Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill, 1962—Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The object of the Bill is to enable Ireland to continue to play a full part in maintaining, in co-operation with other States concerned, the safe, orderly and efficient flow of aircraft particularly the newer jet aircraft which fly not only at very great speeds but also at very great altitudes. Practical experience shows that it is only through common action by the States concerned that the economic utilisation of their upper airspace can be achieved.

Owing to the high speeds of jet aircraft flying above 20,000 to 25,000 feet, reliance cannot be placed on visual watch from the aircraft to avoid collisions. All such traffic must, therefore, be controlled from the ground. Jet aircraft move quickly from an area under one control centre to another and from one national boundary to another, sometimes in a matter of minutes, and this places a considerable strain on the existing control systems organised on a national basis.

Concomitant with increases in the numbers and speed of aircraft there has been a significant growth in the volume and complexity of radio and electronic equipment designed to extend the reliability and use of aircraft in varying weather and other flying conditions. This expansion calls for the rationalisation of demands on available radio frequencies, and other communication media. Keeping control centres to the minimum demanded by technical considerations and the standardisation of equipment and procedures are necessary steps in avoiding any possibility of saturation in aviation communications media.

The problems arising from the increasing use of jet aircraft are accentuated in the airspace over the Western European countries because of the high density of traffic and following negotiations between them Western Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed at Brussels on 13th December, 1960, the "Eurocontrol" International Convention relating to co-operation for the safety of air navigation. The Convention concerns upper airspace, i.e. above 20,000 or 25,000 feet but a contracting State could ask that the control services of its lower airspace be entrusted to the Organisation to be set up under the Convention. Approach and aerodrome control would not, however, be taken over by the Organisation. Accordingly, if we join Eurocontrol, air traffic control for planes landing or taking off in this country and planes in transit over Ireland below the upper airspace would continue to be exercised by my Department. The staff of Eurocontrol will consist of qualified officers from the countries which are members, including Ireland.

The Convention has been ratified by six signatory States and it came into operation on 1st March, 1963. Membership of Eurocontrol differs from that of the Common Market in that Britain is a founder member while Italy is not yet a member. Italy's difficulties in becoming a founder member are believed to derive from the fact that its air traffic control service is administered by the military. Spain has applied for membership of Eurocontrol and a number of other European countries are considering participation or association in some form.

Air traffic for Eurocontrol purposes comprises civil aircraft movements and those military, customs and police aircraft movements which conform to the procedures of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In the case of air traffic which does not conform with those procedures Eurocontrol will ensure that there is proper co-ordination of their activities so as to attain the maximum degree of safety of operation in airspace.

The Organisation established by the Convention has two parts; a permanent Commission for the safety of air navigation—which is called the Commission—and the Air Traffic Service Agency—which is called the Agency. The Commission is the governing body. The Agency is the executive body run by a Committee composed of representatives of the States and a director to be appointed for a term of five years. The provisional planning staff at present operates from Paris but will be moving to the permanent headquarters of the Organisation in Brussels. Ireland has had an observer in attendance at the provisional planning meetings.

The work of the Organisation will include the establishment of air traffic control centres, the determination of the areas to be controlled by the centres, the equipping and staffing of the centres, the fixing of charges, the relationship of the Organisation with other control administrations and policy in relation to equipment. Decisions on air traffic control centres or treaties with other States must be unanimous, that is to say, each country has a veto. Directives about financial matters require a majority of votes weighted in accordance with the gross national products of the member States. Recommendations on common policy on navigational equipment require a majority vote of the members. Member States have discretion as to the implementation of these recommendations. The weighting of votes in the Commission, although related to gross national products, is tapered in favour of the smaller countries. On this basis, Ireland would be entitled to one vote out of 38 in the Commission.

How could we be tapered below one?

The financial arrangements of the Organisation provide for annual estimates, allocated either to the operating budget or to the investment budget, to be approved by the Commission. Capital expenditure will be shared proportionate to gross national products of the contracting states. Operating costs for the first three years will be shared in the same proportion. Later that proportion will apply only to the net cost of services rendered to aircraft other than civil aircraft of contracting states. In the case of civil aircraft of contracting states net operating costs will be shared proportionate to user. Provision is made for the raising of charges directly against users.

