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Pro-privatisation group to lobby after election

The pro-privatisation lobby group formed by the British Airways chairman Sir Colin Marshall has decided not to start campaigning until after the general election to avoid accusations of party political bias.

The formation of the group ran into a storm when it emerged it was being set up with the backing of Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, amid suggestions it would be used to lobby against Labour's proposed windfall utilities tax.

But addressing an inaugural breakfast meeting yesterday attended by 45 chairmen and chief executives, Sir Colin said he and fellow founder, Unipart's chief executive John Neill, had made it clear from the start that the campaign was nothing to do with the windfall tax or any other piece of legislation.

"If there is any political angle to our thoughts it is in the promotion of our market-driven economy and the battle for increased British competitiveness on a global scale. And that is quite firmly on the policy agendas of both the Labour and Conservative parties."

So far five senior figures have been elected to the group's steering committee including Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of Rothschilds merchant bank, and Sir Derek Hornby, chairman of Eurostar operators London and Continental Railways.

Sir Colin said it would take at least six months to draw up an agenda and a budget and begin work, meaning it would be unveiling no initiatives until after the election.