Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Major urged to tighten rules on ministers

JOHN MAJOR has been urged to tighten up the code of conduct for ministers following the revelation that Norman Lamont, Chancellor of the Exchequer, received anonymous financial assistance to meet legal bills for the eviction of a tenant from his London house.

Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said yesterday: 'I have written to Mr Major asking him to agree that new rules be drawn up and to spell out his proposals.'

The Prime Minister's office said Mr Brown would receive a reply after Mr Major returned from the US today, although the code of conduct, Questions of Procedure for Ministers, was normally up- dated after a general election.

It was disclosed last month that Mr Lamont had received a secret Treasury contribution of pounds 4,700 to help meet legal bills following newspaper reports last year that he had unwittingly let his house to a sex therapist.

The remaining pounds 18,414 of his legal bills was met by anonymous Conservative Party supporters, and the Commons Select Committee on Members' Interests is considering a complaint that payment was not logged in the register of members' interests.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson-Smith, the committee's Conservative chairman, is drafting a response to that complaint. But even if it is decided that anonymous payments should in future be registered, Mr Lamont should escape censure.

Meanwhile, Dale Campbell- Savours, an Opposition agriculture spokesman, is threatening to make a complaint about John Gummer, Minister for Agriculture, over revelations that a meat company spent an estimated pounds 2,000 renovating a pond at Mr Gummer's Suffolk home for an agricultural exhibition. Mr Gummer has said that the exhibition left him out of pocket.