Archer pays a £1m 'thank you' to wife - claim

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The Independent Online

Lady Archer will face fresh claims today that she will be paid £1m a year in book royalties by her husband for standing by him during his libel trial,

The claim is made by Michael Crick, the journalist who uncovered details of Archer's background. Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Mr Crick says that Archer's lucrative revenue from British sales of his novels – estimated at £1m a year – was "Jeffrey's thank you to Mary for standing by him during his notorious 1987 libel case".

He recalled that Mary "sat by her husband in court every day during the 1987 trial and then gave the crucial testimony that she and Jeffrey had a 'happy' marriage".

The libel trial judge, Mr Justice Caulfield, praised Lady Archer's "fragrance", "elegance" and "radiance" and asked the jury how Archer could use a prostitute given his wife's attractions.

But her evidence was thrown into doubt last week by Mr Justice Potts, the judge in the perjury case who jailed Archer for four years. When it was put to the judge that Archer had not compounded any lies told at the previous libel trial, he said: "What about the evidence of Lady Archer?"

The Metropolitan Police said they would "reflect" on his remarks, raising the threat of possible action for the first time against Lady Archer.

A spokesman for the Met confirmed that the judge's remarks were still being considered and had not lifted the threat of possible action, in spite of a front page report in The Sunday Telegraph claiming Lady Archer would not face charges.

"We are still reflecting on the position," the Met spokesman said. He refused to comment on whether people connected with the Archer case would be interviewed.

He cast doubt on whether Archer would face a police investigation into claims that millions of pounds of charity money raised for Kurdish refugees was stolen.

Emma Nicholson, a former Tory MP, said she was prepared to make a formal complaint to Scotland Yard's fraud squad over funds missing from the Simple Truth appeal, organised by Archer in 1991. But the Met spokesman said no complaint had been made so far.

The Tory leadership candidates, Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith, joined calls for Archer to be barred from his seat in the Lords because of his conviction.

The pressure could force the Government to support backbench moves to introduce a law in the next session of Parliament to bar convicted criminals from sitting in the upper house.

A Labour MP, Harry Cohen, told The Independent on Sunday that he will introduce a Bill in the autumnto end the anomaly which allows peers to sit in the Lords in spite of a criminal record while MPs are automatically disqualified from the Commons. "It's ridiculous that Archer could return to the Lords," he said.

In a surprise move, Mr Clarke supported the demands for action. "The man [Archer] obviously turned out to be a crook. If this sentence stands he has quite rightly got to serve his time in prison and ought to leave the House of Lords," he said.

"People do get their honours taken away," he added. "It's a bit odd that you don't lose your peerage."

Mr Duncan Smith said: "He [Archer] should no longer be allowed to participate in the legislature. And if that means also stripping away his title then so be it." Robin Cook, the Leader of the Commons, hinted that the Government could introduce a ban as part of long-term Lords reform, but the pressure could force it to act more quickly.

Meanwhile, The Independent on Sunday has learnt that Archer was investigated about a series of alleged insider deals before the Department of Trade's inquiry into the trading of Anglia Television shares. Archer had bought 50,000 Anglia shares in the name of a Kurdish friend, Broosk Saib, while a secret takeover bid was being made for the company, where Lady Archer was a director. The address given for Mr Saib was Archer's own at Alembic House, on the Embankment in London. The shares were later sold for a profit of £77,219.

Archer was cleared of insider trading in 1994 and DTI officials said last week that they would need fresh evidence to warrant a new inquiry.

But it has emerged that the DTI was called in earlier, after the Stock Exchange was alerted to repeated heavy share buying and selling by a private investor. Officials traced the trading to a dentist fromHertfordshire. When quizzed, the dentist said he was receiving tips from Archer. However, as with the later Anglia inquiry, the DTI inspectorsfound there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.

As Archer's former colleagues disowned him, the IoS has also learnt that Gillian Shephard, the former secretary of state for education, and John Major, the former prime minister, both refused to act as character witnesses for him during the trial. Mrs Shephard made it clear she would not defend Archer under oath.

Insider share-dealing is a recurring theme in Archer's novels. In three of his books, Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less, Kane and Abel and Twelve Red Herrings, and his play, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, making a fast buck from inside information features heavily.