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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 February 2007, 14:24 GMT
Cameron defiant over drug claims
David Cameron
Mr Cameron has said everyone is entitled to err and stray

Conservative leader David Cameron has refused to deny claims in a biography that he smoked cannabis while he was a pupil at Eton College 25 years ago.

Mr Cameron, 40, admitted he had done things in his past he "should not have done", but insisted politicians were entitled to a "private past".

The book, serialised in the Independent on Sunday, says Mr Cameron was punished after admitting smoking cannabis.

Mr Cameron, then aged 15, was grounded but several boys were expelled.

The claims appear on the front page of a number of Sunday newspapers.

Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Tebbit urged Mr Cameron to come clean about any drug use, in order to put the story behind him.


Speaking outside his home on Sunday morning, Mr Cameron said: "Like many people I did things when I was young that I should not have done, and that I regret.

"But I do believe that politicians are entitled to a past that is private, and that remains private, so I won't be making any commentary on what is in the newspapers today."

Cannabis was classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as a Class B drug
Under 18s could be arrested and given a formal warning for possession
Up to 5 years in jail for possession
Up to 14 years in jail for supplying or dealing

The book - Cameron, The Rise Of The New Conservative, by James Hanning and Francis Elliott - will also be serialised in the Mail on Sunday next month.

Both papers report that school authorities called the police to investigate drug use among the pupils.

Because he had smoked cannabis and not sold it, Mr Cameron was not expelled like several other boys, the book alleges.

Instead, he was fined, grounded for two weeks and given the school's traditional punishment of a "Georgic" - copying out hundreds of lines of Latin poetry, according to the book.

Throughout his leadership campaign in 2005, Mr Cameron declined to answer questions about drug taking when they were put to candidates.

On 29 January 2004, cannabis was reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug in the UK
Under 18s can be arrested and given a formal warning
Up to 2 years in jail for possession
Up to 14 years in jail for supplying or dealing
Police are more likely to confiscate the drug and give a warning, rather than arrest a person for possession

Mr Cameron was initially asked at a fringe meeting at the 2005 Conservative party conference if he had ever taken drugs.

He told the meeting he had had a "typical student experience".

Later that same year on BBC One's Question Time, he said everybody was allowed to "err and stray" in their past.

Last month, Mr Cameron said he opposed making cannabis legal but would be "relaxed" about legalising it for medicinal use if there was evidence of health benefits.

I really don't think someone getting told off while a schoolboy is particularly newsworthy
Jason Hood, Nottingham

Home Secretary John Reid appeared to agree that politicians were entitled to a private life before elected to office.

"I think this is one of those 'so what' moments," he told the BBC's Politics Show.

"Do we want to get to the level of ensuring that every politician... is a sort of plastic politician produced off some colourless and characterless conveyor belt?"

Lord Tebbit told BBC News 24: "My advice to him now would be, 'Get it out of the way, get it over with and it will be a seven-day wonder. If you don't, people will keep turning up with another expose'."

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