So we are to be treated to yet another Government-called independent inquiry.

This time it is the debacle of the 15 British service personnel captured, imprisoned, paraded and then released by the Iranians that is to get the impartial probe treatment.

Defence Secretary Des Browne announced the inquiry and quickly followed it with another independent investigation – this time into the farcical decision to allow the 15 captives to sell their exclusive stories to the media and then the even more hasty back-track.

Marvellous. You wait months and months for the Government to announce an independent inquiry and then two come along at once – over the same issue.

Yet, although Mr Blair’s administration has been rather swift to get these two probes up and running, it has been far less enthusiastic about giving the green light to independent inquiries on a whole host of other issues.

From the on-going trouble and strife at the Home Office and the failure to track foreign prisoners, to the serious budget crisis affecting so many of our hospitals and on through many other, equally contentious issues, the Government has proved itself increasingly adept at swatting away calls for independent inquiries.

Of course, there is a school of thought to suggest that we actually need fewer inquiries and a lot more cohesive and decisive policy-making. The problem is that it tends to be the lack of coherence and decisiveness that leads us to this type of situation in the first place.

So inevitably we just go around and around and nobody is really any the wiser when the dust finally settles and someone attempts to give answers to questions.

Perhaps that is why the Defence Secretary and the rest of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister, is so keen to deflect the mounting criticism and the increasing number of tricky questions surrounding the case of the 15 captured crew?

They have a ready-made get out clause to all those questions and criticism – they cannot influence the outcome of the independent inquiry, so they cannot answer that question or address that particular issue. These things need to be seen to be totally impartial, after all.

How many times have we seen this shambolic but ultimately highly effective approach in the past? It isn’t just Mr Blair that is to blame, he just picked up on a nifty trick perfected by the Conservatives during the 1980s and 90s.

The independent inquiries announced today are also likely to take the heat off the Defence Secretary a little too.

It has not been a good month for Des Browne. He can probably thank the imminent departure of Tony Blair and the reluctance to impose a last-minute Cabinet reshuffle ahead of the assumed coronation of Gordon Brown as party leader and Prime Minister in waiting on the fact that he has not been required to fall on his sword straight away.

Mr Browne has apologised for making mistakes, which is a bit unusual for any politician in the firing line.

But the truth is, Mr Browne’s departure from the Cabinet has probably only been delayed until Mr Blair’s successor is named and the new leader can make new appointments to the key jobs.

So we are denied the spectacle of a Cabinet member’s resignation, but at least we have the findings of not one, but two independent inquiries to look forward.

I can’t wait.


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