It has been estimated that the contribution of Great Britain to Eurocontrol in the early years of operation will be almost one-third of the whole. France and West Germany will contribute a quarter each, Belgium and the Netherlands about a twentieth each and Luxembourg about £1 in every £400. The 1963 budget for Eurocontrol is estimated at £90,000, and Ireland's contribution would be about £700. The cost of the organisation next year may rise to £2 million on which our contribution would be £16,200 on the basis of gross national product. As against this expenditure, there would be savings in the costs of operation of navigational services in this country, as part of these would be borne by Eurocontrol, and eventually large savings in capital expenditure on the purchase of equipment.

Formal adherence to the Eurocontrol Convention will be dealt with in accordance with the procedure laid down in our Constitution. The purpose of enacting the present Bill is to ensure that the necessary legal status can be given to the Organisation to carry out its functions in the upper airspace on adherence of this country to the Convention. The upper airspace for this purpose is that above altitudes of 20,000 to 25,000 feet. The precise level will be detailed by agreement in due course.

The Bill gives the Organisation corporate status so as to enable it to enter into contracts and other commercial relationship and to sue and be sued in the courts. The Bill also gives the Organisation the necessary authority to ensure that in its daily tasks of allocating airspace to aircraft so as to secure the safe and orderly flow of traffic its working would not be frustrated through the failure of some aircraft to follow instructions. Accordingly it is proposed that aircraft flying anywhere in Eurocontrol airspace will be guilty of an offence under Irish law if they fail to comply with authorisations to proceed issued by Eurocontrol.

Provision is made in the Bill to give diplomatic inviolability to Eurocontrol archives and to premises housing Eurocontrol installations and to exempt the Organisation and its employees from specified taxes and customs requirements. This provision repeats that made in other countries and is the minimum necessary to provide the means of common action. Provision is made also to enable the necessary payments to be made to Eurocontrol. These fall into two classes. In the first place the State assumes responsibility for annual contributions to be assessed under the terms of the Convention. Recurring liabilities of this kind would be defrayed from voted moneys and accordingly would come before the Dáil annually. It is possible also that the State might have to collect at least on an interim basis charges from users of Eurocontrol services and remit them in whole or in part to the Organisation. Provision is made accordingly to enable regulations to be made for the collection and transmission of user charges to the Organisation. In addition power is taken to enable user charges to be collected by the State in respect of services provided by it. The purpose of this provision is to make express provision for the collection of these charges and accordingly to remove any possibility of legal doubts in the matter. The Bill makes provision also for the acquisition of land for transfer to Eurocontrol for the purpose of its activities. The main requirement for land, in so far as civil aviation is concerned, is for airport purposes and the amount of land required for radio aids and housing navigational facilities is insignificant. Right of entry on lands for the purpose of erecting radio buildings and aids can be negotiated usually without recourse to compulsion and accordingly the extra powers of acquisition involved in the proposals contained in the Bill are unimportant.

The Bill provides for the making of Ministerial Orders, to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, which appear to be necessary or expedient for carrying out the Convention. All important matters contained in the Convention are covered by the Bill and the purpose of the provisions is to enable incidental and administrative requirements to be met from time to time. The Bill provides also for the making of Regulations requiring owners and hirers of aircraft to keep records. The use of electrical and radio equipment in aircraft, in control centres and in ground aids to navigation has progressed to such an extent that the facts of any incident in the flight of an aircraft may be determinable only on the basis of the evidence supplied by the examination of this equipment or the recording apparatus incorporated in or associated with it. It is accordingly necessary to include items such as discs, films and tapes in the definition of the records for the purpose of the provision.

