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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 11:27 GMT
Lord Archer set to keep his title
Lord Archer
Lord Archer is serving a four year jail sentence
Jailed peer Jeffrey Archer looks set to retain his title of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare for life, despite his convictions for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

On leaving prison, the best-selling novelist may even find he is entitled to all the benefits and privileges of a member of the House of Lords.

He is likely to be released from his four year jail term before parliamentary rules are changed to disqualify peers convicted of serious offences.

This is despite hints from Downing Street and Commons Leader Robin Cook, last summer, that Archer's case could prompt changes that would lead to him losing his peerage.

End anomaly

Phase two of the House of Lords reform is being discussed by MPs and peers this week. Results from consultation on the reforms' White Paper are set to be published at the end of this month.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said the consultation is expected to include a proposal that would allow a peer who has committed a serious offence to keep his title, but not to be allowed to sit in the Lords.

But because the process is taking so long, Lord Archer will probably be out of jail before it reaches the statute book.

Mr Cook has said he wants to end the anomaly whereby convicted criminals are barred from the Commons, but not the Lords.

It is possible that the Lords will adopt the Commons rules.

An alternative would be to give the Lords the power to disqualify peers who bring the House into disrepute, says The Daily Telegraph.

The last time a peer lost his title was in 1917 when the Titles Deprivation Act was applied to four people on grounds of treason.

A number of MPs had complained that - under current arrangements - Lord Archer would be allowed to return to the Upper House, as soon as he was released from jail.

An Old Bailey jury convicted Archer of two counts of perjury and two counts of perverting the course of justice in July, 2001.

Independent peer

Archer, who had sat in the House of Lords for the Conservatives, was expelled from the party in 1999 when the allegations that led to him being convicted first emerged.

He remained in the Lords as an independent.

The Old Bailey jury found that he had lied in his 1987 libel case against the Daily Star, which had printed a story claiming he had slept with a prostitute.

The newspaper, which had to pay 500,000 in damages at the time, has issued proceedings to get its money back plus interest - a total of 2.2m.

The News of the World newspaper will also be seeking about 300,000 from Archer for an out-of-court settlement and costs paid over the prostitute claims.

Archer, who was ordered to pay 175,000 costs within 12 months, was told by the judge he would have to serve at least half of his sentence.

The BBC's Elaine Parke
"There are increasing calls for his peerage to be revoked"



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See also:

22 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Cook indicates peer rule change
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