Election '97: PM's private backer wings in with transport

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One of the Prime Minister's private backers, Sir Michael Bishop, was on part of the Prime Minister's tour to the Scottish Borders. Sir Michael, chairman of British Midlands, is donating the use of a British Midland airline 737 jet for an undisclosed sum for the Prime Minister's campaign.

He joined the Prime Minister's battle bus for the final leg of the tour into Carlisle for a public meeting in the market square after the jet touched down at Carlisle Airport.

Sir Michael has underlined in the latest edition of Voyager, the airline magazine, his demands for intervention by the European Commission for more slots for his airline at Heathrow. He is fighting the proposed merger between BA and American Airlines and welcomed the intervention of EU Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert. "Heathrow acts as a hub airport for passengers from across Europe who want to fly across the Atlantic," Sir Michael said.

It was crucial that the deal did not go through. The gains from competition would not be furthered by handing every new slot released at Heathrow to a transatlantic carrier.

"Passengers need competition every bit as much when reaching this hub as they do when travelling on from it. On too many busy routes competition is still lacking. As the airline for Europe, we want to see competition in Europe continue to grow. And that is why we are campaigning for some of the slots given up by the transatlantic alliance negotiations to be handed to airlines who want to increase competition in Europe."