Leading article: Closed justice

The Government's dismal push for greater secrecy in public life trundles on. A backbench amendment that would have thrown out the Government's proposals for the replacement of open inquests with secret "inquiries" was narrowly defeated in the Commons yesterday evening.

Just as depressing as the result of the vote was the quality of the case made by the Government in favour of its bill. The only argument that the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, could muster to justify this alteration in our existing legal arrangements is the hypothetical danger of the intelligence-gathering techniques of the security services being exposed and thereby compromised in open inquests.

The truth is that such "national security" arguments are a smokescreen. This bill is all about sparing the police and the authorities from any embarrassment that might arise from open inquests and their independent-minded coroners.