Open main menu

Peter Archer, Baron Archer of Sandwell

Peter Kingsley Archer, Baron Archer of Sandwell, QC, PC (20 November 1926 – 14 June 2012), was a British lawyer and Labour Party politician. He was a Member of Parliament from 1966 until 1992, when he became a life peer. Between 1974 and 1979 he was Solicitor General for England and Wales.

The Lord Archer of Sandwell

Lord Archer of Sandwell 2011.png
Archer in 2011
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
31 October 1983 – 13 July 1987
LeaderNeil Kinnock
Preceded byDon Concannon
Succeeded byKevin McNamara
Shadow Secretary of State for Trade
In office
24 November 1982 – 31 October 1983
LeaderMichael Foot
Preceded byJohn Smith
Succeeded byPeter Shore
Shadow Attorney General
In office
24 November 1981 – 24 November 1982
LeaderMichael Foot
Preceded byJohn Morris
Succeeded byArthur Davidson
Solicitor General for England and Wales
In office
7 March 1974 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJames Callaghan
Preceded bySir Michael Havers
Succeeded bySir Ian Percival
Member of Parliament
for Warley West (1974-1992)
Rowley Regis and Tipton (1966-1974)
In office
31 March 1966 – 9 April 1992
Preceded byArthur Henderson
Succeeded byJohn Spellar
Personal details
Peter Kingsley Archer

(1926-11-20)20 November 1926
Wednesbury, Staffordshire, England
Died14 June 2012(2012-06-14) (aged 85)
Political partyLabour
Alma materLondon School of Economics

Early life and educationEdit

Archer was born in Wednesbury, Staffordshire on 20 November 1926. He left school at 16 and became a clerk for the Ministry of Health before spending four years working in coal mines under the Bevin Boys scheme. He subsequently obtained degrees in Philosophy and Law at the London School of Economics and University College London, and was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1952.[1]


Archer joined the Labour Party in 1947.[1] He was selected in 1957 as the candidate for the Hendon South parliamentary seat, which he unsuccessfully contested in 1959 after declining to contest the 1957 by-election for his home area of Wednesbury.[2] After contesting Brierley Hill in 1964, he was returned for Rowley Regis and Tipton in 1966.[3] He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General Sir Elwyn Jones (1967–1970) and in 1969 was the British representative on the United Nations' "third committee" on human rights.[2]

While in opposition, Archer was a member of the All-Party Group for World Government (1970–1974),[4] was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1971[1] and between 1971 and 1974 was Chair of Amnesty International's UK Section; he was a founder member of the Amnesty International Committee in 1961.[5]

After boundary changes for the February 1974 election, Archer was returned for Warley West. In the new Labour government, led by Harold Wilson and then James Callaghan, he was appointed Solicitor General, a post he held until 1979.[3] Archer and his colleague Attorney General Sam Silkin declined knighthoods, which was customary for individuals appointed to these positions.[2] He was sworn of the Privy Council in 1977.[4] In opposition, he was spokesman for legal affairs (1979–1982), Shadow Trade Secretary (1982–1983), and Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1983–1987) under Neil Kinnock.[1][3] He was also appointed a Recorder of the Crown Court in 1982.[1] He resigned his seat in 1992 and subsequently received a life peerage as Baron Archer of Sandwell, of Sandwell in the County of West Midlands in 1992.[6]

From 1992 to 1999 he was Chairman of the Council on Tribunals.[1] In the House of Lords, in 1998 he successfully proposed an amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill which abolished the death penalty for treason.[5] The same year, he was appointed chair of the Enemy Property Claims Assessment Panel, a compensation fund for claims from families of Holocaust victims whose assets in Britain had been seized.[1] He also chaired an independent inquiry which began in 2007 and reported in 2009, into how people had been given contaminated blood.[1][7]

He was described as being an "extremely active" member of the Fabian Society, sitting on their Executive Committee between 1974 and 1986 and was chairman between 1980 and 1981. From 1993 until his death, he was their President,[2] and over the same period served as President of Uniting for Peace (formerly the World Disarmament Campaign), and of the One World Trust.[4]

A Methodist, he married Margaret Smith in 1954 and they had one son.


Archer was described as being a "vigorous campaigner" for human rights who had a commitment to world government.[1] Paying tribute to him in The Independent, Tam Dalyell said: "Archer was one of those rare politicians who made judgements and whose actions followed what he believed to be right and eschewed what was wrong. ... Archer was an idealist, but an idealist with his feet on the ground, commanding respect and using every moment of his long public life constructively."[2]


  • Archer, Peter (1956). The Queen's Courts. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Archer, Peter (1957). Social Welfare and the Citizen. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  • Archer, Peter (1963). Communism and the Law. London: The Bodley Head.
  • Archer, Peter; Mackay, William Hugh (1966). Freedom at Stake. London: The Bodley Head.
  • Archer, Peter (1969). Human Rights. London: Fabian Society.
  • Archer, Peter (1973). Tribunals: a social court?. London: Fabian Society.
  • Archer, Peter (1978). The Role of the Law Officers. London: Fabian Society.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Lord Archer of Sandwell". The Daily Telegraph. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dalyell, Tam (16 June 2012). "Lord Archer of Sandwell: Politician who became a leading human rights campaigner". The Independent. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b c Langdon, Julia (15 June 2012). "Lord Archer of Sandwell obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Archer of Sandwell, Baron". Who's Who. Oxford University Press. July 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Obituary: Lord Archer of Sandwell". Amnesty International. 15 June 2012. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ "No. 52990". The London Gazette. 14 July 1992. p. 11831.
  7. ^ Marsden, Sam (23 February 2009). "Delays led to thousands receiving contaminated blood". The Independent. Retrieved 21 October 2012.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Henderson
Member of Parliament for Rowley Regis and Tipton
1966Feb 1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Warley West
Feb 19741992
Succeeded by
John Spellar
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Michael Havers
Solicitor General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Ian Percival
Political offices
Preceded by
Don Concannon
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Kevin McNamara
Party political offices
Preceded by
Phillip Whitehead
Chairman of the Fabian Society
1979 – 1980
Succeeded by
Shirley Williams
Preceded by
Billy Hughes
President of the Fabian Society
1993 – 2012
Succeeded by
Post vacant