Public inquiry guidance

Public inquiries investigate issues of serious public concern, scrutinising past decisions and events. It is therefore crucial that information created or used during the course of an inquiry is managed to ensure its survival for future policy makers and researchers.

Without effective information management right from the start a public inquiry will struggle to run efficiently, justify its findings or provide a lasting record.

Public inquiries are conducted on behalf of the Crown, which therefore means that records created or given to the inquiry are public records as defined by the Public Records Act 1958. Those responsible for public records, including the chairman of a public inquiry, have a duty to make arrangements for the selection of those records which ought to be permanently preserved and for their safe-keeping. Under the Inquiry Rules 2006 it is also the responsibility of the chairman to ensure ‘the record of the inquiry is comprehensive and well-ordered’.

Good information management will:

  • provide accountability for inquiry findings
  • ensure inquiry staff can efficiently access and use information as necessary
  • support compliance with relevant legislation
  • help protect personal or sensitive information
  • facilitate the efficient selection and transfer of the inquiry record

Establish roles and responsibilities of the relevant parties.

Develop and implement an information management policy which covers principles for the management, review and transfer of the inquiry record.

Create effective records management processes that reflect the operation of the inquiry.

Technical considerations for information management in public inquiries.

Creating and maintaining the official public inquiry website The official public inquiry website will be a useful tool for sharing information and publishing reports or evidence.

Clarify copyright and ownership of information relating to the inquiry.

Selection of records for permanent preservation and disposal decisions.

Managing sensitive information and conducting a sensitivity review.

Prepare, catalogue and transfer selected records to the sponsoring department or The National Archives.

The National Archives recommends a number of activities to ensure good inquiry management