The Conservative Party has a long history of receiving cash and assistance from tobacco companies, especially during general elections.
Since just before the last election the party has been given at least pounds 500,000 from the industry according to Labour Research, a trade union- funded research body.
Lord Hanson's Imperial Tobacco gives pounds 100,000 every year to the party while Rothmans International gave pounds 100,000 before the last election. Labour Research cannot be sure that the Tories do not also receive funds from the tobacco industry through overseas subsidiaries it cannot track.
British-American Tobacco has said it does not donate to actual parties in the UK, but has admitted to funding right-wing think tanks. Lord Hanson's support has been especially strong, although he is understood to have become disillusioned with the party since it ousted Mrs Thatcher as leader.
At the last two general elections, Imperial turned over as many as 2,000 poster sites to the Tories as soon as the election was called. Because cigarette advertisers are banned from using television, the tobacco companies traditionally dominated the outdoor advertising market and had the best- positioned hoardings signed up in long-term deals. This gave the Tories a considerable advantage when the scramble to book sites started.
The links between tobacco companies and the Tories include paid MPs. Sir Jim Lester, MP for Broxtowe, is a paid parliamentary consultant for BAT Industries, earning between pounds 10,000 to pounds 15,000. Rothmans pays Harold Elletson, Conservative MP for Blackpool North pounds 10,000 to pounds 15,000 as an adviser, while Nirj Deva, Conservative MP for Brentford and Isleworth takes no fee as an adviser to the same company. Former Home Secretary Kenneth Baker is a non-executive director of Hanson plc.
After the last general election the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, the industry's representative body, renegotiated its voluntary agreement with the government on the regulations that cover tobacco advertising.
The tobacco industry agreed to cut back its spending on advertising on posters by 40 per cent and agreed to take down posters from anywhere near schools. It also agreed to remove its advertisements from magazines read by young women under the age of 24.
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