A royal commission is a major ad-hoc formal public inquiry into a defined issue in some monarchies. They have been held in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Malaysia, Mauritius[1] and Saudi Arabia. In republics an equivalent entity may be termed a commission of inquiry.

Such an inquiry has considerable powers, typically equivalent or greater than those of a judge but restricted to the terms of reference for which it was created. These powers may include subpoenaing witnesses, taking evidence under oath and requesting documents.

The commission is created by the head of state (the sovereign, or their representative in the form of a governor-general or governor) on the advice of the government and formally appointed by letters patent. In practice—unlike lesser forms of inquiry—once a commission has started the government cannot stop it. Consequently, governments are usually very careful about framing the terms of reference and generally include in them a date by which the commission must finish.

Royal commissions are called to look into matters of great importance and usually controversy. These can be matters such as government structure, the treatment of minorities, events of considerable public concern or economic questions. Many royal commissions last many years and, often, a different government is left to respond to the findings.

Notable royal commissions


Royal commissions (sometimes called commissions of inquiry)[2] have been held in Australia at a federal level since 1902. Royal commissions appointed by the governor-general operate under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 passed by the Parliament of Australia in 1902.[3]

Royal commissions are the highest form of inquiry on matters of public importance. A royal commission is formally established by the governor-general on behalf of the Crown and on the advice of government ministers. The government decides the terms of reference, provides the funding and appoints the commissioners, who are selected on the basis of their independence and qualifications. They are never serving politicians.[3]

Royal commissions are usually chaired by one or more notable figures. Because of their quasi-judicial powers the commissioners are often retired or serving judges. They usually involve research into an issue, consultations with experts both within and outside government and public consultations as well. The warrant may grant immense investigatory powers, including summoning witnesses under oath, offering of indemnities, seizing of documents and other evidence (sometimes including those normally protected, such as classified information), holding hearings in camera if necessary and—in a few cases—compelling all government officials to aid in the execution of the commission. The results of royal commissions are published in reports, often massive, of findings containing policy recommendations.

Due to the verbose nature of the titles of these formal documents they are commonly known by the name of the commission's chair. For example, the “Royal Commission into whether there has been corrupt or criminal conduct by any Western Australian Police Officer” is known as the Kennedy Royal Commission.

While these reports are often quite influential, with the government enacting some or all recommendations into law, the work of some commissions have been almost completely ignored by the government. In other cases, where the commissioner has departed from the Warranted terms, the commission has been dissolved by a superior court.


Main article: List of Australian royal commissions

New South Wales

See also: List of New South Wales royal commissions


Main article: List of Queensland commissions of inquiry

South Australia

See also: List of South Australian royal commissions


See also: List of Victorian royal commissions

Western Australia

See also: List of Western Australian royal commissions

Northern Territory




Main article: List of Canadian royal commissions


See also: Presidential Commission of Inquiry

Hong Kong


Main article: Commission of Inquiry (India)



New Zealand

United Kingdom

This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2015)

