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Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK

UK Politics

Lobbyist denies 'secrets for sale'

Observer: Stands by its story of Labour links to lobbyists

The "who said what" row in the cash-for-contacts affair looks set to rumble on with both sides remaining on the defensive.

Derek Draper defends himself on BBC One's Breakfast News
Speaking to the BBC, political lobbyist Derek Draper admitted his "blunt language had caused trouble".

But he denied offering to arrange access into the highest echelons of government with the help of Downing Street policy adviser Roger Liddle, the central allegation put by The Observer newspaper.

Tony Blair has said he will take no action against Roger Liddle - a member of his Downing Street policy unit - unless there is proof of misconduct.

Mr Draper is meeting his lawyer on Wednesday to consider whether to take action against the newspaper.

'I did not seek favours'

Speaking to BBC One's Breakfast News programme, Mr Draper said he had been foolish - but was not guilty of using government contacts to offer "secrets for sale".

[ image: Draper:
Draper: "I am a blunt speaker"
He said: "I regret the kind of language that I used but I am a blunt speaking person.

"The guy (from the Observer) lied and said he represented a top New York law firm and his sister worked in the White House.

"Over five hours of conversation I have said some things that made me look stupid.

"But did I do anything wrong, did I offer secrets for sale? No."

Mr Draper said he believed his employer's own investigation into his conduct would clear his name.

Derek Draper: "There is no Labour croneyism"
He accepted criticisms from the Labour Party, including Peter Mandelson, that he had acted badly.

He denied one of the Observer's key allegations that he had boasted of having lobbying access to the top figures in government.

But he added: "I have been back off holiday for 48 hours and I still do not know what I am accused of.

"What it boils down to is there is a group of people who have worked together for years and know each other and are friends.

"That is different from saying that they have done favours for each other.

"I have never asked for favours from people in government and they have never offered."

'Publish' demand

The Observer claimed at the weekend that Downing Street Policy Unit adviser Roger Liddle promised to put its journalists, posing as US businessmen, in touch with ministers should they use the services of Mr Draper's firm.

[ image: Opportunity knocks: Draper denies access claims]
Opportunity knocks: Draper denies access claims
Mr Draper is repeating demands for the newspaper to publish in full transcripts of the disputed conversations.

Meanwhile the Conservatives are keeping up the pressure on Labour over the row.

Former Tory cabinet minister John MacGregor MP described the controversy as a "bonfire waiting to be lit".

Mr MacGregor, a member of the Neill Committee on standards in public life, said he had suspected trouble was in store for the government because "of the entourage coming in with senior ministers".

He said: "I was astonished to see the growth in Labour's special advisers, especially as they criticised us for practically nothing at all.

"I think it is very unpleasant and an unhealthy aspect for new Labour."

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08 Jul 98 | UK Politics
No let-up in 'contacts' row

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