Senior Tory urges MPs to support Nolan over disclosure of earnings

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A prominent Tory yesterday urged colleagues to back the Nolan recommendations on disclosing MPs' outside earnings - with the proviso that the new regime should not begin until the start of the next Parliament.

Sir Teddy Taylor, a prominent rebel against the Government's European policy, backed full disclosure as government sources revealed that MPs would be given a free vote in next Monday's debate on the report being drawn up by a select committee under the chairmanship of Tony Newton, Leader of the House.

A free vote would significantly raise the chances of the House backing Lord Nolan's Committee on Standards in Public Life recommendation for full disclosure of annual income from outside interests, or disclosure within monetary bands - even if the select committee's report ends up, as was still being suggested yesterday, listing options from full disclosure to no disclosure rather than reaching a unanimous position.

Sir Teddy, MP for Southend East, said yesterday: "I have serious doubts about whether Nolan should have happened in the first place, but now it has we have got to go through with it and resolve it. We must not have the embarrassment of being seen to be against it."

Sir Teddy added that the new regime must also cover "directorships" because there were signs that lobbying firms were going to evade the Nolan-recommended ban on multi-client consultancies by arranging to have MPs made directors of companies.

But he said the new rules should come into effect only after the latest time that the next general election could take place. It would be unfair to change MPs' terms and conditions when they had no choice over whether to accept them.

The Conservative-dominated select committee will tonight reconvene to discuss a draft report drawn up by Mr Newton. A further meeting is scheduled for tomorrow if deadlock continues, but Mr Newton was said last night to be making intensive efforts to bring about a united front in the final version.

There were signs of panic in government ranks last week with the suggestion that 100 Conservative MPs would leave Parliament at the next election in protest at the changes.

That figure is thought by a number of MPs to be an exaggeration, while a number of Tories are expected to take a similar view to Sir Teddy.