Royal Commissions

Arguably the first Royal Commission was that set up to manage the Domesday Book.  A Commission is an ad-hoc public inquiry, drawing on experts, with terms of reference, often general and principled rather than specific, and with quasi- judicial powers. It was Harold Wilson who quipped that Commissions ‘take minutes and waste hours’ and they do usually take 2 to 3 years to report. Popular in Victorian times, looking at everything from Railway gauges to Public Schools, there were less used in the 20th century; albeit with big remits, such as capital punishment – and are now very rare, being replaced often by the much more specific public inquiry which always focus on an incident, rather than a general principle. This might be a shame – surely for some of the  big issues gathering the brightest and best to at least determine what the main issues are for society might very well be a good idea.