Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says he's not aware of any minister receiving donations from tobacco lobby groups after grilling by Hipkins

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says he's not aware of any minister receiving donations from tobacco lobby groups after being questioned about it in the House.

Question Time in the House returned on Tuesday and Labour leader Chris Hipkins started the new year by grilling Luxon over the coalition Government's plans to ditch Labour's smokefree legislation.  

When Prime Minister Christopher Luxon announced the coalition Government was scrapping the legislation, it sparked widespread criticism and drew negative headlines around the world.  

In the House, Luxon was asked by Hipkins if he would consider any donation from the tobacco industry to New Zealand First a conflict of interest.  

The Prime Minister responded by saying he wasn't aware of any donations and after further questions, Luxon said he expected his ministers to follow the rules in the Cabinet Manual.  

The Prime Minister appeared on AM on Wednesday morning for the first time in 2024 and was asked about this.  

He backed up what he said in the House on AM, saying he's confident everyone in his team is sticking by the rules.  

"We've got a very good declaration regime here in New Zealand about declaring donations and parties should be following those rules, which I expect them to do," Luxon told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

The Prime Minister said the question from Hipkins didn't urge him to look into potential donations and the stance from the coalition Government on smokefree legislation is clear.  

"What we've said is look we don't support the changes the Government made just before the election," he told AM.  

"That legislation hasn't really bitten in or the changes they proposed haven't taken effect. We want to stick with the current legislation that has driven smoking rates down tremendously over the last decade and that's what we're focused on doing. 

"We're now in a great place, we've had another two points come down. I think only 6.5 percent of Kiwis now smoke daily on a regular basis, and we've got to work now really hard on that group to get them off smokes as well." 

Chan-Green continued to grill Luxon about the question from Hipkins. She asked the Prime Minister whether he plans to ask his ministers whether there is any potential conflict.  

"There's a couple of things at play. One is we have a really good declaration, a high-quality declaration regime here in New Zealand for party political donations and that's a good chance for donations to be declared," the Prime Minister responded.   

"Secondly, all cabinet ministers have to comply with the Cabinet Manual and frankly, at every cabinet meeting, we also ask every cabinet minister to declare up front if there are any conflicts. That's a process that I've put in place since running Cabinet meetings." 

"So there's a number of avenues if there are real or perceived conflicts of interest for ministers to be able to declare as such and for those to be managed. We expect all ministers to comply with those processes." 

Appearing on AM later on Wednesday morning, Labour leader Chris Hipkins said, "Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is refusing to even ask his ministers whether they've received donations from anyone associated with the tobacco lobby.

"If they've received any donations, they need to declare those and be publicly transparent about that so that the public can form their own judgements."

Hipkins said the new government "certainly seems to have close links to the tobacco lobby".

He added that the tobacco industry "will be delighted" by National's approach to smoking.

Pushed for proof that the Government was connected to the tobacco lobby, Hipkins said, "of course I don't have proof because they are not asking the question and are not willing to share that information".

Watch Luxon's full interview above.