Archer shows, again, he is all words and no deeds

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The Independent Online

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare might have won plaudits for his controversial call to force prisoners to learn to read and write, but he turned down a plea to put his ideas into practice.

While serving time as prisoner FF8282 at North Sea Camp, Lincolnshire, he was asked by a philanthropic trust to tutor less fortunate cellmates with their reading and writing. He replied that he was "too busy".

The Shannon Trust helps inmates with the "3Rs" by inviting literate prisoners to tutor their less educated cellmates on a one-to-one basis. It is keen for publicity and so approached the most famous inmate in the country last year for backing.

Christopher Morgan, the trust's chairman, said: "We invited him to be one of our mentors. But his secretary wrote to say that he was too busy."

Mr Morgan said that he was disappointed, but not surprised, at the peer's response, although he thought it was "ironic" that Lord Archer was too rushed off his feet to help.

He suggested: "I think he may be more interested in self-publicity." Lord Archer used a high-profile penal conference last week to suggest that illiterate prisoners take intensive 12-week reading and writing courses culminating in a compulsory test. Those that failed could be denied better prison jobs or even early release.

But the Shannon Trust ­ whose trustees include Sir David Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons ­ rejected his solution as "naïve".

Mr Morgan said yesterday: "It would cost the earth and would not work."

A spokeswoman for Lord Archer, who is on probation after serving half of his four-year sentence, said yesterday: "He isn't making any comments to journalists."