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.