Archer cleared by DTI a week after reshuffle

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LORD ARCHER, the Tory activist and novelist, was cleared of insider dealing last night just eight days after John Major's reshuffle, in which he had hoped to get a government job.

A clearly pleased Lord Archer spoke of his relief within minutes of a Department of Trade and Industry announcement that no further action would be taken against any of the parties under investigation over allegations of illegal share dealing prior to the sale of Anglia Television, of which Lord Archer's wife, Mary, is a non-executive director.

But the millionaire peer's supporters believe disclosure of his name in connection with the inquiry by DTI-appointed inspectors - unprecedentedly confirmed in public by the department - blocked any chance of advancement in the ministerial changes.

Lord Archer had insisted on his innocence and Mr Major recently declared that he was standing by his 'old friend'. The Prime Minister told ITN last night: 'I'm very pleased the matter is settled. I have got nothing else to say.'

Mr Major can still call on Lord Archer's formidable talents as Tory cheer-leader and fundraiser, tasks Lord Archer has pledged to carry on performing. But in the reshuffle, another writer, Michael Dobbs, author of House of Cards, was appointed as a deputy party chairman, a position Lord Archer once held.

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, came under fire for sanctioning the official naming of Lord Archer in connection with the investigation into share dealing at the time of the agreed bid by the MAI media combine for Anglia Television in January. Confirmation that the inspectors' report had been delivered to Mr Heseltine came the day before Mr Major made his changes.

Last night's statement from the department said: 'On the basis of the report and departmental and other independent legal advice, (Mr Heseltine) has concluded that the DTI should take no further action against any of the parties concerned in the investigation.' The information will be passed to the Stock Exchange and the Securities and Futures Authority.

Lord Archer said he was grateful to have been exonerated, and for the support of friends and colleagues.

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