FOLLOWING the simultaneous release this week of two reports on the July 7 bombings in London there were calls for a separate independent inquiry into the attacks. These calls were understandable but probably misguided. One of the reports came from the Home Office and the other from the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee; almost inevitably anyone affected personally by the bombings or involved in other ways will think that these complementary accounts of what happened are unsatisfactory since they do not nail down responsibility for the failure to anticipate the attacks. A full-scale independent inquiry with legal status would not necessarily do any better but it would take a long time and cost a great deal. Any conclusions it reached and recommendations it made would probably have been overtaken by developments during the time it was sitting. There is a pattern in inquiries into failures by government agencies. Those concerned say that “lessons have been learnt” and will be applied, yet somehow the next time round similar problems occur.
THERE seems to a need for some form of oversight which operates continously or can be brought into action at short notice. The Audit Office does good work of this kind and parliamentary Select Committees are also often effective.
Both could be usefully strengthened but it has to be recognised that there are special problems in such oversight when the security and intelligence services are involved.
Even so, some way of reducing the self-reinforcing character of these services is clearly desirable.