Senior Labour figures are trying to distance the Government from three former Cabinet ministers facing "ghastly" sleaze allegations.
Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon have been suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) amid an angry backlash from colleagues.
The move followed claims they were prepared to take cash to influence Government policy. Labour backbencher Margaret Moran was also suspended.
The allegations arise from a Dispatches programme, screened by Channel 4 on Monday night, in which all four were secretly filmed discussing the possibility of working for what they thought was an American lobby company.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson led criticism of the trio as ministers sought to limit the damage from the affair to Labour's re-election efforts. "What is so ghastly about this is that somebody like Stephen Byers feels it necessary to make completely untrue, unfounded boasts to these people in order to get himself future business," he told BBC2's Newsnight. "It is extremely disappointing and it is very sad and rather grubby."
Senior Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell said Mr Byers had been "foolish". "He will feel extraordinarily contrite ... that he has put himself into such a foolish position," Sir Stuart told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "But that's a matter for him. What's important for the Labour Party is that we expect the highest standards and that we are going to fight this election on the issues."
Announcing the suspensions - pending further investigation - a Labour spokesman said the party expected "the highest standards of its representatives". But the Tories insisted there needed to be a full inquiry into what influence may have been exerted on ministers.
On Monday Downing Street said Gordon Brown was "satisfied" with the assurances by the permanent secretaries and saw "no need" for an inquiry. However, Tory chairman Eric Pickles said it was "outrageous" that Mr Brown ruled out an investigation before the programme had even been broadcast. He said: "This looks increasingly like a cover-up at the heart of Government."
Other MPs featured in the programme referred themselves to parliamentary watchdogs. Former Labour minister Baroness Morgan of Huyton said she was referring herself to the House of Lords' Sub-committee on Lords' Interests. And Conservative sources said that Tory MP John Butterfill had gone to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyon.
In the documentary Mr Byers described himself as a "cab for hire". He was seen apparently requesting £5,000-a-day and boasting how he had secured secret deals with ministers over a rail franchise contract and food labelling on behalf of private companies. Meanwhile, Ms Hewitt and Mr Hoon were filmed suggesting they would charge £3,000-a-day for their services. Both have since denied any wrongdoing and insisted they had not breached parliamentary rules.