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


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

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Beverley James: Accounts Payable

£22,000 - £23,000: Beverley James: Are you looking for the opportunity to work...

Beverley James: Accounts Assistant

£30,000: Beverley James: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a person looki...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kanye West performs live at the Brit Awards 2015  

UK Grime is finally getting the recognition it deserves, but why has it taken so long?

Paul Gibbins

Jihadi John went to my university – so what?

James Tennent
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower