Politics: Tessa Jowell to set out pounds 100m cost of tobacco advertisi ng ban

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The Independent Online
Tessa Jowell, public health minister, will today face her third grilling by MPs over Formula One's exclusion from an EU ban on tobacco advertising. Colin Brown, Chief Political Correspondent, reports that she has new figures to support her case.

Tessa Jowell will be on the defensive today when she is challenged by MPs over Britain's demand that Formula One should be given permanent exclusion from the European Union ban.

The public health minister will be going to the European Council on Thursday facing criticism that she risks wrecking a European-wide deal by holding out for the exclusion of Formula One. Last week, Labour MPs joined in attacking the policy, and have summoned her to face fresh questioning today. Two committees said claims that 50,000 jobs would be lost were exaggerated.

Ms Jowell is expected on Thursday to offer a compromise to accept a ban on tobacco sponsorship of motor racing but delay it for 10 years.

The select committees for health and European legislation both said it should be treated like other sports, which are faced with a ban in four to five years. She is unlikely to set out Britain's negotiating position before the EU meeting.

Some Tory MPs were preparing to accuse her of breaking Commons rules today by failing to deliver a memorandum on the cost of implementing a ban. But Whitehall sources said she would be going to the committee armed with a new paper, setting out the costs to different sections of industry of complying with an EU ban. The details were published late last night: they said that over pounds 100m per year was spent on tobacco advertising, pounds 50m of it on press and poster advertising, pounds 35m on F1, pounds 8m on sports sponsorship and pounds 10m on direct marketing. Tobacco revenue made up 10 per cent of the total income for Britain's 17,500 poster sites.

Ms Jowell vehemently denied allegations last week that Tony Blair bowed to the pressure from the motor racing lobby after the party received a donation of pounds 1m from Bernie Ecclestone, the head of F1. But the Government was forced to announce that the party was returning the donation.

She has been called back by the European legislation committee to face further cross-examination because MPs were dissatisfied with her replies.

Some of the questioning by Labour MPs was the most hostile faced by a minister from her own side since the election. At the hearing of the health committee, Ms Jowell was told she was "defending the indefensible".