It is desirable to mention, however, in relation to the provisions in the Bill with respect to offences and the making of regulations that, in the ultimate, reliance cannot be placed on punitive measures for securing compliance with the requirements and procedures of Eurocontrol. The Organisation is founded on the practical necessities of the limitations of the available upper air space and the impossibility of the safe and efficient use of that space except on the basis of full co-operation and exchange of information between national administrations and between the Eurocontrol Agency and those engaged in the day to day operation of aircraft.

I should mention that Eurocontrol is a civilian organisation and that our adherence to the Convention does not involve the country in any way in military commitments, either explicit or implied.

I recommend the Bill strongly to the Dáil.

All of us in this House accept without question any arrangement for the greater safety of those who fly with the various civilian airlines of the world. It would be wrong, however, if we did not take this opportunity of mentioning how proud we are, how proud this country is, and should be, of the extraordinarily good safety record of Aer Lingus. The record they have been able to achieve is one that not merely pays of itself a tribute to the personnel in the service but is also something that makes for travellers' peace of mind and the peace of mind of all those connected with those travellers.

I must confess that I know very little about air safety, but to-day I heard something that somewhat surprised me, something in relation to the operation of Dublin Airport. That airport belongs to the Department of Transport and Power and not to one of the air companies, although it is operated, of course, by Aer Rianta as an agent for the Minister. I was told to-day—I should like the Minister to verify if it is correct—that it is at present impossible to arrange for a charter cargo plane to come into Dublin Airport between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Traffic during that period is so heavy that safety arrangements make it impossible for a chartered cargo service to be accepted. I do not know whether that is true but that information was given to me by a person who had been trying on behalf of his firm to charter a plane for the purpose of exporting an Irish product. If that is the position, it seems to me to be a very extraordinary one. I could not help feeling that there must be either some misunderstanding or the position needs clarification.

While there has often been very great air traffic at Collinstown, on the other hand, there has never been anything like the concentration of traffic that would make such a prohibition essential in the interests of safety unless, of course, some mechanical device or some new regulation is required to provide that safety for the amount of traffic that would be involved. Perhaps, indeed, the enactment of this Bill will mean that greater traffic can be handled at airports. I do not know but certainly the piece of information which came my way today from an Irish exporter who is anxious to charter a plane for the purpose of sending exports from Ireland is a matter that needs to be cleared up.

I am not referring to a shortage of planes or to a shortage of skilled personnel for Air Lingus. I believe that in regard to the former it does not arise. There may be some question in relation to the latter, that all the personnel required may not be available, but I was told it was not in respect of Air Lingus planes; it was in respect of any plane coming in, that any chartered plane would not be allowed in for cargo purposes between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and I find that very difficult to understand.

It would be peculiarly difficult to understand also if we are to accept the statement that was made by the Minister the other day in Limerick in relation to Shannon Airport. If the Minister was serious when he said the Government could not prevent the transfer of passenger services from Shannon to Dublin, how could that possibly work in with the safety arrangements of which I was told by an exporter today?

I do not know how this debate is going to develop.

I was awaiting the conclusion of Deputy Sweetman's remark.

This Bill deals with an international convention.

Deputy Sweetman has just mentioned the matter and the Chair was awaiting his approach to the question.

The reason I raise it is this. This is for the purpose of ensuring proper safety precautions—

Above 25,000 feet.

As far as I understand, most of the planes that come into Shannon fly above 25,000 feet. I am not an expert on living in the air in the way the Minister does. We all know he regularly lives in the clouds but I always understood that, clouds or no clouds, 25,000 feet was about the height of those planes. Are the safety precautions such that the Minister felt he had to give the indications in relation to Shannon for safety reasons as a result of Eurocontrol?

The question of overflying Shannon seems to deal with another matter and would not be relevant to this Bill which deals with an international convention relating to the safety of air navigation.

I was wholly misrepresented in what I said. I did not say anything of the kind.

I am well used to Fianna Fáil Ministers running away from what they say.

I have the text of what I said.

I would be grateful if the Minister would circulate it because I would hesitate to feel that the Press deliberately misrepresented him. By the Press I mean all newspapers, not Izvestia or Pravda.

