A Labour peer has strongly defended his position as chairman of Coventry Airport's independent watchdog committee despite being a paid consultant of the airport's owners.
Lord Snape, the former MP for West Bromwich, was accused of having a conflict of interest and urged to step down as chairman of the airport's consultative forum.
The former Labour opposition aviation spokesman rounded on his critics, accusing them of creating a "great diversion" from the taxpayer's money wasted in fighting the airport's expansion by planning authority Warwick District Council.
The peer has a contract worth several thousand pounds as a consultant with German tourism giant TUI, which bought the airport for £8 million last year.
Lord Snape and his wife Janet also took a trip to Barbados to attend a three-day tourism conference, for which TUI picked up the bill, even though he reportedly did not make a speech or carry out any engagements. However, section 5.1 of the Department for Transport 'Guidelines for Airport Consultative Committees', states: "It is important that the Chairman should not be closely identified with any sectional interest."
Speaking to The Birmingham Post from his holiday in Spain, Lord Snape said his friend Bill Savage, Coventry Airport managing director, approached him to chair the committee last spring.
" I quite deliberately declined expenses at that stage because I knew emotions were riding high and it was likely I would be criticised by the anti-airport brigade.
"It wasn't until November that the British chief executive of TUI approached me to do some work for them at a national level. I have never discussed Coventry Airport, it has never come up in any meeting I have been in." He added: "I chose every member of that committee and does the fact that there is a slight anti-airport majority seem like the actions of a man anxious to favour the airport over others?"
Warwick District councillor Bernard Kirton, who is part of a campaign to stop more flights by TUI's low-cost carrier Thomsonfly from the airport, said: "Lord Snape ought to examine whether it is appropriate for him to remain in charge of the forum in view of his close personal and business connections with TUI."
However, Lord Snape said this was an attempt to divert attention from the cost to taxpayers of two public inquiries - one recently concluded and one due at the end of the year - triggered by planning committee rejections of airport expansion proposals.