Tories fall out over MPs' cash

Some of the Tory party's highest-earning MPs were under attack from their colleagues last night for refusing to disclose all of their outside income in the new Register of Members' Interests published yesterday.

MPs who had fully declared their outside income yesterday - a total of pounds 3.2m - privately expressed their bitterness about senior colleagues who had not disclosed everything they earned in addition to their parliamentary salaries.

"I feel very bitter about those who haven't declared fully. The big-hitters are avoiding declaring," said one backbencher. He also blamed John Major for "getting us into this mess".

A number of Tory MPs, including former Cabinet members David Mellor, Douglas Hurd, Kenneth Baker and Norman Lamont, and former prime minister Sir Edward Heath, have not declared on the vast majority of their outside income, arguing that it is not related to their role as MPs.

The new register reveals differences over the interpretation of the new rules, brought in after the Nolan report into standards in public life. As a result the highest outside earnings declared yesterday were those of Roy Hattersley, Labour's former deputy leader, with a possible maximum of pounds 110,000 last year. Mr Hattersley said he had conformed to the spirit of the agreement and regretted that others had not. Sir Gordon Downey, the standards commissioner, admitted that members had had difficulty interpreting the rules but he said it was up to the Commons "to judge whether the information provided matches that intended under the resolution".

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