Miliband calls for Crosby inquiry

Jeremy HuntMr Hunt said there was a “clear dividing line” in Mr Crosby’s role for the party

Conservative Party election strategist Lynton Crosby had no influence on the decision to delay the introduction of plain cigarette packets in England and Wales, the health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt told the BBC ministers do not allow Mr Crosby to advise them on public health issues as his lobbying company works with tobacco firms.

His comments come as MPs are set to discuss a new lobbying bill.

Labour says advisers’ business interests should be more transparent.

Speaking on the Newsnight on Tuesday, Mr Hunt said: “Lynton Crosby’s work is for the Conservative Party. He hasn’t lobbied me and he hasn’t lobbied the prime minister on issues to do with public health and there is a clear dividing line.

“There is also transparency. We are not hiding this fact.”

Mr Hunt agreed that public health was a “whole area he [Mr Crosby] is not allowed to touch”.

He added: “It is quite right he shouldn’t because his company has clients in that area.”

Mr Crosby’s public affairs firm has been working with tobacco giant Philip Morris in the UK since November and Labour have questioned whether he influenced the decision to postpone the plans to bring in plain packaging.

‘Emphatic denial’

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said Mr Hunt’s comments represent the most emphatic denial yet of the accusation that Mr Crosby had influenced policy.

Mr Crosby has been seen as the driving force behind the prime minister’s portrayal of Labour leader Ed Miliband as a weak leader and Labour has been keen to draw blood, our correspondent added.

The government says that before proceeding with its plans, it wants to see more evidence from Australia, where plain packets were introduced in December last year in an effort to cut smoking.

Earlier this week Mr Miliband said Mr Crosby’s links to the tobacco industry were as “clear a conflict of interest as you could possibly imagine”. Two shadow ministers have written to the cabinet secretary to ask whether Mr Crosby has had any influence on UK tobacco policy.

Downing Street, however, said last week that Mr Crosby had “no involvement” in the decision to postpone the plans. Mr Cameron also insisted he had been “unaware” of Australian-born Mr Crosby’s role as a consultant to Philip Morris.

The government’s lobbying bill is expected to create a register of third-party lobbyists and compel them to publish a full list of their clients.

In the run-up to the 2010 election, Mr Cameron suggested lobbying was “the next big scandal waiting to happen” and a promise to introduce reforms was included in the coalition agreement.

Restrictions on trade union funding, Labour’s main source of cash, are also set to be included in the bill. Mr Miliband last week set out proposals to end the automatic affiliation of members of some unions to the party.

BBC News – Politics

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