Public inquiry guidance

Records management in public inquiries

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.

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

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'.

The information management consultants at The National Archives can provide advice on how to manage records of a public inquiry. For further information, or to request a meeting with us, please email: information.management@nationalarchives.gsi.gov.uk