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David Cameron hits back over accusations he let ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street

David Cameron hits back over accusations he let ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street

David Cameron has never discussed plain cigarette packaging with Lynton Crosby, the Tory election strategist with links to the tobacco industry, senior Tories insisted today.


Rowena Mason

By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent

1:51PM BST 17 Jul 2013

They hit back after Ed Milband accused the Prime Minister of letting ‘Big Tobacco’ into Downing Street.

In a fiery session of PMQs, Labour MPs taunted Mr Cameron over allegations he dropped plans to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes under the influence of Mr Crosby.

The row escalated as Labour urged a senior civil servant to investigate the Prime Minister’s relationship with Mr Crosby, whose company has worked for tobacco firm Philip Morris.

They made the radical decision to make a formal complaint about Mr Cameron to the Cabinet Secretary, after he dodged a question in parliament over whether he had ever discussed the issue his close adviser.

However, Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, later told the BBC’s World at One that there had been no conversations about cigarette packaging between the two men

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The Conservatives were forced to respond after Mr Miliband put the Prime Minister under sustained pressure over the issue in the House of Commons.

“The whole of the country will have heard those same weasel words that you are sticking to,” Mr Miliband said to the Prime Minister. “You can’t deny that he had a conversation with Lynton Crosby about this issue.

“Even by the standards of this Prime Minister, this is a disgraceful episode.

“You are the Prime Minister for Benson and Hedgefunds and you know it. Can’t you see that there is a devastating conflict of interest between having your key adviser raking it in from big tobacco and then advising you not to go ahead with plain packaging?

“The reality that you cannot admit is that, against the advice of every major public health organisation, you have caved in to big tobacco. That is the reality about you and you know it.

“It’s Andy Coulson all over again. You are a Prime Minister who doesn’t think the rules apply to you – dinners for donors, Andy Coulson and now big tobacco in Downing Street, you always stand up for the wrong people.”

But Mr Cameron lashed out at the opposition leader, saying Labour is in no position to give the Tories a lesson on sleaze.

“You are in no position to lecture anyone on standards in public life,” he said.

“The reason your leadership is in crisis is that you can’t talk about the big issues. We are getting to the end of a political session when the deficit is down, unemployment is falling, crime is down, welfare is capped and Abu Qatada is back in Jordan.

“Everyday this country is getting stronger and everyday you are getting weaker.”

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