Nolan attacks secrecy

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The Independent Online

Westminster Correspondent

Whitehall is too secret and MPs do not have enough powers to keep a proper check on ministers, Lord Nolan, the senior judge appointed by the Prime Minister to review standards in public life, said yesterday.

In a nod towards growing pressure for an United States-style Freedom of Information Act - a demand that has intensified with the Scott arms- to-Iraq report - Lord Nolan said the US system allowed politicians to keep closer tabs on the government. "It is very difficult for the House of Commons to exercise the degree of supervision over the executive which can be achieved for example in the United States legislature," he said.

He used a speech to the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants at the Guildhall in London to hint that MPs' salaries should be raised, he said a review of MPs' pay and expenses was "too long overdue".

Lord Nolan sought to clarify a "misunderstanding" over his first report into standards in public life. He stressed that his report had not suggested MPs should have no paid outside interests, merely that there should be a ban on them being employed by firms which took part in parliamentary lobbying as a business activity.

His second report - into quangos and local spending bodies - is due out in May.