Tory grandee calls for Archer inquiry

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JEFFREY ARCHER'S campaign to become mayor of London hit a new obstacle last night when it emerged that a Conservative party grandee has lodged a formal complaint against him.

Sir Timothy Kitson, a former whip and aide to Sir Edward Heath, has asked the Conservative Party chairman, Cecil Parkinson, to investigate allegations made against Lord Archer in a book and newspaper articles.

The Conservative Party's new ethics and integrity committee - designed to weed out unsuitable candidates before elections - should look into claims against Lord Archer, Sir Timothy said.

He added: "I have written to Cecil to say I am concerned about the allegations and they ought to be checked out. You cannot have that sort of background when you start a campaign.

"If something is said it ought to be looked at and either declared rubbish or, if it is true, I suppose we would have to think again. If the party sets up this body then it must have a purpose."

Sir Timothy's letter, sent last week, has not produced a response yet from Conservative Central office. The former MP has not given any new evidence against Lord Archer, but pointed to allegations contained in a biography of him by the BBC journalist Michael Crick, and claims made in articles in London's Evening Standard.

The book highlighted Lord Archer's missing A-level and university degree certificates and draws attention to his resignation as an MP and his gift of pounds 2,000 to a prostitute whom he had never met.

Although Sir Timothy worked in the Conservative whip's office when Lord Archer was elected an MP, the two men do not know each other well. Sir Timothy said Lord Archer "has not been to my house and I have not been to his".

As yet the Conservative Party has not selected a candidate to fight for the position of London mayor. The party leader, William Hague, has declined to endorse any of the potential contenders, arguing that the decision should be made by Conservative Party members in London.

The ethics and integrity committee was established following a series of embarrassing episodes involving Conservative MPs in the run-up to the last election. The refusal of Neil Hamilton to stand down was one of the events which prompted Mr Hague to search for new powers against recalcitrant MPs.

It remains unclear what powers the committee would have to investigate Lord Archer at this stage since the party has not begun its formal selection procedure for the London mayor.

However the complaint will come as an embarrassment to Lord Archer, a best-selling author and the darling of Tory Party activists.