Nolan puts party funding on the agenda

Lord Nolan is encouraging the setting up of an inquiry into the funding of political parties, after the election.

Tony Blair, the Labour leader, has been pressing Lord Nolan, who is chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, to hold such an inquiry because of the mystery which surrounds the sources of Tory funding, particularly contributions from abroad. Now, in response to a letter from Brian Wilson, Labour's campaign manager, Lord Nolan has said that he would like to see such an inquiry set up once the election is over. He told Mr Wilson: "My own view is that party funding as a general issue is a subject that needs looking at."

The remit of the Nolan committee, set up in the wake of the cash-for- questions affair, does not generally extend to party funding and John Major has refused to sanction an inquiry. But it now appears that Labour may do so if it wins the election.Therefore, Lord Nolan suggests that the scope of the inquiry would have to be decided after the election. Brian Wilson said last night: "This intimation by Lord Nolan marks the beginning of the end for Tory funding from foreign sources. It is inconceivable that a system which allows huge anonymous donations from outside Britain can survive such scrutiny.