HC Deb 20 November 1997 vol 301 cc437-8
2. Mr. Wilkinson

What assessment she has made of the effect of participation by British companies in formula one motor racing on the capabilities of the motor manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom. [15390]

The Minister for Science, Energy and Industry (Mr. John Battle)

Participation in formula one is of fundamental importance to the highly successful motor sport segment of the motor manufacturing industry in Britain. The motor sport segment also makes a valuable contribution to the technical capacity of the wider motor industry.

Mr. Wilkinson

If British participation in formula one was so important to the British motor manufacturing industry, why did the crucial meetings about the European Union directive that would have banned tobacco promotion at formula one events involve the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health, Chancellor Kohl, the British ambassador in Brussels, representatives of the Cabinet Office and of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr. Ecclestone and Mr. Mosley—but not to my knowledge, and not according to press reports, any representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry? Could this be just another case of the phantom President in action—or rather, inaction?

Mr. Battle

This Government are rather more capable of joined-up thinking between Departments than the previous Government. The Department provided factual information about the motor sport industry and its vital contribution to the economy. Let me add that 50,000 people work full time in that sector, supporting some 30,000 who work in engineering.

Mr. Jim Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that the trade unions have also made a great contribution to the success of the British motor industry? Does he also agree that contributions to political parties from trade unions tend, on the whole, to be more benign than those from rich individuals?

Mr. Battle

Let me say first that formula one, and the whole motor sport industry, make a major contribution to Britain industrially. That involves suppliers in junior formulas, rally, training cars and carting—suppliers right through the supply chain. Their contribution is vital. Many people work in the sector. I would only add, in response to my hon. Friend's question, that I should like to see the Conservative party deciding now to join us in publishing donations that are above £5,000. Why cannot that be done so that we know where they stand?

Madam Speaker

Order. That does not relate at all to the question.

Mr. Townend

Did the Minister have time to read today's press reports, which show that Mr. Mills still has strong links with formula one racing? Should not that rule out any further involvement by the Minister for Public Health in those matters on the ground of conflict of interest?

Mr. Battle

I understand that the permanent secretary has confirmed that there are absolutely no problems. It is a bit rich for the Conservatives to raise matters in this way when they will not even publish annual accounts although they have been requested to do so by their party members.