Committee on Finance. - Customs-Free Airport Bill, 1947—Committee and Final Stages.

Bill passed through Committee without amendment, and reported.
Agreed to take remaining stages now.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I regard this Bill as, on the whole, a laudable attempt to salvage the vast sums of money spent at Rineanna. I do not think that rational people have any doubt that, in ten years' time, no transatlantic passenger plane bound for the Continent of Europe or Great Britain will stop at Rineanna, and if there was nothing but passenger traffic scheduled for Rineanna in ten years' time we would have nothing in Rineanna but rabbits. It is quite manifest that the idea of express passenger traffic using Rineanna as a transatlantic port is fantastic. With the increased range of aircraft which is developing daily, it would be as ludicrous to suggest that, in ten years' time, transatlantic express passenger services would stop at Rineanna as it would be to suggest that the "Queen Elizabeth" would stop at Castletownberehaven to take on fresh water. But there has been from the beginning, and there may yet be, a reasonable chance of making Rineanna serve as an aerial entrepót distribution centre for the Continent of Europe, provided we offer at this end adequate facilities.

I should like the Minister to tell us that at some early date he could afford to be somewhat more explicit as to the facilities he intends to provide. It is not enough to say that we propose to do all we can to make this depót useful. In business, there are any number of people who make vague general offers, but busy men have not got the time to go rooting around to find out what exactly these offers in general terms mean. The offer which gets business is the offer which sets out in black and white precisely what the vendor is offering for the purchaser's money. I do not think we have attempted to do that yet.

I suggest to the Minister that if we are to salvage anything out of Rineanna—and it is very problematical whether we will or not; it is more than likely that Rineanna will be a deserted wilderness in ten years' time and any aerial traffic we have will be handled at Collinstown or some station near Dublin—we must at once provide certain facilities and tell those we expect to use them what those facilities are. We must have adequate refrigeration; we must have a staff of persons in Rineanna who are familiar with the traffic regulations relating to every form of merchandise traffic in every country in Europe; and we must be in a position to say—and to perform —that any consignor in the United States of America who wishes to despatch an express parcel to any country on the Continent of Europe may deliver it at Rineanna, that we will there, if necessary, break bulk and divide the parcel for different destinations, that we will there guarantee to keep it in perfect condition and that we will thence despatch it on its way in the shortest possible time to the destination for which the consignor intends it.

We must do that at once. We must get all these facilities provided at the earliest possible moment, because, if we do not, as certain as we are here, one of the coastal countries of the Continent of Europe will provide that kind of facility. I think I am right in saying that Hamburg was the great entrepót port in Europe prior to the war for seaborne traffic. Inevitably, there will be some kind of airport on the Continent of Europe in the near future. It may be Lisbon, it may be one of the Dutch ports. But the first in will have an immense advantage, and to get in it is vitally important that what we have to offer should be made known to consignors at once. We have one immense advantage, pace the Gaelic League, and that is that we speak English and we therefore can transact business with the American people who will be our principal consignors in a language which they can understand. That is an advantage which gives us a fighting chance at this stage over any European country. But the important thing is that we should exploit it by making the service really first-class, by making it that at once, and by intelligently communicating the service we have to offer to potential customers without delay.

Two things remain to be said. One is that we ought to get a traffic expert from the United States of America at the earliest possible moment to tell us what consignors in America want. Secondly, having got that expert advice and acted on it, we ought to give up the idea that we can advertise our wares through Consul's offices in America. We should at once hire the best firm of advertising agents in the United States, a firm serving Reynold's tobacco, Marshall Fields, or other leading firms in the United States of America. They are very expensive, their fees are very high; but if we are going to take a great chance in this investment we should not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar. We should get these people of prepare an effective publicity campaign, not addressed naturally to the 120,000,000 of people in the United States of America, because of that 120,000,000 perhaps about 100,000 are potential customers for this purpose, but through magazines like Fortune and other publications of that character which reach the people willing to consign goods, and that should be done without delay. Thirdly, when you have sunk a large sum of money, as we have done, in a commercial enterprise such as the Shannon Airport is, there comes a time such as this which has come upon us now, when you have to make up your mind whether you are going to cut your losses or whether you are going to salvage what you have already spent and use it as a foundation to build up a prosperous business. For good or ill, this House has apparently made up its mind to attempt salvage. Very well. If we are going to attempt salvage, it is no use attempting it in a pinchbeck way. The only chance you have of saving Rineanna from becoming a rabbit-ridden wilderness in ten years' time is to make it the most efficient and up-to-date entrepót merchandise distribution centre in Europe. That is going to cost money and it is going to require highly expert advice which is extremely expensive to purchase.

I urge most strongly on the Minister that he should reassure us, now that these powers are given him, that he will get the best advice he can get from American transport companies, not as to what we should give them, but as to what they want, so that, whether we think they should have it or not, we shall give it to them in order to get us customers. Secondly, that he will reassure us that the amenities we propose to provide will be brought to the attention of those whom we hope will use them by the most effective advertising campaign that money can purchase in the United States. Thirdly, that his instructions to those charged with the responsibility of providing these amenities will be: "Do not waste a penny of public money, but do not let any consideration of money alone prevent you from providing the last thing in up-to-date accommodation for those who are going to use the port."

Many Deputies, I think, forget that part of that accommodation will have to be a service of aeroplanes which will carry the merchandise from Rineanna on to its ultimate destination. That is going to be an immense investment. I am not at all convinced that it is wise to embark upon it. But, if Deputies are, I most strenuously urge upon them that they embark on it in the only way which shows hope of success, and that is the way of which I have given a general outline now and of which I look to the Minister confidently to fill in the details in a very explicit way at an early date for us through himself and through the most effective advertising medium he can command to our potential customers in the very early future.

Deputy Dillon's record as a prophet is so pock-marked with exploded prognostications that his gloomy forebodings about the Shannon are the best augury for its future. The Deputy need not fear that measures will not be adopted to bring the facilities available at Shannon to anyone who is likely to be interested, and in that task we shall have the whole hearted, because interested, co-operation of a number of important transatlantic air transport companies.

When, and how, does the Minister propose to communicate to this House and interested parties outside the nature of the facilities he intends to provide?

This Bill is providing the most important facility of all.

This will involve the expenditure of a very large amount of money. Does he ever intend to tell us, or does he assert his right to do this without discussion?

I dealt with that question to some extent in introducing the Bill. Particular matters of detail can be discussed more properly in the debates on the Estimate.

Then we may look forward on the Estimate to being informed as to the exact nature of the facilities to be provided. That is the answer.

Question put and agreed to.