systematic, library-based analysis of: witness evidence to the 2013-14 House of Lords Select Committee on the Inquiries Act on the law and practice of public inquiries, legislation, case law and other documentary sources to observe, in practice, what political and legal influence is being exerted on the form and nature of public inquiries, by whom, and to what effect. The research uses a mixed-method approach of inductive analysis and critical examination of secondary data; doctrinal legal research; and broader desk-based research.

The research found that attempts by parliamentary committees to reform the decisionmaking process have been largely unsuccessful, with successive governments rejecting attempts to restrict the power of the minister. The courts' involvement has been restricted to clarifying the legal requirements for an effective inquiry. There is a statutory framework for public inquiries. However, the research found that the form and nature of public inquiries has been evolving within and outside that statutory framework, not through legislative change, nor directly because of action through the courts, but through political pressure exerted at the level of individual inquiries, often due to conflicting expectations about the role of an inquiry. The research concludes that: this provides an arbitrary and inconsistent source of scrutiny; the conflicting expectations must be addressed; and the recent move towards greater formal consultation is welcome. It recommends that future reviews of the public inquiry process be addressed not only to government but more widely and urges greater public education to enhance wider public scrutiny.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Ireton, E.
Date: July 2020
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Law School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 10 Nov 2020 14:42
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2020 14:42
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/41583

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