Crosby denies PM tobacco discussions

Lynton Crosby: I’ve never spoken to PM about tobacco

Lynton Crosby was the prime minister’s elections adviser since last year

David Cameron’s election strategist has denied having any “conversation” with the prime minister over plain packaging on tobacco sold in England and Wales.

Earlier this month, Mr Cameron decided to not go ahead with plans to take away all branding from cigarette packets.

Labour claims adviser Lynton Crosby’s work for tobacco giant Philip Morris created a conflict of interest.

But Mr Crosby said he had not “lobbied” any minister over the problem of cigarette packaging.

Mr Cameron has insisted that Mr Crosby, who works for the Conservative Party in place of the coalition, has no role in deciding government policy.

Supporters of plain packaging say it’s going to reduce smoking take-up rates among young people

But the choice on whether to adopt one of these policy – already in place in Australia – was delayed earlier this month, with ministers saying it was important to collect more evidence on its effectiveness.

‘Simply false’

Labour has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, calling for an investigation of the role of Mr Crosby, who runs lobbying firm Crosby Textor.

The prime minister was asked a great number of times if he had spoken to Mr Crosby concerning the plain packaging plans. In answer he has repeatedly said he had not been lobbied by Mr Crosby.

Mr Crosby echoed that once he said: “The prime minister has repeatedly and obviously said that i haven’t lobbied him on anything, including at the issue of tobacco or plain packaging of cigarettes.”

He also went further, denying they’d ever spoken concerning the issue.

Mr Crosby said: “What the PM said have to be enough for any ordinary person, but to circumvent any doubt or speculation let me be clear. At no time have I had any conversation or discussion with or lobbied the prime minister, or indeed the health secretary or the health minister, on plain packaging or tobacco issues.

“Indeed, any claim that i’ve got sought to improperly use my position as part-time campaign adviser to the Conservative Party is just false.”

However, a Labour source told the BBC: “This still leaves more questions than answers. David Cameron and Lynton Crosby are still dodging questions about whether or not they had any conversations on alcohol and personal health.

“David Cameron still has to reply the question about whether Lynton Crosby had any conversations with him.”

Downing Street sources said Mr Cameron was “pleased” Mr Crosby had clarified they’d never had a talk or discussion about tobacco policy or the apparent packaging of cigarettes.