The Deputy will hear about it at great length, but not on this Bill.

This particular Minister need never assure the House that they will hear about anything at great length. They always do.

And I make no apology for it either.

However, my obeisance to the rules of order as indicated by the Chair is always well known and I shall refrain from making further comment on that matter. However, in relation to the speech by the Minister, it was intriguing, to say the least of it, how there could be for smaller countries a tapering off of voting power when the smaller countries get only one vote. I should be interested to know what tapering there could be below one. It seems to me that these smaller countries were provided for in that manner, not with a tapering off but with the minimum vote necessary if they are to have any representation at all in the council that will govern affairs for general European air navigation.

So far as the convention is concerned, I take it we must either subscribe to it in toto or not subscribe. It will not be open to us in any way to amend the convention. As a small country we must either take it or leave it. Of course, that is understandable in the conditions and, therefore, we feel we must accept the convention. I go further than that and say that we gladly accept the obligations and the assistance that these Eurocontrol arrangements will involve as regards the safety of air navigation. We do so because we as a Party have always felt it is desirable for us to broaden our horizons in relation to co-operation across Europe and across the world. If this Bill has done one thing alone it is a good thing; if it has brought this Minister down to 25,000 feet, at least we have got him down some distance towards earth and perhaps with a little luck and with the result of the by-election tomorrow he may come down further.

Because of our interest in air transport, I believe we must participate in this desirable rationalisation of air control which is so much to the benefit of greater safety in the air. We are all conscious of the great contribution that Aer Lingus has made to these high standards of safety.

When the Minister refers to land purchase, I assume that one of these stations will be operated from this country and I assume also that some Irish technicians will get opportunities to take part in this international service. We get very infrequent opportunities of discussing air matters in the House and the Minister ought to avail of this opportunity this evening to correct whatever misrepresentations were made of his speech last week-end on the future of Shannon Airport. It is very disturbing and there is an air of——

The Minister's speech on that occasion would be out of order on this Bill.

This is a disturbing matter and the Minister has an opportunity of dealing with it. Everybody in the south-west was worried when it was published.

I do not think Cork are very worried.

We are worried. A very substantial investment has been made in Shannon by the people of this country. We are proud of the way Ireland has taken part in air transport and any feeling that Shannon was going to be overflown in the interests of direct flights to Dublin is something the House should resist. I should like if the Minister could refer to another matter. Is there any possibility of improving the Dublin-Cork service to enable morning connections——

That does not arise.

When will we have another Air Bill?

The Deputy might raise it on an Estimate.

That is all I have to say.

Like other Deputies who have spoken, I welcome any measure which will help to prevent air accidents. I presume the Minister will get this measure through the House but there are a few points on which I should like to comment. I should like to bring the Minister down to earth in regard to his statement that there may be a resemblance between this set-up and the countries of the Common Market. There is a very close comparison in that the same countries are affected, with the possible exception of Italy. The Minister points out that the voting here is favourable to Ireland. The voting is on the basis that Ireland will be entitled to one vote out of 38 in the Commission. If the Minister describes that as favourable, I wonder what his impression would be of our voting strength if we become members of EEC. I think one vote out of 38 is very small representation, practically negligible. Possibly the only reason we are given it is that next year and every year we must pay £16,000 to this body.

Every possible action should be taken to safeguard air travel. One reason put forward by the Minister for this measure is that jet planes fly so high and fast that within a few minutes they overfly different countries and it is difficult for control centres in adjoining countries to keep in touch with these planes. I should like to know why this measure is not more widely based if this organisation is to help safety in the air. One would think it highly desirable in a matter of air safety to have as members as many countries as possible where there are air bases and landing facilities and passenger services. Why is this confined solely to countries which are members of NATO? Only one of the NATO countries of Europe is omitted, Italy, because at the moment air protection services in Italy are handled by the military and the body that is being set up under this Bill is a civilian body. Because in Italy air traffic control at the moment is administered by the military, theoretically at any rate, they cannot take part.

In an emergency, it would not take long for the civilian control exercised in this Commission to be switched over to military control. Power is being given under this measure to acquire sites in Ireland. The Minister may think we are all very naive when he states that we are not in any way involved in military commitments, either explicit or implicit. The people of the country are not such fools, as the Minister and members of his Party believe, that they will swallow everything he says on a matter of this kind. The fact is that this body which is civilian in its interpretation today can be given a military interpretation tomorrow as part of the NATO set-up. There is no doubt about that. We know the Minister's leader, the Taoiseach, has said that he is in favour of joining NATO but he had not the guts to come into the House and say it publicly. He has stated over the years—and his Party have said—that we could not join NATO because we would be giving up our neutrality. We have since decided to give up our neutrality and we are in favour of NATO. So far, we have not got into the Common Market and the EEC countries——

The Deputy seems to be travelling very far from the Bill.

This measure is the first of its kind in which Ireland has been accepted into a group very closely associated with NATO. The Minister has said that certain offences can be committed when this measure becomes law. Where legislation is passed, I feel it is commonsense to suggest that there should be power of enforcement. There is not the slightest power of enforcement in this measure and if any country anywhere decides to fly over Ireland and ignore these regulations, what can we do about it? If the smallest country in South America decides to send aeroplanes over this country at a height of 25,000 feet or more and flouts the regulations which the Government believe they have power to make now, we can do nothing. It is just as nonsensical as the position regarding our fisheries. We have fishery protection boats that are not able to protect our trawlers or fishing grounds. Now we are setting up legislation which may involve certain offences and if these offences are committed, we can do nothing about them. I should like the Minister to clarify the position.

The Minister says Spain has applied for membership of Eurocontrol and a number of other European countries are considering participation or association in some form or other. Would the Minister elaborate on the countries? I am not interested in what Spain is doing because we know the type of Government there. That would be the apple of the Taoiseach's eye, if he could have that type of Government here, seeing how difficult the situation is for him at present. I should like to know the countries considering participation or association. Why is it necessary for us to apply for full membership rather than association which, in the Minister's words, is being considered by some other countries?

The Minister has said that in the voting, directives about financial matters require a majority, weighted in accordance with the gross national products of member states. I presume that is fair enough but I should like the Minister to comment on this one:

Decisions on air traffic control centres or treaties with other States must be unanimous, that is to say, each country has a veto.

Suppose tomorrow morning this country wanted to make some reciprocal arrangement with the United States? If this measure becomes law, is it not a fact that any one of the European States can veto our arrangements with the American Government? Is that desirable? Would it not be more advisable to have association at this stage, rather than what I might describe as full membership? We should not be so anxious to jump into this for prestige purposes, the same as we jump into every possible line of action thought up by a Government with such inventive minds as the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport and Power. I do not want to elaborate too much on what is going to happen this country vis-à-vis America in the next five or six weeks.

It has nothing whatever to do with this Bill anyway.

Somebody suggested the Minister was brought down out of the clouds. I think we shall have to bring him down and sit on him for a while. The situation I refer to, where this country might like to make some arrangement on air services with the American Government is one the Minister should bear in mind. It is quite possible that situation may arìse. At present we have Aer Lingus going into the hotel business in conjunction with American interests. We know what that means. As far as the Americans are concerned, their intention is to get to Dublin direct from America, which means overflying Shannon.

The Deputy is travelling very far.

It has nothing whatever to do with the control of upper air space.

I am not allowing the Deputy to discuss that.

I do not intend to, Sir.

I have my suspicions.

I shall allay the Ceann Comhairle's suspicions by referring to the Minister's statement that Ireland's voting strength on this Commission is to be one and that the power of veto lies with other member States in regard to any arrangement made between two countries. I should like to pose this question to the Minister. If Ireland and America wish to make certain arrangements as far as air services are concerned, will it be necessary for the Irish Government to submit those arrangements to Eurocontrol for its approval? If so, it is a backward step at this stage.

