MPs to produce Nolan report in six weeks

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The new 11-member select committee on the Nolan report will be approved next week in time for another full Commons debate on the report before Parliament rises for the summer.

The committee, with a 6-5 Tory majority and to be chaired by Tony Newton, the Leader of the Commons, has been charged with advising on how Lord Nolan's recommendations on the conduct of MPs "might be clarified and implemented".

Under terms agreed between Labour and the Government, the remit means that the committee, which is due to produce an interim report by 7 July, will have to consider the Nolan proposals for a new commissioner to investigate complaints against MPs and the requirement that they reveal outside income they earn as MPs. Both have provoked serious hostility among Tory backbenchers.

The full membership of the committee will be announced when the House returns froms its Whitsun break on 6 June, but there is no guarantee that the committee will reach conclusions on the most contentious issues before 7 July.

The Tory members of the committee are likely to press for it to deal with the least contentious issues first, fuelling possible criticisms that they intend to take longer about the most sensitive Nolan proposals for the Commons.

Nevertheless, Labour sources said they were satisfied that the remit for the committee - which will have the power to sit during the summer months if required - meant that its task was to consider implementation of the proposals - including the Nolan stipulation that action should be taken by November.

Despite Labour claims of a Government climbdown, Mr Newton insisted in the Commons that it had been Labour which had shifted its position, because the Opposition had now agreed to the same remit the Government had put to it as long ago as Tuesday.

Labour had initially said it would not agree to take part in the the committee unless it was clear that the Government intended it to examine whether, not how, the Nolan proposals on standards in public life should be implemented.

The select committee is certain to conduct its deliberations in private, but it has the power to call witnesses, which could include Lord Nolan and members of his committee. The remit for the committee says that it should consider the Nolan report ... "so far as it relates to the rules and procedures of this House; to advise on how its recommendations relating thereto might be clarified and implemented; and to recommend specific resolutions for decision by the House."

Labour Party sources pointed to a poll, undertaken last weekend during the furore over Nolan, which showed that support for the Conservatives had dropped to its lowest level - down from last month's 26 per cent to 22, with Labour on 58 and the Liberal Democrats on 16.

A Labour source said: "The Conservative Party has just dropped 4 per cent in the polls. The issue of Nolan was key in the fall in their support."