Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood told Labour he does "not see what purpose would be served" by an inquiry into claims that Tory adviser Lynton Crosby lobbied David Cameron over tobacco packaging.
In a letter to Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has demanded an inquiry, Sir Jeremy said:
– Sir Jeremy Heywood
Mr Crosby is not employed by the Government. He is contracted by the Conservative Party.
He has not been granted permission to have access to Government papers or attend Government meetings. Nor does he advise or lobby on Government business, such as the regulation of cigarette packaging or fracking.
His role, as I understand it, is to advise the Conservative Party and any meetings he may have had with the Prime Minister are on this basis, which is not in itself a conflict with the ministerial code.
Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has rejected Labour calls for an inquiry into alleged breaches of the ministerial code relating to lobbyist Lynton Crosby's engagement as elections adviser to the Conservative Party.
Labour vice-chairman Michael Dugher said Lynton Crosby's statement denying he lobbied the Government on tobacco issues "raises more questions than it answers":
– Michael Dugher
This baffling statement raises more questions than it answers. David Cameron has refused to deny that he has had a conversation with Lynton Crosby about tobacco policy on at least 16 occasions. If Lynton Crosby is telling the truth, why on earth couldn't David Cameron say this himself?
The fact remains that David Cameron chose to bring a tobacco lobbyist into the heart of his Government, changed his policy on cigarette packaging and was then unable to give a straight answer about Lynton Crosby's influence.
Lynton Crosby, whose lobbying firm is reported to have worked for tobacco giant Philip Morris, said any suggestion he had used his position as an adviser improperly was "simply false".
In a statement issued today by his company CTF Partners, Crosby said:
– Lynton Crosby
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.
Conservative election adviser Lynton Crosby has denied having "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".
The Prime Minister will not be able to move on from the Lobbying row until he answers questions over Lynton Crosby's influence on government policy, according to a public relations expert.
Kevin Craig, from Political Lobbying and Media Relations, said Lyton Crosby's involvement in government policy "looks wrong and and doesn't feel right" and called on the Prime Minister to provide answers.
I asked the Prime Minister if Lynton Crosby advises him that voters don't like politicians serially evading questions.
Response: I dealt with that yesterday.
The NHS links pre-dated David Cameron hiring Mr Crosby however it is the second time the Prime Minister has had to defend his controversial election strategist over claims of lobbying.
Mr Cameron has insisted that Mr Crosby had not intervened in policy decisions, but has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the extent of his conversations with the lobbyist.
The Prime Minister has come under sustained pressure to say whether Mr Crosby, whose lobbying company has also worked for tobacco giant Philip Morris, had spoken to him about shelving the plan for cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging.
The Guardian published extracts from a slideshow presentation produced for the H5 Private Healthcare Alliance, which stated that people believe the NHS provides good healthcare, though they believe it was "too bureaucratic with long waiting lists".
Crosby Textor advised its client that 63% of those questioned in a poll conducted for the presentation believed that "going private frees up the NHS waiting list".
The paper said the presentation was made by Crosby Textor, known as CTF Partners in Britain, towards the end of 2010, just months before the Health and Social Care Bill was given its second reading in the House of Commons in January 2011.