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No government funds for Silverstone

Silverstone will not receive any financial assistance from the British government to help secure the British Grand Prix, insists Lord Peter Mandelson, the secretary of state for business.

Bernie Ecclestone has repeatedly called for state funding for the British event, and the size of the race-hosting fee has become the key issue in his current negotiations with Silverstone. But Lord Mandelson said there was no way he could justify uses taxpayers' money on Formula 1.

"I'm not in a position to use taxpayers' money to bail out what would be a sort of commercial venture in a very cash-rich sport," Lord Mandelson told BBC Radio Five Live. "I can't do that, especially during a recession, but [Ecclestone] has my backing in what he's trying to do.

"It's not a question of its commerciality or its viability. It's not as if it's a growing start-up company or industry, where I have come in and helped. This is not in that category, this is a very cash-rich sport so it would not be possible to justify just using taxpayers' money to subsidise a sport that doesn't actually need our financial help, whatever we're spending on the Olympics.

"To his credit, in all the conversations I've had with Bernie, he's never asked for government money, or a government loan or a subsidy.

"It's not loose change for the taxpayer, it's not the taxpayer's role to come in and do this when it's not justified or needed."

He emphasised that the UK government appreciated the importance of the race and the motorsport industry to the country - and had helped the sport in other ways already.

"The British Grand Prix is a very important event, it's a much loved British institution and it's got to continue," said Mandelson.

"Just as the grand prix is important to us, the whole of motor sport is important, not because of the enjoyment it provides but because it's really important for our economy - it contributes getting up to £4 billion to the economy.

"And if you look at the jobs it creates there are 25,000 engineers involved in this sport in Britain, quite apart from 40,000-odd jobs, so I have a responsibility to retain it and to support the motorsport industry just as I would any other.

"We have supported Silverstone in the past, some years back we provided £8 million to speed up construction of the A43 bypass to help ease the awful congestion that surrounds the Silverstone circuit when it's in use. So we have done our bit.

"I was glad to be able to help the Brawn management in its efforts to buy the team from Honda and get on the grid this season. So we're there to help when we can, but not to involve ourselves either in particular negotiations, or to fork out on behalf of the taxpayers when it's not needed."

But he is optimistic that negotiations between Ecclestone and Silverstone will ultimately be successfully completed and ensure the 2010 British GP goes ahead.

"If I was a betting man I would say yes, but don't read too much into that, that's just my punt," said Lord Mandelson.

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