Labour has urged David Cameron to investigate claims that the contract, which his campaign strategist, Lynton Crosby, signed to provide a cigarette company Philip Morris International with lobbying services, could cost as much as £ 6 million.
As the row over Crosby role in a government U-turn on plain packaging of cigarettes continues, an informed source said that the contract was signed personally by Crosby in November after another lobbying firm, Luther Pendragon, severed its ties with the company after criticism from leading health care organizations.
According to the source, the number “6 million pounds” was discussed, although the agreed amount and the term of the contract are not known.
In a letter to Cameron, Labor’s Shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham, said: “We claim to me that in November last year, after his appointment as your advisor on election strategy, Lynton Crosby personally signed the agreement between Philip Morris International and Crosby Textor for lobbying work in UK, including on the basis of standardized packaging of tobacco. He claimed that the agreement was in the region of 6 million pounds. “Burnham Cameron also asked to clarify that discussion, if any, he had with Crosby on plain packaging.
“In various interviews, you refused to say whether you have discussed this issue standardized packaging with Mr. Crosby, leaving the clear impression that the conversation had taken place,” he writes. “It is important that you take this into account direct and clear this matter up.”
The contract with Crosby, Crosby Textor Fullbrook, was signed as a result of close discussion with Livio Vanghetti, PMI’s vice-President of corporate affairs, the European Union region, and Brett Cooper, its director of corporate affairs, the United Kingdom and Ireland.
PMI said in response to a series of questions put to it by the observer that the claims were “factually incorrect” and “completely inaccurate.” It declined to comment further. A spokesman said that the CTF “allegations are unfounded and categorically false.” It declined to comment on the value of its contract with PMI.
Crosby’s relationship with the Prime Minister has been under scrutiny since the government abandoned plans to sell cigarettes in plain packaging. Cameron is expected to repeat on the Andrew Marr Showon Sunday his claim that he never lobbied Crosby on cigarette packaging, and added that there was no other “intervention” by the Australian on the issue.
There has been speculation that the growth of UKIP, which defends the rights of smokers, and concerns that plain packaging will lead to an increase in the smuggling of tobacco products were two reasons why Cameron decided to abandon the plan after Crosby supposedly encouraged his priorities Tory goal ahead of general elections in 2015.
“Nobody cares about the past too much trouble dodging Cameron comes up with to hide if he and Mr. Crosby said about the standard package,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity’s health Ash. “But they’re not all the same, that more than 200 000 children are still starting to smoke in this country every year, and that many will go to terrible illness and early death as a result.”
In January PMI report is shared with the Department of Health officials that he commissioned from an independent expert, was scathing about the arguments made for easy packing.
The report was written by Rupert Darwall, who worked with Crosby in the 2005 election campaign the Tories and was offered an associate directorship at a company lobbyist.
A spokesman for the Conservative party said: “The Prime Minister is absolutely clear that he was not lobbied Lynton Crosby on this or anything else and that the decision was his and the Minister of Health without reference to any other external bodies.