Air Navigation and Transport Bill, 1974: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Before the adjournment I dealt with all points raised by the Deputies opposite and I thank them for their welcome of this Bill. I think everybody would welcome a measure designed to ensure that the people who hijack aircraft do not go free.

There was one point raised which the Ceann Comhairle ruled was outside the scope of the Bill, but a number of Deputies commented on it and I think I should very briefly refer to Eurocontrol and my decisions regarding it.

Eurocontrol was originally set up as an organisation to control the movement of aircraft in the upper air space. This did not work out as envisaged by the original convention and it was watered down to some extent a number of years ago. The United Kingdom and French Governments said they would not allow Eurocontrol personnel to operate in their air space. A number of other countries may also have doubts about this.

I wrote to the President of Eurocontrol about a month ago. The relevant paragraph in my letter reads:

I now wish to inform you that I am unable to agree that Eurocontrol should assume responsibility for the operation of a Shannon centre from 1st January, 1976, and in agreement with the Director-General it is my intention that for the foreseeable future the present arrangements should continue under which the exclusion of the air traffic control of the Shannon upper air space control is performed by the staff of my administration on behalf of the Euro control agency.

That means that the Eurocontrol installations at Shannon and at Bantry will still be there but they will be operated by Irish personnel. If Eurocontrol came in, there is no guarantee, because Eurocontrol would be in charge, what the nationality of the personnel operating the installations would be. The trainees referred to earlier by Deputy Barrett were not trained by Eurocontrol; they were trained by the Irish Government. The point about the pay rates, which are at present the subject of an investigation into pay relativities of air traffic control personnel, is that the people employed by Eurocontrol at Shannon —not necessarily Irish personnel, though we could expect to have a number of our personnel employed by Eurocontrol, but they could be working elsewhere in Europe—would be working alongside Irish personnel in the Irish air traffic control, who would be controlling the lower airspace and be doing exactly the same work for two different rates of pay. Everybody will understand the difficulties this would pose for this or any other Government in relation to relativity of pay in the institutions or organisations under my control.

That was one reason, but the primary reason why I decided that from 1st January, 1976, this should remain under the control of the Irish Government was that we would ensure that Irish people would operate and control the movement of air traffic in the upper airspace over Ireland. I think that was the correct decision to take. If, in the future, Eurocontrol either evolves or even moves back to the original concept in the convention, then we can re-think the position again because the facilities are there—they have been provided by Eurocontrol—but they must be operated by Irish personnel. I think that is the correct thing to do.

Again, I should like to thank Deputies on both sides of the House for the welcome they have given this Bill. The expeditious manner in which the Second Reading was debated underlined the problem posed by hijackers and the necessity for all Governments to take steps to contain their illegal activities.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.