Politics: But deal set to be rebuffed

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The Independent Online
The European Parliament is likely to throw out any compromise deal on tobacco sponsorship thrashed out today, causing potential embarrassment to the British government during its presidency of the European Union.

Last night Ken Collins, a Labour MEP and chairman of the committee with responsibility for public health, said there would be little appetite in the European Parliament for any compromise.

"The Parliament has a history of wanting a ban on tobacco advertising. This is certainly going to be an interesting experience," he said.

Once a deal is struck and the paperwork finalised, probably in January or February, the European Parliament will have three months in which to decide whether to accept it. If MEPs vote to delete the derogation allowing a stay of execution for Formula One, a process of "conciliation" will begin.

This will be particularly embarrassing for Tessa Jowell, the health minister, because under Britain's presidency of the EU she will be pitted against Mr Collins in the negotiations. She will not be in a position to express the British government's own views.

The European Directive under discussion by health ministers today goes back to 1990, but was previously blocked by the Conservative government.

In 1992, an opinion on an earlier version prepared by Mr Collins's committee, the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection Committee, said the "one step at a time" approach then taken by the European Commission was "far too cautious, if not insubstantial, and was an unsatisfactory response."

The Commission was forced to go back and draw up plans for a total ban.