Cameron denies lobbying influence claims


David Cameron and Ed Miliband have clashed over lobbying and the NHS in the final prime minister's questions before the summer recess on 17 July 2013.

Labour leader Ed Miliband claimed the prime minister had "caved in to big tobacco" after the government put on hold plans to introduce plain cigarette packaging.

He suggested the decision was influenced by the Conservative Party's election strategist, Lynton Crosby, who lists among his clients the tobacco company Philip Morris.

But Mr Cameron insisted Mr Crosby has "never lobbied me on anything", and said the real "lobbying scandal" was the Labour Party's links with the trades unions.

No 10 has repeatedly denied suggestions that Mr Crosby has had any influence on policy discussions.

Mr Cameron told the Commons the decision to postpone a ban on branding on cigarette packets was taken by him and the health secretary alone.

The government says it is waiting to see how similar plans - designed to cut smoking - in Australia work out first.

Mr Cameron said Labour had reached the same conclusion in government - citing a letter from the then health secretary Andy Burnham to Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell stating that no studies had shown plain packets would cut smoking.

"If his attack on me is that we are not doing something he decided not to do, I would suggest a different line of questioning," Mr Cameron remarked.

But Mr Miliband accused the PM of "weasel words" and said it was a "disgraceful episode".

"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."

Mr Cameron said the Labour leader had nothing to say on the economy despite news that day of a fall in unemployment.

"Every day this country is getting stronger and every day he is getting weaker," Mr Cameron said.

NHS row

Mr Miliband began the session with a question on nurse numbers after a report into high mortality rates at 14 NHS hospitals in England highlighted inadequate staffing levels.

Mr Cameron said the government was putting £12.7bn into the NHS, on top of an extra 900 nurses and 8,500 clinical staff.

But Mr Miliband claimed the government's NHS reforms have diverted money away from patient care, with 4,000 fewer nurses than in 2010.

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