Leading article: A question of trust, and the need for a public inquiry

Share

There are many reasons why governments hold public inquiries: to establish what really happened when the circumstances are murky; to stem public disquiet; to foster confidence in the institutions of power, and - most important of all, perhaps - to chart lessons for the future. The London bombings of 7 July would seem to meet all these criteria amply.

It just so happens that these bombings also constituted the worst ever terrorist attack in Britain. Here was a horrific and highly disruptive episode in the life of this country. Fifty-two people were killed; dozens were injured. Public confidence in the security of the capital and the safety of public transport was undermined. Community relations were impaired - though, thankfully, not as catastrophically as might have been feared. And while much about the bombings and their aftermath is now known, a great deal is not.

Yet after suggesting that it was considering a public inquiry, the Government has now decided against. The Home Office broke the news earlier this week, softly, softly, saying that a "narrative" of events would be compiled by a senior civil servant and presented to Parliament instead. Tony Blair defended the decision to unhappy opposition MPs at Prime Minister's Questions, saying that it was already known "essentially" what happened on 7 July and that an inquiry would divert "a massive amount of police and security service time".

Then, yesterday, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, added his two ha'porth. The police, he said, were "flat out" continuing the criminal inquiry into the bombings and trying to prevent further attacks. He described the "narrative" idea as a good compromise, but added that it would have to try to answer some of the questions people had raised.

Which implicitly makes the point that all those calling for a public inquiry have argued all along. The Prime Minister may be satisfied that what happened on 7 July is "essentially" known, but very many other people are not. Sir Ian mentioned two specific questions that have not, as yet, been answered: did the authorities know anything about plans for the attacks in advance, and was there - given the explosives found in a car at Luton station - a fifth bomber?

There are, of course, plenty of other questions. Why was it stated so quickly and confidently that none of the four suicide bombers was known to the security services, when it later emerged that the presumed ringleader had been the subject of an investigation? Was the lack of intelligence as abysmal as it appears to have been and, if it was, was this because of a shortage of funds or poor direction or both - and what has been done to address this? And why was Britain's state of alert downgraded a month before the attacks?

The response of the emergency services - and of the public caught up in the attacks - was, by all accounts, admirable. But reports spoke of a problem with some communications equipment and there was confusion about which agency had the authority to block mobile phone signals. Individual and collective resourcefulness is something to take pride in, but there must also be lessons to be learnt. It is simply no good for the Met to say that its officers are too hard-pressed to take part.

A public inquiry would be the most appropriate forum for all aspects of 7 July to be considered. But it is essential for another reason, too. Anything that is kept within the government machine will inevitably be tarnished by memories of the assurances we were given about Iraq's weapons and all that emerged about Mr Blair's style of government from the Hutton and Butler inquiries. Trust is this government's Achilles heel. Only a full public inquiry will carry conviction.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Market Administrator (1st line Support, Bloomberg, Broker)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Market Administrator (1st line Support, Trade Fl...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

Data Support Analyst (Linux, Solaris, Windows Server, Reuters)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Data Support Analyst (Linux, Solaris, Windows Se...

Helpdesk Support Engineer (Windows, MS Office, Exchange)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Helpdesk Support Engineer (Windows, MS Office, E...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition