Remember the fine old tradition of the British public inquiry? The fearless chairman, often a judge, who could never be sacked? The terms of reference, laid down in advance, that could never be altered? The publication of evidence, both oral and written, that the Government could never prevent?
All gone - thanks to the Inquiries Act 2005, passed a week ago while your back was turned. Forget about independent inquiries: ministers are now in control. The new legislation replaces the jumble of formal and informal inquiries into events such as Bloody Sunday, the death of Dr David Kelly, the Harold Shipman serial killings, the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and the collapse of Equitable Life. So, what difference will it make in practice?