Chief Political Correspondent
A Labour MP last night threatened to block the establishment of the committee to recommend tougher rules on MPs' outside earnings, because he fears its Labour members will be too conciliatory to the Tories.
Brian Sedgemore, who is well-known for his anti- Establishment views, has objected to his party's front bench proposing senior backbench figures for the committee to implement the proposals by Lord Nolan. He said several Labour backbench colleagues were also ready to protest.
Unless he drops his opposition, it could force the Labour leadership into an embarrassing vote on the composition of the committee against backbench Labour rebels.
Government sources said they would be prepared to force a vote to overcome Mr Sedgemore's opposition. The MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch said."I think Labour should be putting forward New Labour people. What we have got is not so much Old Labour but Neanderthal Labour. These are forgotten characters,"
The Labour names including John Morris QC and Stan Orme, former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, were drawn up at a private meeting between Tony Blair, the Labour leader, John Prescott, his deputy, Ann Taylor, the shadow Leader of the House, and Derek Foster, the chief whip.
Mr Sedgemore said the Labour front bench team angered some Labour MPs by rejecting prominent backbench campaigners to clean up the Commons, including Dale Campbell-Savours. Mr Sedgemore yesterday tabled an amendment to the committee to replace a senior Tory backbencher, Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, with Mr Campbell-Savours. "There was a blazing row about the members selected. We fear there is going to be some unholy compromise between the two front benches,'' Mr Sedgemore said.
Lord Nolan recommended that MPs should declare earnings from outside in bands of pounds 5,000 a year, starting at pounds 1,000. Mr Sedgemore said he believed the Tories might seek to double the threshhold to pounds 10,000 to avoid many MPs with consultancies having to declare.
The Labour front bench agreed to the committee after a row over its terms of reference. Labour insisted it should implement the Nolan committee report, and not be used to delay tougher rules on MPs' earnings. It will comprise six Tories, four Labour MPs and one Liberal Democrat.
giving the Tories a one-vote majority.