The Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Atkins MEP (North West) today demanded that the Commission and the Government provide only targeted assistance to the airline industry in relation to insurance and security screening. Speaking in the European Parliament debate on Air Transport, the Conservative Transport Spokesman insisted that limitless subsidies should not be given to inefficient loss-making airlines.

Sir Robert reminded the Commission "that if EasyJet and Ryanair can make money in these difficult times why should the likes of Aer Lingus be bailed out of trouble!"

The former Minister for Aerospace also pressed for reassurances regarding British Airlines.

"I am delighted that British Midland and British European have picked up Sabena's routes from British airports, the former from Manchester. However there are concerns that, despite the investment, these slots could be taken away from them in six months and given to DAT, a company formed from Sabena's ashes. This would be scandalous because as long as they are offering a profitable service to the public, British airlines should be allowed to keep these routes."

Sir Robert continued, "I also wanted assurance that restrictive practices by ex- Sabena staff in 'going slow' and refusing to process the British airlines would be stopped immediately. It is a passenger's right to demand freedom of movement on the ground as well as in the air!"

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