Politics: Compromise deal is on the cards for Formula One tobacco ads

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The Independent Online
As the public health minister Tessa Jowell faced down her Tory critics in a Commons committee yesterday, she was unwilling to say what the Government's latest view on Formula One tobacco sponsorship was. But officials made it clear that a compromise deal would be on the cards when European health ministers meet tomorrow to discuss the ban.

It also emerged yesterday that Formula One receives a smaller proportion of its funding from tobacco sponsorship than billiards or snooker.

Although racing receives the largest sum, pounds 150m worldwide and pounds 35m in Britain each year, the figure represents only 50 per cent of its income. Billiards and snooker relied on tobacco sponsorship for 70 per cent of their income, receiving pounds 4m worldwide.

A month ago Ms Jowell wrote to her European counterparts saying that because Formula One was more dependent on tobacco sponsorship than other sports it should be given special treatment. The decision caused a row after it was revealed that the chief executive of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone, had given Labour pounds 1m.

Yesterday Ms Jowell maintained that Labour could be proud of its stance on tobacco advertising, which it promised to ban before the election. The Conservatives had blocked moves to implement a European ban.

The sheer size of Formula One's tobacco funding would make it more difficult to replace than that received by other sports, she said, but she refused to say how many years' exemption she was now seeking for the sport. There had been reports that Formula One would be given 10 years to find alternative sponsorship, but last night there were suggestions that the phase-in period could be even less.

An amended proposal for the new European directive gives most sports two years to implement the ban - in reality three and a half years because it would take 18 months to put legislation in place. A further period for sports organised "at world level" is proposed, but its length is left open for discussion.