Leading article: Truth to power

Last week the House of Lords defeated an attempt by the Government to replace open inquests into controversial deaths with secret official "inquiries". This week we were given a graphic illustration of why it is so vital that inquests remain free from official interference and open to public scrutiny.

When 14 servicemen died after their Nimrod aircraft blew up in Afghanistan in 2006, the coroner investigating their death, Andrew Walker, drew attention to the scandalous condition and inadequate maintenance of this fleet of aircraft.

Though the Government at first denied the existence of a problem, yesterday's damning independent report into the accident by Charles Haddon-Cave QC confirmed just how right Mr Walker was to sound the alarm.

Voices like that of Mr Walker, which tell the authorities uncomfortable truths, are crucial in our democracy. They must, on no account, be silenced.