Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has been slammed for avoiding Retail Newsagent’s questions on his support for plain tobacco packaging.

Initially responding to last week’s ‘plain packs rebels’ front cover, Mr Burnham tweeted “time to get organised”. When pressed on what he meant, he replied “to help govt defeat the rebels and win the vote”.

But when RN asked Mr Burnham five times what changed his mind and how he has considered the impact on local shops he refused to comment.

Nick de Bois MP said: “It’s frustrating that the debate has not only been silenced in the House of Commons, it’s been silenced by the one man who is driving this policy through for Labour, who won’t enter into debate.

“It’s all very well being loud and vocal on Twitter, but I think he should start engaging with those stakeholders who want to challenge his policy.”

In 2009, when health secretary, Mr Burnham said: “No studies have shown that introducing plain packaging of tobacco products would cut the number of young people smoking.”

However, in 2013, before any evidence had come from Australia, he said: “Standardised cigarette packets are key to deterring our young people from taking up smoking.”

Read more about how RN is fighting your corner on plain packs.