Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Retaining the royal

Back in May, the Law Commission recommended streamlining the current ad-hoc system used for public inquiries. One of the consequences of this streamlining would have been doing away with the archaic term of "Royal Commission". Today, the government introduced its Inquiries Bill, which largely adopts the law Commission's recommendations. Except, unfortunately, for the last bit:

The bill reforms and modernises the inquiries law and follows a Law Commission review. The new forms of inquiry would replace commissions of inquiry but Royal Commissions will be retained under the new law.

“Ministers considered the public perceived Royal Commissions to have greater gravitas than other types of inquiry,” Mr Barker said. “There are occasions where the appointment of a Royal Commission is necessary to provide assurance that a matter is being given serious, independent consideration.”

Because obviously, nothing gets serious, independent consideration unless done under the stamp of monarchy.

This is simply the colonial cringe in action. It is also pure spin. Royal commissions will differ from the new public inquiries only in name, but apparently we're meant to trust the latter more (and the former less) because of the presence or absence of the word "royal". Wouldn't it be better to instead look at the substance...?