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Monday, September 7, 1998 Published at 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK

UK Politics

Peer 'shocked' by drugs claims

Allegations in the News of the World

The Conservative peer at the centre of newspaper claims that he arranged to sell hard drugs in the House of Lords has said he is the victim of "serious distortions".

Lord Hardwicke has been suspended from the Tory ranks in the Lords after the News of the World reported that he set up a deal to sell cocaine to an undercover reporter on the same day peers were recalled to debate anti-terrorism measures put together after the Omagh bombing.

The paper said 27-year-old Lord Hardwicke sold two grams of the drug to a reporter posing as a businessman, and agreed to arrange further supplies.

The News of the World says it has video evidence to back up its story.

Lord Hardwicke has responded with a statement issued through his solicitors, saying he would be seeking a "correction" and that he was "shocked and distressed" at the allegations.

Urgent meeting

"These articles are serious distortions and it is my intention to correct them and address them at the appropriate time and place."

The statement added that he would be seeking an urgent meeting with the Tory leader in the Lords, Lord Cranborne.

Earlier, a Conservative Central Office spokeswoman said Lord Cranborne and his deputy, Lord Stratchlyde, would "fully investigate" the allegations in order to decide what further action should be taken by the party.

"The Conservative Party has a robust anti-drugs policy and we condemn drug-dealing in all forms," she said.

The matter could be referred to the party's new Ethics and Integrity Committee, set up as part of Tory leader William Hague's internal reforms of the Conservative Party.

Joseph Philip Sebastian Yorke, the 10th Earl of Hardwicke, was the youngest member of the Lords when he took his seat at the age of 22.

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