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Friday, November 28, 1997 Published at 10:48 GMT


Government reprimanded over tobacco sponsorship
image: [ Two cross-party Commons committees have criticised the Government's policy on tobacco sponsorship ]
Two cross-party Commons committees have criticised the Government's policy on tobacco sponsorship

The Government is under fresh pressure to scrap plans to exempt Formula One motor racing from a proposed tobacco sponsorship ban after being mauled by two parliamentary committees.

Both the health select committee and the select committee on European legislation questioned the strength of the case for permanently exempting Formula One from a ban.

The reports by the cross-party Commons committees both attacked the Government's policy, which has been criticised in the light of revelations that Labour accepted a 1 million donation from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone before the General Election.

[ image: Tessa Jowell...grilled by MPs]
Tessa Jowell...grilled by MPs
Public health minister Tessa Jowell, who was grilled by both committees, was embroiled in the controversy after it was revealed her lawyer husband had links with motor racing.

The committee on European legislation disputed the Government's claim that 50,000 jobs would be at risk in Britain if Formula One Grand Prix no longer took place in Europe.

They put the figure at around 8,000.

The report went on to say "no very exacting assessment" had been made of how much different sports depend on tobacco sponsorship.

The committee also questioned the fairness of exempting one sport alone and said this policy "deserves very close consideration."

The health committee produced a report which said: "Formula One should be placed under the same pressure as other sports to seek alternative sponsorship".

[ image: David Hinchciffe...
David Hinchciffe..."Their case is flawed"
Committee chairman David Hinchliffe said: The Government have had the wool pulled over their eyes by Formula One.

"They've accepted a case that's flawed. It's a case that could be made similarly by other sports and other sports have had the integrity not to make that case.

"Sports such as rugby league have accepted the Government's position and are moving away from tobacco sponsorship.

"We believe other sports should be doing this and so should Formula One."

Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat member of the European legislation committee, said Mrs Jowell was clearly "uncomfortable" with the exemption for Formula One and he suggested she had been put under pressure by others in the Government.

The Government is now under pressure to reach a compromise in European talks next week on an EU directive to ban all tobacco advertising across Europe, except where cigarettes are sold.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said on Thursday: "The decision was in our view the right one and also there is a negotiation going on about the directive. "Our aim is to get this directive agreed. That will be difficult."

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