7/7and the public inquiry dilemma
Updated on 16 August 2007
Survivors and bereaved relatives of the 7/7 attacks have again called for a public inquiry, yesterday outlining the legal case under article 2 of the European Human Rights Act.
The government has consistently refused, arguing it will cost too much, it will take too long, it will only tell us what we already know. But this refusal has led to cynicism, a belief that somehow, someone is hiding something.
I recently reported that almost 60 per cent of British Muslims feel that the government hasn¿t told the truth about the bombings.
And of course, it's not just Muslims who question the official version of events.
An independent, public inquiry would go a long way to regaining trust. But how independent or public would it really be? You may imagine something like the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, or the report into the last foot and mouth outbreak or into the Harold Shipman case - the public were allowed to attend and journalists mostly free to report.
However, a month before the 7 July bombings, the government rushed through a new piece of legislation, the Inquiries Act 2005, which effectively means ministers are now in control of 'independent' inquiries.
The Act was quietly slipped in and didn¿t receive a great deal of attention at the time. The Home Secretary can now:
- decide whether there should be an inquiry
- set and amend its terms of reference
- appoint its members
- restrict public access to inquiries
- prevent the publication of evidence placed before an inquiry
The Act was introduced in response to the death of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, who was murdered in 1989 by loyalist paramilitaries. It is alleged that members of the security forces, and those responsible for them, colluded in his killing.
In April 2004, an independent report, commissioned by the UK and Irish governments, concluded that "only a public inquiry will suffice" in Patrick Finucane's case.
In response, the government created the Inquiries Act. It means, to the fury of Mr Finucane¿s family, that much of the inquiry will take place in private. Amnesty International has urged judges not to serve on any panel.
The 7/7 campaigners who went to the Home Office yesterday are aware of the potential impact of the legislation. But as survivor Rachel North explains, for now they just want a proper response from the government, after two long and painful years.
For more on the Inquiries Act, see: