The Government began a race against time to ban tobacco advertising before the general election by including a Bill to outlaw tobacco promotion in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.
Labour ministers, who had hoped to end tobacco ads a year ago, confirmed they would bring in their own legislation after plans for a Europe-wide ban were scuppered by the European Court of Justice.
Government sources said that the Bill was likely to stick closely to the stalled European Union directive rather than go further, as anti-smoking groups are urging. 'A short, sharp Bill will have a better chance of getting through Parliament quickly,' one minister said.
Labour's prospects of getting the measure on the statute book before the general election, expected next May, were boosted when the Tories signalled they were likely to back a ban. 'We will judge this Bill on health grounds,' a Tory source, said .
Liam Fox, the shadow health secretary, announced a U-turn on the Tories' previous opposition to a ban last year. The tobacco industry hoped to change the Tories' line by lobbying William Hague on the issue.
But the Tory source said: 'Liam Fox cleared his position with William Hague. There is no difference between them, as the tobacco industry would like to claim.'
However, the Bill could still be held up in the House of Lords. Ministers admitted privately that not all of the 15 measures in the Queen's Speech would become law before a spring election.