I am in full agreement with any steps to improve safety precautions in the air, but I would much prefer to see a wider body established. I would much prefer to see the Americans, the Russians and all those other people throwing their weight into a worldwide body that would have the power to deal with those who offended against the majority. There is no use in five or six countries thinking they can bring about a certain measure of control in air services and safety precautions. If bigger countries flout the wishes of these States, legislation of the kind now before the House is a waste of time and highly undesirable. The reason I harp on that is that I am so keen on seeing the best possible safety measures brought into operation. I do not believe the type we have in this measure are the best possible under the circumstances.

I cannot help it if Deputy McQuillan dreads joining international organisations, but with the sanction of this House, we are going to join Eurocontrol, and that is that. Eurocontrol cannot veto any arrangements made with the United States. It will extend only to the area above the national territories of the member States.

In regard to violation of regulations, any plane violating air navigation regulations can be detained if it lands at any airport in a country which is a member of Eurocontrol. Mercifully, we do not have to spend millions on expensive air traffic police to prevent all sorts of illegal incidents taking place in the air above us, because on the whole, the international regulations are well observed by civil aircraft, and indeed by military aircraft, in the vast majority of countries.

When planes come into Shannon Airport, the Shannon Airport Air Traffic Control will be controlled by the national service and not by Eurocontrol, as the planes are then below 25,000 feet. Eurocontrol will not operate in the North Atlantic. It is concerned with the control of navigation in the upper air space 20,000 to 25,000 feet over territories of members who belong to the organisation.

Will we have any unit of this service in this country?

The Deputy can surely wait until I get the opportunity of replying?

I beg your pardon.

Association with Eurocontrol would be of no value to this country. We would have no say in the location of centres or any other matter in which we might wish to have a voice. We should try to avoid association in our position in relation to European organisations in general. We should play our part and accept our responsibilities in full.

Eurocontrol has nothing to do with NATO. I might add that Sweden and Switzerland have observers at Eurocontrol, and moreover, the Commission cannot act on any important matter except unanimously, and so they could hardly drag us into a war. That disposes of the ridiculous suggestion of Deputy McQuillan. Eurocontrol deals only with air traffic control and has nothing to do with the routes and operations of air companies.

Deputy Barry asked about the location of centres for the Eurocontrol technical and administrative operations. This has not yet been determined. The Commission, on which we will be represented, will determine the areas. There again, their decision must be unanimous. Irrespective of the locations, it is expected a number of Irish technicians will be employed by Eurocontrol. We have very friendly and happy relations with all the officers concerned with the formation of this organisation. As usual, our own officers are playing a part over and above what might be regarded as what they would have in relation to the size of the country.

I am glad to say the officials of my Department, as those of other Departments, are able to express the image of Ireland and play an excellent part at a great many international conferences, as Deputies well know. Deputies have asked about our contribution. The reason I spoke of our being entitled to vote, to a certain participation in the voting, was the fact that if it were tapered, our contribution would be one vote in 100. As it is, it is one vote in 38. That is what I meant by tapering.

Deputy Sweetman asked about certain regulations with regard to chartered traffic at Dublin Airport. I am making inquiries into this matter. I do not know of any such arrangement at all. I read the regular reports of the amount of freight handled at Dublin Airport constantly increasing. I have discussed the whole matter on occasions with the Chairman of Aer Lingus in an endeavour to see what could be done to promote the development of air freight.

Aer Lingus do not run the airport.

But they are anxious to develop freight.

I was referring to chartered freight, possibly because Aer Lingus were not in a position to handle it.

The traffic at Dublin Airport will not be affected by Eurocontrol. Our planes operating to and from Dublin will be under 25,000 feet in the Dublin Airport area.

Deputies have asked why more countries had not offered to be members of Eurocontrol. It has been started by countries where there is the greatest density of jet aircraft, where aircraft converge from all parts of the world and where the control of navigation is becoming more and more difficult.

There would be a fair concentration over Switzerland.

Switzerland have observers at the moment and are obviously interested. Eurocontrol is making a beginning in the areas of jet plane concentration in Europe. I think I have answered all the questions asked.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 5th June, 1963.