Election guru Lynton Crosby denies discussing cigarette packaging with David Cameron

He says claims made that he 'sought to improperly use his position' as campaign advisor were 'simply false'

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Indy Politics

Lynton Crosby today denied that he has had “any conversation or discussion” with the Prime Minister David Cameron on the issue of plain packaging of cigarettes.

The Conservative Election Adviser, whose lobbying firm is reported to have worked for tobacco giant Philip Morris, added that any suggestion he had used his position as an adviser improperly was “simply false”.

Last night, Labour leader Ed Miliband accused Mr Cameron of “bringing big tobacco to the heart of Downing Street” by hiring Mr Crosby as an adviser shortly before ditching plans for standardised cigarette packages.

Downing Street had been forced to deny that Mr Crosby has had any input into the policy of plain packaging in the UK.

Mr Miliband called on Mr Cameron to “come clean” about his discussions with Mr Crosby, accusing the PM of “weasel words, evasion and no answers”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by his company CTF Partners, Mr Crosby said: “The Prime Minister has repeatedly and clearly said that I have never lobbied him on anything, including on the issue of tobacco or plain packaging of cigarettes.

"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.

“Indeed, any claim that I have sought to improperly use my position as part-time campaign adviser to the Conservative Party is simply false.”

Australia became the first country in the world in December 2012 to introduce plain packaging, and all cigarette and tobacco products are now sold in standardised brown packets bearing graphic warnings on the front.

Results of a study released on Monday suggested that implementing plain packaging had encouraged more members of the public to "prioritise quitting", but Mr Cameron argued that there was not yet enough evidence over the impact of on plain packaging.

Following a consultation, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on 12 July that the Government would keep the idea “under consideration” until results in Australia were clear.

Additional reporting by PA