MaltaToday | 10 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 10 August 2008

British High Commissioner quits Malta

Nick Archer, who is leaving the island two years before his term as Her Majesty’s High Commissioner to Malta expires, is quitting deliberately and of his own will, this newspaper has learnt.
“He was promoted,” a High Commission spokesperson said when asked to elaborate on the reasons why Archer announced his leave from Malta. “Mr Archer will now take the post of Her Majesty’s ambassador to Denmark,” she said.
That is slightly further up north from his predecessor, Vincent Fean, who has been posted in Libya.
While in Malta, Archer attracted the attention of the media in a series of minor controversies, starting from when aggrieved applicants for the Chevening scholarship forwarded their complaints to this newspaper.
These scholarships, awarded by the British High Commission, were under attack as they were deemed to be granted exclusively to children hailing from influential families.
In response to this, Archer appointed former Labour deputy leader George Abela as an independent external member to the panel to ensure a fairer distribution of the scholarships.
Following Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Malta in 2007, Archer also crossed swords with high government officials when he said the Queen’s visit to Malta, on her way to the Commonwealth summit in Uganda, was “a mere coincidence”. At that time, Foreign Minister Michael Frendo was lobbying for the post of Commonwealth secretary-general.
Weeks after, PN councillor Edward Torpiano suggested “that the Malta Government expel His Excellency Nick Archer from Malta”.
Archer, 47, started out at the reputable auctioneering firm Sotheby’s soon after graduating from Durham University in 1982, where he studied languages. The following year, he joined the British foreign office as a desk officer.
After undergoing intensive training in Arabic languages, Archer took up his first overseas post in Jordan, working at London’s political office in Amman.
Back in 1992, Archer was private secretary to Conservative MP Douglas Hogg, who at the time was a member of the Privy Council – a formerly powerful body of advisors to the British Sovereign.
A close-knit relationship with Buckingham palace during this time had earned Archer the position of assistant private secretary to Prince Charles himself in 1997, after a two-year stint as head of the economic and commercial section at Oslo’s British Embassy.
His post at His Royal Highness’ household however, had a sad ending when the then Royal Secretary Juliet Franks filed a complaint against Archer, who was one of her bosses at the time, alleging sexual and mental harassment.
After Prince Charles ordered an independent inquiry to look into the veracity of these claims, Buckingham Palace agreed to pay Franks a handsome £50,000, which she accepted on condition that she does not press charges. She resigned soon after the issue had been settled.
The allegations, which were categorically denied by the accused, came at a time when Archer had announced his engagement to London arrister Erica Power, whom he later married. Although he was not disciplined, an Oxford Mail report dated 10 May 1999 had said that after this incident Archer was “expected to leave the Prince's circle and return to his job at the Foreign Office.”
And so he did, heading regional departments until his arrival to Malta in 2005. Nonetheless, he was knighted for services to the Royal Family in 2001.
For a high commissioner who took the trouble to learn the Maltese language, a two-year stay seems too short a spell for someone so enthusiastic. When the spokesperson for the High Commission was confronted with this remark, the questions were referred to third secretary Andrew Hamilton, who said: “These positions come up at irregular times. Mr Archer applied for the position at the time it became vacant, he got accepted and decided to move on.”

Nick Archer in Malta
@ Chevenings
@ Libya arms sales
@ Commonwealth
@ Sexual harassment

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