Gabhaim buíochas leis na Teachtaí go léir a labhair i bhfábhar an Bhille tábl achtach seo agus a d'aontaigh le phriomhaidhmeanna an Bhille, siad sin, slándáil agus sábháilteacht eitlíochta sibhialta na hEireann a chur chun cinn agus cumas a chur ar an Stát seo a dhualgaisí a chomhlíonadh faoi Choinbhinsiuin I dirnáisiúnta maidir le heithlíocht sibhialta.
I am indeed most grateful to all the Deputies who expressed their strong support for this important Bill which is designed to promote the safety and security of civil aviation in the State and to enable the State to meet its obligations under certain International Civil Aviation Conventions. The Bill is intended to underpin our vigorous policy of developing Irish civil aviation and early enactment of the Bill is, therefore, most desirable. In other words, the Bill is designed to ensure that our civil aviation will continue to operate to the highest international standards so as to foster the continuing development of Irish airlines and aerodromes and increase the number of tourists coming to Ireland.
The Bill specifically strengthens the powers of the Minister for Tourism and Transport to achieve further improvements in aviation security. Civil aviation has an obvious international dimension and aviation security is dependent on appropriate international measures. Ireland is party to three International Conventions designed to protect civil aviation against terrorism. An international conference which was held in Montreal in February of this year adopted a further instrument for the protection of aerodromes serving international civil aviation. The Government will shortly be considering the question of implementing the new instrument, for which legislation would be needed. Recent unfortunate events show that the international community must ever remain vigilant to prevent acts of violence against civil aviation and there must be no let-up in our resolve to stamp out such acts.
Many of the points raised by Deputies concerned operational aspects of civil aviation which have been dealt with in the meantime at Dáil Question Time. Therefore, I do not propose to deal with those points now and will concentrate on matters directly related to this Bill.
A number of Deputies questioned the use of the term "aerodrome" in the Bill and its relevance nowadays. The position is that "aerodrome" is the technical term used in international civil aviation to denote what are colloquially known as "airports". For this reason "aerodrome" is used throughout the Air Navigation and Transport Acts, 1936 to 1986, and no difficulty has arisen as a result of that term being used in those Acts. If other legislative priorities permit consolidation of those Acts, then the use of the word "aerodrome" could be reviewed.
Deputy Kavanagh referred to the liability limit of 100,000 special drawing rights, which is approximately £90,000 for death or personal injury caused to air passengers, which he felt was very low. This figure represents a compromise reached between those countries whose airlines could afford the increased insurance premiums associated with a higher liability limit and those countries, mainly the developing ones, whose airlines could not. However, it should be pointed out in favour of Montreal Protocol No. 3 which established the limit of £90,000 that the passenger or the next-of-kin of a passenger becomes almost automatically entitled to damages without the expense of litigation. Also, Montreal Protocol No. 3 provides for automatic increases in the liability limit of £10,000 in both the fifth and tenth years after the Protocol enter into force. Therefore, the sooner countries ratify Protocol No. 3 the sooner the liability limit will be increased. I might mention also to the House that the liability limit for the death or injury of air passengers is considerably higher than that provided for in International Conventions relating to international sea or rail transport, namely, approximately £42,000 and £63,000, respectively.
The matter of dumps endangering aviation was also referred to during the debate in realtion to section 21 which contains powers to restrict or close dumps which are a danger to aviation. That section fills a major gap in the law. The suggestion about proper land fills to prevent scavenging by birds should, of course, be considered by all concerned.
In operating section 21, the Minister for Tourism and Transport will be consulting the local authorities concerned, the Minister for the Environment and the aerodrome authority concerned. The safety of aviation in all of this is of paramount importance.