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Monday, 22 November, 1999, 18:15 GMT
First test for ethics panel
William Hague: Set up ethics committee in 1998

The decision to refer two aspects of the Lord Archer affair before the Tories' ethics and integrity committee has already been described as shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Critics inside and outside the party had urged William Hague to take the step before the first selection round. But he refused.

In fact, the Archer inquiry will be the first test for the ethics panel created by Mr Hague after the 1997 election defeat, in which allegations of Tory sleaze played a major part.

Archie Hamilton: One of three panel members
Mr Hague created the committee in April 1998.

The three-member committee possesses extensive disciplinary powers, but apparently lacks any power to intervene unless specific allegations are placed before it.

When he revealed that it would consider Lord Archer's promise that nothing else from his past would emerge to embarrass the party and his false alibi during a libel case, party chairman Michael Ancram confirmed it could recommend the peer's expulsion from the party.

Elizabeth Appleby, a QC and deputy High Court judge who led a two-year inquiry into corruption and mismanagement in Lambeth council in the early 1990s, heads the committee.

She is joined by Archie Hamilton, chairman of the influential backbench 1922 Committee and Robin Hodgson, chairman of the national convention.

But challenged on why the committee had not considered the various questions over Lord Archer's suitability to be the party's mayoral candidate before he was forced to quit in disgrace, Mr Ancram insisted this was not its role.

"It is not a vetting committee, it was never set up as a vetting committee. It was set up to consider allegations made on conduct that would bring the party into disrepute," he said.

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See also:
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Archer's legal dilemma
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Tories seek Archer replacement
22 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Will Archer face criminal charges?
22 Nov 99 |  UK
Ted Francis - Archer whistleblower
22 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Tories punish Archer

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