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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 February, 2005, 15:42 GMT
Major urges ban on 'dirty work'
John Major in Westminster on Wednesday
Mr Major says there has been "dirty work" over the ERM papers
There should a ban on using openness laws to dig up people's pasts ahead of elections, John Major has said.

The ex-premier told the BBC new laws were one-sided as they opened up papers about previous governments but protected current ministers.

Mr Major said: "A moratorium around election time to end some of these shenanigans would be appropriate".

The government is considering giving ex-ministers a new right to appeal against the publication of documents.

'No political football'

Lord Falconer, the Constitutional Affairs Secretary, has written to Conservative leader Michael Howard about the plan.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "I want people to see there's been a massive legal change since the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act.

"I do not want it to be a political football. I do not want the fuss about the way the political parties are using it to obliterate what it's really about."

The department does not see the need for Mr Major's idea of a pre-election moratorium, saying there was a "level playing field", with the laws able to used as much by politicians as anybody else.

'Dirty work'

Lord Falconer's proposed new guidelines include information former ministers as soon as there was request for documents about them to be published.

In the Commons on Thursday, Tory MPs claimed there was a difference in the speed with which documents about previous administrations were released and what happened to current government papers.

But Commons Leader Peter Hain denied the claims and said the release of papers relied on the advice of non-partisan civil servants.

Earlier, Mr Major complained of "dirty work" in the way newspapers had been falsely told that he had tried to block the publication of papers about Black Wednesday.

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