HC Deb 08 December 1997 vol 302 cc655-6
6. Mr. Fraser

What plans the Government have to change the regulations governing business sponsorship of sport. [17980]

Mr. Chris Smith

The Government plan to end sponsorship of sport by tobacco companies and will work actively with sports, business people and others to find alternative forms of sponsorship.

Mr. Fraser

Does the Secretary of State agree that all British citizens should be given the same treatment? If so, does he agree that other sports which rely heavily on sponsorship from tobacco companies have not been given the same treatment as formula one?

Mr. Smith

All European citizens are being given equal treatment under the directive brilliantly negotiated by my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Health last week. As the hon. Gentleman will know from having studied the detail carefully, all countries will have three years from the date of adoption in which to implement the directive in their national law. There will then be a two-year transitional period for all tobacco-sponsored events and activities, with a further three years allowed for events or activities organised at world level.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I welcome the very positive way in which my right hon. Friend has gone about this matter in his statement today—[Interruption.] Oh, yes, there is a very clear change: in 1994, when the Tories faced exactly the same decision, they ducked it under pressure from the tobacco industry.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Conservative Members have never accepted a ban even on tobacco advertising, let alone sponsorship, in this country. We had three objectives from the outset. The first was a complete phasing out of tobacco sponsorship. The second was protection of the interests of sports and the arts. The third was to make special provision for those sports that were particularly badly affected. We have secured all three of those objectives.

Mr. Hawkins

Does the Secretary of State accept that no one in this country, even on the Labour Benches, believes what he has just said? It is apparent that the interests of other major sports, such as cricket, darts and snooker, were completely ignored. It was special favours for special friends.

Mr. Smith

Perhaps that is why, immediately after the announcement of the outcome of the directive, Maurice Lindsay of the Rugby Football League said: I am sure that the other sports will be equally satisfied with last night's announcement. We are grateful to the Prime Minister for listening to us and responding so positively". Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should listen to Maurice Lindsay rather than to his own prejudices.

Mr. Dafis

Does the Secretary of State agree that sponsorship should be targeted at activities that are compatible with sustainable development and provide good role models, especially for young people? Does he further agree that formula one is the epitome of unsustainability and provides a thoroughly bad role model for young people, especially young men? Should not the fact that the celebration of travelling at high speed leads to deaths on the road among young people be borne in mind when thinking about sponsorship? Will not formula one and the Government's actions cause more deaths than, for example, the infinitesimal risk referred to last week in the statement on BSE?

Mr. Smith

Although I agreed with most of what the hon. Gentleman said in his pursuit of the interests of sustainability, I am afraid that he made a bad point. Many of the improvements in road safety, and especially car safety, have come from the engineering expertise put into formula one in this country.