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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Perjuring peer likely to keep safe seat
House of Lords
Archer will continue to sit... perhaps even when on parole
For the foreseeable future at least, Lord Archer will be absent from the red leather benches of the House of Lords. But what of his title as a peer?

Lord Archer is unlikely to lose his peerage as a result of his conviction, though the government could in theory pass a special Act of Parliament to strip him of his constitutional position.

A Labour MP has already tabled a private early day motion, calling for the noble Lord to become once again plain old Mr Archer.

"Anything is possible," says Joe Jacob, the London School of Economics expert on constitutional law. "But it is almost certain that Archer will simply go to prison and serve his sentence like anybody else."


A prison journey can be a positive experience

Fellow convicted Tory perjurer Jonathan Aitken

The writ of summons - the legal document conferring the peerage - "can not, on the face of it, be revoked," says Mr Jacob.

High Treason

Lord Archer will not be able to sit in the House while he is serving his sentence. But, Mr Jacob believes, he could take his place on the red leather benches if he is released early on parole.

Blunt
Anthony Blunt - stripped of knighthood
No peer has lost his or her title since 1917 when a number were accused of high treason - a capital offence in its own right - and thrown out of the House of Lords.

Sir Anthony Blunt was stripped of his knighthood when, in the early 1980s, it emerged he had spied for the USSR during the cold war.

The Wicked Earl

Other peers who have been found guilty of "ordinary" criminal acts in the last century have always been allowed to keep their peerages.

The most famous case is that of "Wicked" Earl Frank Russell - relative of the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the first hereditary peer to formally support the Labour Party - who in 1901 was convicted of bigamy

Archer in Lords
Lord Archer in the House of Lords
But despite a huge scandal and, at the same time, being found guilty by the whole House of Lords (at that time peers could opt to be tried by the House sitting as a court of law) his noble status was never in question.

You have to go back hundreds of years to find many cases of peers being thrown out of the house for convictions other than treason

In 1621 the philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon was charged with taking bribes, stripped of his title and peerage and fined 40,000.

A later generation decided that he had been framed and looked upon him as a hero who had been persecuted by political weaklings and jealous rivals.

But not even the fertile mind of Jeffrey Archer could imagine a similar happy ending this time.

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