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Did Bernie bribe Blair on Tobacco? UPDATE #3  Evidence is mounting that Bernie may have bribed Blair.  Commons Speaker Michael Martin last night launched an investigation into whether Tony Blair 'deliberately misled' Parliament over New Labor’s first sleaze scandal.

The Speaker said he was 'deeply concerned' by claims that the former prime minister 'lied' to MPs over how Formula 1 came to be exempted from a ban on tobacco advertising.

Documents released at the weekend suggest Mr. Blair personally ordered the move hours after meeting the sport's billionaire boss Bernie Ecclestone, who had donated £1million to Labour.

They appear to show that he instructed his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, to signal his support for an exemption just hours after meeting Mr. Ecclestone on October 16, 1997.

At the time of the scandal, Mr. Blair said the decision was taken several weeks later and famously protested that he was a 'pretty straight sort of guy'.

Mr. Martin promised to intervene after Conservative MPs John Maples and Peter Luff told the House the new evidence proved Mr. Blair had misled Parliament

The previously secret briefing notes, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, reveal that Whitehall officials had been concerned that an answer being prepared to a parliamentary question, tabled by Mr. Maples in 1997, might be 'disingenuous'.

He wanted to know on what date the decision was taken to exempt Formula 1 from the ban.

But before that answer could be given, on November 12, Mr. Blair told the Commons it had been a ' collective decision, made in the normal way'.

He also told MPs that 'no decisions were taken' when he met Formula 1 chiefs.

Mr. Luff told MPs yesterday: 'I understand we would know what to do were he (Mr. Blair) still a Member of this House. That is not the case but it's all the more important that the record is corrected.' Mail Online

10/13/08 Tony Blair has rejected claims he "deliberately misled" Parliament when he was prime minister over sleaze allegations.

Previously secret documents appear to show Blair personally intervened to secure Formula One's exemption from a tobacco advertising ban hours after meeting the sport's boss, Bernie Ecclestone.

Commons Speaker Michael Martin pledged to look into MPs' complaints that the documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the then prime minister lied about his involvement.

The Government has always maintained that the meeting did not influence the final decision - even though Ecclestone was a major party donor at the time.

A spokesman for Blair insisted: "There is nothing new here.

"All these issues were known and debated at the time, and the documents released are entirely consistent with Tony Blair's answers at the time." Sporting Life

10/12/08 (GMM)  Newly released documents show former British prime minister Tony Blair triggered a change in policy to allow tobacco advertising at the British grand prix.

The documents contradict claims at the time that a meeting with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in 1997 had no influence on the country's decision to allow formula one an exemption from the ban of tobacco advertising.

A letter from the prime minister's office, sent to then health minister Tessa Jowell the day after the meeting, states that "the prime minister would like your ministers to look for ways of finding a permanent derogation for sport, in particular F1".

Ecclestone and Blair, now a UN envoy on the Middle East, were also linked at the time to a sizeable donation from the 77-year-old to Blair's ruling political party.  The donation was hastily refunded upon revelation by the press.

10/11/08 Tony Blair personally intervened to secure Formula One's exemption from the tobacco advertising ban after meeting the sport's billionaire boss, Bernie Ecclestone, Whitehall documents revealed last night.

A clutch of briefing papers released to 'The Sunday Telegraph', after a two-and-a-half-year freedom of information battle, show the full extent of the former prime minister's role in New Labor’s first "sleaze" scandal, in 1997, in which he famously declared himself to be a "pretty straight sort of guy". They reveal that he ordered ministers to work out how F1 could be allowed a "derogation" from the incoming ban after meeting Mr. Ecclestone, who was a big Labour donor.

The revelation casts doubt on the version of events given by officials to Parliament and to parliamentary journalists when the scandal broke. The documents also show that civil servants believed that draft statements on the affair, which were about to be made public, were "disingenuous". The Government has always maintained that the meeting, in October 1997, did not result in high-level moves to exempt F1 from the advertising ban. Ministers and officials have consistently argued that the move was a joint decision made with the Department of Health at a later date.

Smoking gun?

Newly released papers show Blair told ministers to help F1 avoid tobacco advert ban. Independent.co.uk

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