Public Administration Select Committee: Press Notice

Friday 30 May 2008


In a report published today, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) calls for a new procedure for Parliament to initiate and conduct inquiries into major issues such as the Iraq war. PASC says that Parliament should not have to wait for the Government to set up an inquiry-particularly where Ministers are reluctant to do so-and suggests instead a mechanism for Parliament to establish its own ‘Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry’.

PASC recommends that Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry should be created as necessary to investigate significant issues of public concern. Such inquiries would be composed of parliamentarians and others, and would be reserved for only the most exceptional matters. PASC says that asserting Parliament’s ability to set up its own wide-ranging inquiries is extremely important in constitutional terms because it would allow Parliament to hold the Executive to account more effectively.

In its report, PASC explores the example of recent calls for an early inquiry into the Iraq war. The Government has so far been unwilling to set up an inquiry into Iraq, despite conceding that it will eventually need to hold one. Neither has Parliament succeeded in establishing a full investigation. PASC’s proposal for Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry provides a possible mechanism through which Parliament could, in future, conduct inquiries into issues such as Iraq.

Committee Chairman Tony Wright MP said: “Parliament should be able to initiate inquiries into serious issues of public concern, such as Iraq-especially in cases where the Government is reluctant to set up its own inquiry. This is what the public, rightly, expects Parliament to do.”

“We have proposed a process for establishing a parliamentary inquiry where there is the need for one, through the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry. This would be a crucial addition to our constitutional arrangements, and one which would help ensure that Parliament really can hold the Executive to account for its actions. It is now up to Parliament to take the initiative.”


1. The report published today follows up an earlier report of the Committee, Government by Inquiry, First Report of  Session 2004-05, HC 51-I.


Committee Membership: Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Charles Walker (Con) (Broxbourne), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

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