Comparing the political functions of independent commissions: The case of UK migrant integration policy

Alistair Hunter, Christina Boswell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


UK governments have frequently set up commissions to produce reports on complex policy problems, especially following “crisis” focusing events. Such commissions are ad hoc, limited in duration, and engage external actors in providing policy advice and expertise to governments. This problem-solving function is prominent in the literature: commissions are valued as a means of producing useful knowledge to inform policy responses. However, we believe that the problem-solving rationale does not adequately explain the decision to set up a commission, given the additional resources required, and the risk that governments take in allowing quasi-independent bodies to produce recommendations. Instead, we argue that the value of commissions may lie as much in their symbolic functions as their problem-solving ones: they are valued for their capacity to signal that governments are taking appropriate action to address policy problems. This article explores how important these different functions have been with regard to integration policies for migrants and ethnic minorities, comparing three commissions which reported since 2000: the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain (2000), the Community Cohesion Review Team (2001), and the Commission on Integration and Cohesion (2007).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-25
JournalJournal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice
Issue number1
Early online date6 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • independent commissions
  • problem-solving function
  • symbolic functions
  • migrant integration
  • community cohesion
  • United Kingdom


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