David Cameron was accused of using Britain’s most senior civil servant to release “post-dated” ethical guidelines to help clear him of allegations that his controversial election adviser Lynton Crosby lobbied ministers on behalf of private clients.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, released details of the “principles of engagement” between Mr Crosby and the Conservative Party that appeared to suggest that he had agreed not to use his position to advance the interests of his firm’s other clients.
But under questioning it emerged that civil servants had had no involvement in drawing up the terms of the deal – or indeed knew whether they had been written down at the time of his hiring. A Conservative source said the published principles “captured what was agreed at the time Lynton was hired”.
Labour are expected to write to Sir Jeremy today to ask when he first knew about the document and request details of all Mr Crosby’s visits to Downing Street. “This memorandum is a mystifying document,” said a Labour source. “It appears to have been stitched together at the last minute and has been published without a date, details or a list of people who were party to it. It leaves more questions than it answers.”
The row overshadowed attempts by Mr Crosby to put an end to damaging allegations that he used his position advising the Conservatives to advance the interests of the tobacco giant Philip Morris, for whom his company also works. He denied that he had ever had “any conversation or discussion” with Mr Cameron about plain cigarettes packaging – but declined to publish a list of his other lobbying clients – unlike the majority of similar lobbying companies.
In his previous comments on the controversy Mr Cameron has insisted he had not been “lobbied” by his election strategist, but declined on many occasions to say whether he’d had a conversation with him about tobacco issues.
In a statement issued by his company CTF Partners, Mr Crosby went further saying: “What the PM said should be enough for any ordinary person but to avoid 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.”