Tube stations considered for political adverts

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A PRIVATE company with Tory party links is considering lifting the ban on party political advertising on London buses, bus stops, Underground stations and trains.

With party political advertising banned on television and radio, poster sites will be one of the principal battlegrounds at the next general election.

The Tories used hundreds of poster sites for its successful 'tax bombshell' attack on Labour in 1992. Labour protested after discovering that many prime sites had been booked up for the Tories by a private company.

Now London's buses and the Underground system look set to become part of the election propaganda battleground. A consortium, which includes the Hambros Group, confirmed that it was considering lifting the ban on political advertising on London Transport after buying London Transport Advertising last week.

Although Labour would be free to bid for advertising space, sources said they feared lifting the ban would give the Tories a powerful propaganda weapon. Charles Hambro, the chairman of Hambros, is a Tory party treasurer. He was awarded a life peerage on Saturday by John Major in a list of working peers.

Glenda Jackson, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate, who uncovered the possible change in policy, called for tougher controls. 'The regulations covering party political advertising have got to be tightened. Sites that have been paid for by the taxpayer should not be used to advertise on behalf of the Conservative Party.'

A spokeswoman for the consortium LDI said: 'It may change in the future.' Hambros formed the consortium with Transportation Displays Incorporate, the largest transport advertising corporation in the United States. Under the deal, LDI will control more than 220,000 advertising sites, making it London's largest poster contractor. It includes a six-year contract to handle the display advertising on London Underground.

Approving the deal, Steven Norris, Minister for Transport in London, said: 'The sale . . . demonstrates our desire to maximise the private sector's contribution to London Transport. It will benefit taxpayers and passengers.'