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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Inquiries under scrutiny
Lord Butler
Lord Butler is heading the investigation into WMD intelligence
The House of Commons public administration committee has announced an inquiry into 'Government by Inquiry'.

It will be taking evidence from various judicial and political luminaries, including Lord Hutton.

Governmental inquiries have become a feature of British public life.

Days after Lord Hutton reported in January Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced that former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler would head an inquiry into intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Opinion is divided on whether such inquiries help get to the truth, or whether they are a convenient way to kick a controversial issue into touch.

Full-scale inquiries can be very expensive. The bill for the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville - expected to report in 2005 - is likely to be 155 million.

Democratic Unionist MP Gregory Campbell described this cost as "obscene".

Opposition criticism

And the Butler Inquiry has already been the target of criticism.
Government by Inquiry hearings
13 May: Lord Hutton
25 May: The Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer
27 May: Former chancellor of the exchequer Lord Howe; Lord Norton of Louth; Professor Jeffrey Jowell
20 May: Former prime minister John Major

The Liberal Democrats refused to participate in the inquiry, saying its remit is too narrow. The Conservatives subsequently withdrew their support too.

On the other hand, inquiries have drawn attention to important issues which might otherwise have been neglected.

For example, the concept of "institutional racism" was given life by Sir William Macpherson's inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

The public administration committee inquiry into 'Government by Inquiry' will open with oral evidence from Lord Hutton on Thursday 13 May.

BBC Parliament will be broadcasting the first hearing of this new inquiry, with Lord Hutton on Thursday 13 May at 1000BST. Watch this space for broadcast details of subsequent hearings.

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