Kicked into the long grass: the cost of public inquiries


Public inquiries are a way to scrutinise serious events that have occurred and hold people and organisations to account on a large range of issues. While important in certain circumstances, inquiries are sometimes seen as a way for politicians to avoid tricky issues. Public inquiries have become common in modern politics, reaching a peak in 2010 when 16 were running concurrently, with ten active five years ago.[1]

While public inquiries can be thorough, they are typically slow moving and take many years to complete. Some, like the Iraq Inquiry, took almost seven years to complete. Other options, such as public inquests – which typically take less than a year – could result in faster outcomes and save the taxpayer both time and money. Public inquiries should be decisive as well as thorough, and must not become the default option for politicians to kick issues into the long grass.

Click here to read the research paper.

Key findings

Between April 2015 and June 2020:

  • Three government departments spent a total of £300,534,887 on public inquiries.

  • The Home Office spent £192,675,737 alone over the five-year period.

  • The government currently has eight ongoing public inquiries.[2] Three of these have been running for more than five years.

  • The inquiry that spent the largest amount was the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, spending £143,505,910. The inquiry is now overrunning by at least a year.[3]

  • The three ongoing public inquiries which have been running for over five years[4] have each cost over £14 million.

Click here to read the research paper.

[1] Institute for Government, Number of concurrent public inquiries by month, 1990-2017, 2020,, (accessed 16 October 2020).

[2] The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Infected Blood Inquiry, Undercover Policing Inquiry, Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Inquiry, The Paterson Inquiry, Brook House Inquiry, and Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Inquiry.

[3] BBC, How does the inquiry into historical child sexual abuse work?, 6 October 2020,, (accessed 20 October 2020).

[4] The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Undercover Policing Inquiry, and Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Inquiry

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.  More info. Okay