Expectations grow of a reprieve for Lord Archer: Sun shines on peer at centre of insider-dealing allegation as he stays firmly in the limelight

LORD ARCHER yesterday made his second foray into the limelight since the Anglia Television insider-trading controversy began. He looked happy and relaxed as he enthusiastically took up the gavel at a charity auction at the Globe Theatre in south London.

The appearance came in the wake of expectations at the weekend that he would be cleared once ministers have examined the inquiry report by inspectors appointed by the Department of Trade and Industry, which could be delivered within the next few days.

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, who came under fire last week for sanctioning the unusual course of confirming that the peer had been questioned, is not due to return from a trade mission to South Africa until the end of the week. But Neil Hamilton, Minister for Corporate Affairs, could announce a decision on the case instead. The inspectors' report will remain confidential.

Mr Heseltine has made no comment on the affair, which turns on a share tip by which a friend netted an pounds 80,000 profit from the takeover of Anglia by the MAI media combine.

A reprieve would revive Lord Archer's hopes of a ministerial job in next week's reshuffle. Asked yesterday how he saw his future with the Conservatives, he replied: 'I shall continue to support the Tory party and do everything I can for it.'

The millionaire author posed in the sunshine for pictures and chatted to journalists in the partly completed replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, across the Thames from St Paul's cathedral.

'I am keeping all my appointments,' he declared. 'I think it would have been churlish of me not to come.' Just as he had done at a Harrods book signing the previous day, he refused to comment on the allegations.

Clearly enjoying himself, he cajoled bidders - including celebrities such as the actor Robert Powell and the radio presenter Ned Sherrin - to help raise the pounds 5m to complete the theatre, begun by the American film director Sam Wanamaker before his death.

'It's a very important cause,' said Lord Archer, who was a friend of Mr Wanamaker's. 'We must see it completed in Sam's memory. It's a shame he'll never see it.'

At that, organisers attempted to hustle him away from the throng of reporters but, beaming, he said: 'Just a minute. We are never cruel to them, so that when they are cruel to us . . . ' His voice trailed off into laughter as he thought better of completing the homily.

(Photograph omitted)