Prime Minister David Cameron has lead tributes to Lord Alistair McAlpine, whose death was confirmed today.

Tory grandee Mr McAlpine died at his home in Italy, his family confirmed last night. He was 71.

Colleagues described him as a "towering figure" who made "a huge contribution to public life".

But the former Conservative Party deputy chairman, previously an aide to prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was more recently wrongly implicated in a child abuse scandal.

Leading the tributes, Mr Cameron said on Twitter: "My thoughts are with Lord McAlpine's family - he was a dedicated supporter of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative party."

In a statement, the family of Mr McAlpine said: "It is with great sadness that the family of Lord McAlpine announce his peaceful death last night at his home in Italy."

A former political adviser and businessman, Mr McAlpine was more recently in the news when he received damages from a string of internet users - including Sally Bercow, wife of Commons Speaker John Bercow, and comedian Alan Davies - as a result of libellous messages on Twitter.

Mr McAlpine was wrongly implicated in a child abuse scandal when allegations about a senior Tory were the subject of a BBC Newsnight investigation.

The BBC was later forced to apologise and issued a statement after abuse victim Steve Messham admitted that the man who abused him in a North Wales children's home in the 1970s and 1980s was not Mr McAlpine.

Solicitors for Mr McAlpine indicated that they were preparing to sue for defamation, saying their client's reputation had been left in "tatters" as a result of the programme.

The allegations forced the corporation's then-director general, George Entwistle, to quit the role in November 2012 less than two months into taking it, saying that as editor-in chief he had to take "ultimate responsibility".