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What is a public inquiry?

Public inquiry

Any public hearing into an issue of local or national importance, usually with the power either to make recommendations to higher authority or to issue binding rulings. Such inquiries do not assemble themselves but are 'called', usually by government ministers or public officials.

Where have you heard about public inquiries?

You may have been invited to give your views when a public inquiry has been convened into some issue affecting your local area. You may have been called as a witness to an inquiry or have sat on the panel of one. Major recent national public inquiries include the Levenson inquiry into press ethics and the Iraq inquiry to identify lessons to be learnt from the Iraq War.

What you need to know about public inquiries.

Public inquiries hit the headlines when they probe disasters such as transport accidents. Those that impact particularly on the world of finance and investment include inquiries into proposed infrastructure projects, such as a new road or airport; those probing major financial events such as the crisis of 2008; inquiries into aspects of the tax and regulatory system; those relating to the functioning of financial markets and inquiries into the work of certain national institutions such as the finance ministry or the central bank. In some jurisdictions, public inquiries may be led by a judge, in others by a public official.

Find out more about public inquiries.

To learn more about the context with which public inquiries function, see our definition of public sector.

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