After casting doubts about his loyalty to Labour, Taito Phillip Field yesterday appeared to affirm his commitment to the party in Parliament.

But Helen Clark was forced to admit that, 265 days after she gave Auckland QC Noel Ingram nine working days to complete a report into his alleged conflicts of interest, she couldn't say when it would arrive.

In September she asked Dr Ingram, QC, to investigate if Mr Field had breached the Cabinet manual by asking a ministerial colleague to grant a work permit to a Thai overstayer who tiled his house in Samoa.

The inquiry was later extended to cover other allegations and, under a cloud, Mr Field was not re-appointed to the associate ministership position he held before the election. Mr Field and his lawyers saw a draft report some time ago and have requested changes to the final version.

Mr Field has declared his innocence and indicated he expects to be returned as an associate minister when cleared. In recent weeks he has refused to commit to Labour, first in an interview with the Herald when he also refused to rule out standing as an independent; and then outside a Labour caucus meeting in Wellington last week. The Herald was told he has spoken to colleagues of a byelection.

Helen Clark has tried to play down the issue, saying she is in regular contact with Mr Field, whom colleagues believe has been largely exercising leverage.

In Parliament yesterday, National MP Lockwood Smith asked if Helen Clark's "maintenance of regular contact with Taito Phillip Field led her to stand by her statement of 14 September last year: "I think the only thing he is probably guilty of is trying to be helpful to someone; if not, why not?"

She replied: "Indeed I think he was, but I am awaiting a full report."

Dr Smith was prevented by Speaker Margaret Wilson from asking the Prime Minister about the MP's commitment to Labour.

Ms Wilson said it was a party, not a ministerial issue - the subjects of Parliamentary question time. Annoyed, Dr Smith then used parliamentary privilege to ask whether "during her regular contact with Taito Phillip Field, did he discuss with her the reasons that the Asian crime unit may have been investigating his activities?" Helen Clark said her contact with the MP was as leader of the party. "I have responsibility here only as Prime Minister."

At that point New Zealand First leader Winston Peters intervened, arguing Dr Smith could not make such a serious allegation without "some proof or documentary evidence".

This prompted Mr Field to give a personal explanation. "The only thing I am guilty of is to go overboard, or to go the extra mile, to help people who came to me in a desperate situation."

He then went on to discuss the second time he refused to commit to Labour, appearing this time to be reaffirming his loyalty.

"I want to make it quite clear that my statements to the media last week, in relation to the question the reporter asked me about my future, meant that I do not have a crystal ball.

"All I said, in response to that question, was that only God knows the future, and the reporter should ask Him. If the member wants to make something out of that in relation to my loyalty to the Labour Party, then he is going down the wrong track."

Dr Smith refused to repeat his comments on the "Asian crime unit" or to discuss them outside the House.

The mandate:

The inquiry into Taito Phillip Field was supposed to take 9 days. But 265 days later, the report is still not finished.

Other inquiries:

State Services Commission into Telecom unbundling leak - 12 days.

Police inquiry into Paintergate painting by Helen Clark - 2 months.

Auditor General inquiry into Housing NZ hush money - 2 months.

Police inquiry into David Benson-Pope tennis ball incident - 6 months.

Companies Office inquiry into David Parker document filing - 1 month.