Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Proposed Air Freight Venture.

23.

asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport when he envisages trilateral discussions taking place between Ireland, Great Britain and Germany on the proposed air freight joint venture between Lufthansa and Aer Lingus which operated for one week in October before being stopped by the British authorities despite the Luxembourg agreement on fifth freedom rights.

Arrangements have been made to hold discussions between representatives of the Irish, UK and German authorities early in January 1989, to discuss the difficulties which have arisen in connection with the proposed Aer Lingus-Lufthansa joint venture cargo service between Dublin, Birmingham and Frankfurt.

I raised this as a Priority Question because of its implications for the Luxembourg agreement on fifth freedom rights. I have several supplementaries to ask. Aer Lingus applied to the Department of Transport on 3 July for permission to run this joint venture freight service with Lufthansa via Birmingham. There was no reply from the Department. Why did the Department not reply to Aer Lingus before Aer Lingus began that flight service on 3 October?

The Deputy is telling me something of which I am not aware. According to the information I have, in August Aer Lingus asked the Department to request the United Kingdom authorities to grant fifth freedom cargo rights. Both Aer Lingus, Minister Paul Channon and Lord Brabazon have been made aware of our concern in this area, both by me personally and by strong correspondence, copies of which I can let the Deputy have if she wishes. The dispute is whether the agreement of 14 December 1987 on fifth freedom rights applied to cargo or whether it was specifically confined to passenger transport. We maintained it applies to cargo as well as to passengers and we will maintain that position until it is proved differently. As I said in my reply, we are meeting the Lufthansa people and the British authorities early in January to resolve this problem.

I can assure the Minister that the date of notification by Aer Lingus was 3 July. Would the Minister agree that the interpretation of the Luxembourg agreement is all important in terms of all fifth freedom rights via the United Kingdom and that it is essential that the interpretation which Aer Lingus put on it in good faith should be agreed to by the British, otherwise it jeopardises a great deal of revenue for this country?

I am in total agreement with the sentiments of the Deputy expressed in her last contribution.

That disposes of questions for today. A few minutes remain before we deal with the next item of business, the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and Food. Are we ready to resume the debate? The Minister and the Deputy are present.

On a point of order, is the speaker who reported progress finished his contribution?

If the Deputy had been in the House she would have known that Deputy Kemmy reported progress. She left the House when she had finished her speech, having got more than her 15 minutes.

Deputy Kemmy is in possession.

I was trying to be fair because if we resume before 3.45 p.m. I wanted to make sure we would not disaffect any other Member.

I saw the Deputy's performance in this House——

The Chair has always been concerned not to resume a debate before the appropriate time lest any Member would be at a disadvantage.

I would hope if I had reported progress that——

(Interruptions.)

I will not allow the discussion to commence until the appropriate time.

I regret that when it is not necessary.

The Deputy brought this matter to my notice.

I was afraid somebody else may have been in possession.

The Chair is very concerned about that matter.

I just wanted an assurance that nobody would be disaffected.

It is precisely for that reason that the Chair is so particular.