See also


  1. ^ "1944 Commissions of Enquiry Act" (PDF). Government of Mauritius. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  2. ^ Laing, Rosemary (16 August 2016). "Letter from the Clerk of the Senate to Senator Peter Whish-Wilson: Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the Financial Sector" (PDF). Canberra: Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. "Royal Commissions and Commissions of Inquiry". aph.gov.au. Canberra: Parliament of Australia. (See also: Laing, 2016). Retrieved 2 August 2021. For more information on the establishment of such an inquiry as an alternative to a Royal Commission see the letter from the Clerk of the Senate...
  4. ^ "Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission". Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Have Your Say On The Mental Health Royal Commission". Premier of Victoria. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Home". rcvmhs.vic.gov.au. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  7. ^ "Report on Slave Trade CO 167/138 (1828)". UK National Archives. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  8. ^ "Report of the Fever Inquiry Commission (Mauritius), 1866 and 1867. Folio pp. 78, Mauritius, 1868". The British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review. 47 (93). NCBI: 134–135. 1871. PMC 5163407.
  9. ^ "List of commissions and officials: 1870-1879 (nos. 1-37)". British History. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  10. ^ Hooper, Charles. "Mauritius. Commission of Enquiry into Unrest on Sugar Estates in Mauritius, 1937". Government of Mauritius. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  11. ^ Moody, Sydney. "Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Disturbances Which Occurred in the North of Mauritius in 1943". Government of Mauritius. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  12. ^ Matthur, Raj. "Party Cooperation & Electoral System in Mauritius" (PDF). Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  13. ^ Trustram-Eve. "Trustram-Eve Commission report". UK Government. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  14. ^ Balogh, T. (1963). Commission of Inquiry Sugar Industry, 1962. Sessional paper. Government of Mauritius. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  15. ^ Banwell, Sir Harold (1966). Report of the Banwell Commission on the Electoral System. [Gt. Brit. Colonial Office] Colonial reports. British Government. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Banwell Commission". EISA. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  17. ^ Prayag, Touria. "Wrangling over a commission of enquiry" (PDF). L'Express Weekly. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
  18. ^ "A quoi servent les commissions d'enquête?". L'Express. 28 February 2020. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  19. ^ "Report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Sugar Industry (1984)". Government of Mauritius. 1984. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  20. ^ "Findings of the Commission of Enquiry on Drugs (Commission Rault, 1987)". Government of Mauritius. 1987. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  21. ^ Young, Mark. "The Helderberg disaster: Was this the cause of the crash?". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  22. ^ "Labour and the Truth and Justice Commission". Le Mauricien. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  23. ^ "Truth and Justice Commission report" (PDF). TJC. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  24. ^ "Government Launches Inquiry Into Racing". Sporting Post. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  25. ^ "Communiqué - Commission of Inquiry". Mauritius Turf Club (MTC). Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  26. ^ Varma, Yatin. "The Task Force on drugs: a gimmick". Le Mauricien. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
  27. ^ Allybocus, Fairyal (5 July 2019). "Justice system: Was the "commission d'enquête" on the sale of Britam really intent on finding the truth?". L'Express. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  28. ^ "BAI: Sattar Hajee Abdoula et Imrith Ramtohul nommés assesseurs de la commission d'enquête sur Britam". L'Express. 9 April 2017. Retrieved 9 April 2017.
  29. ^ "Commission of Inquiry on the violation of the Constitution and any other laws". Government of Mauritius. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  30. ^ Bhuckory, Kamlesh (16 March 2018). "Mauritian Premier Says Inquiry Ordered by President Is Illegal". Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Commissions of inquiry, 1909–2011 – Commissions of inquiry – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  32. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 27 June 2009.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ "Report of the Royal Commission to inquire into the Crash on Mount Erebus, Antarctica of a DC10 Aircraft operated by Air New Zealand Limited Introduction and Prologue" (PDF). 1981. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  34. ^ "Royal Commission into the Pike River Mine Tragedy - pikeriver.royalcommission.govt.nz". pikeriver.royalcommission.govt.nz. Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  35. ^ Hartevelt, John (29 November 2010). "Pike River disaster inquiry announced". Stuff.co.nz. APN. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
  36. ^ "Royal Commission of Inquiry into Building Failure Caused by the Canterbury Earthquakes - Royal Commission of Inquiry into Building Failure Caused by the Canterbury Earthquakes". canterbury.royalcommission.govt.nz. Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  37. ^ "Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care". New Zealand Government of Internal Affairs. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  38. ^ "Home". Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Attack on Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019. 21 December 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  39. ^ "Royal commission to investigate terror attacks in NZ". The Nation. Retrieved 27 March 2019.
  40. ^ A copy of the Report of the Commission is available at: http://eppi.dippam.ac.uk/documents/9883/eppi_pages/217631 (accessed 18/11/2012)
  41. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "List of commissions and officials: 1840-1849 (nos. 29-52)". Institute of Historical Research/University of London. 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "List of commissions and officials: 1850-1859 (nos. 53-94)". Institute of Historical Research/University of London. 2019. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  43. ^ "The 1870 Education Act". UK Parliament. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  44. ^ The Times, 22 November 1904, Index p. 7
  45. ^ Wood, John Carter (2012). "Press, Politics and the 'Police and Public' Debates in Late 1920s Britain". Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies. 16 (1): 78. ISSN 1422-0857. Retrieved 23 August 2020.