Lord Nolan of Brasted was born on September 10, 1928. He died on January 22,2007, aged 78.
A leading expert on ministerial ethics and standards of conduct, Lord Nolan became a household name when he was appointed chairman of the 10-man Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1994 at the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern. The inquiry — the first of its kind — was set up in response to disclosures about MPs taking cash in return for asking questions in the Commons.
Lord Nolan asserted his independence from the beginning when, almost immediately after hig appointment, he contradicted John Major's assurance that the committee would "probably sit in private" by declaring that he had always sat in public and would continue to do so.
The committee's first report, published in 1995, was greeted with shrieks of protest. It stated that MPs should declare their income from acting as parliamentary consultants and be banned from acting as paid agents for lobbying firms. It also called for an end to the selfregulation of MPs by the introduction of a new parliamentary commissioner to keep an eye on their conduct — a proposal opposed by Sir Edward Heath, who led the assault and called Nolan "unworldly".1\vo more reports later, Lord Nolan resigned from the position in 1997.
Michael Patrick Nolan, the son of a solicitor, was descended from Irish immigrants who fled the potato famine in the 1840s. He was brought up by his devout Catholic parents in Bexhillon-Sea, Sussex, and educated at Ampleforth. In an interview with this newspaper, he recalled: "It was a happy time, steeped in the pre-Vatican II mentality. Priests told you how to march left-right, left-right, it was dead simple. In its way it proved a good rule for life."
After serving in the Royal Artillery for two years following the Second World War, Lord Nolan read law at Wadham College, Oxford, where he was an Honorary Fellow from 1992. It was here that he met Margaret, the younger daughter of the poet Alfred Noyes, whom he married in 1953.
The same year he was called to the Bar by Middle Temple. Later. he explained his choice of tax law: "I was very short of money and briefs were hard to get".
Lord Nolan was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1968 and sat on the Queen's bench division of the High Court of Justice from 1982 to 1991. One of his most important judgments came in 1984 when he granted the National Coal Board two injunctions against the use of flying pickets by the National Union of Mine Workers. He was also Presiding Judge on the Western Circuit, commissioner of the 1985 Interception of Communications Act and a Lord Justice of Appeal. He was made a Life Peer and a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1994, was knighted in 1982 and became a Privy Counsellor in 1991.
His last assignment was in 2000, three years after he had reared from the bench. A deeply committed Catholic, Lord Nolan was asked by Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor to chair the Independent Committee on Review of Child Protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which was set up in response to a number of high-profile cases of paedophilia among clergy. A year's work on the inquiry produced 50 wide-ranging recommendations, including the setting up of a national child protection unit within the Church that would tighten the vetting procedure for clergy, lay staff and volunteers before they could take on new posts. The unit would also maintain a national database of information on all applicants for ordination to ensure that paedophiles could not find refuge in other dioceses.
A keen fisherman since his Ampleforth days, Lord Nolan kept llamas and enjoyed staying in his second home on the Cote d'Azure.