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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 7 Nov 2000

Vol. 525 No. 2

Aviation Regulation Bill: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

On the last occasion I spoke in this debate I referred to a speech by Mr. David Byrne, SC, then Attorney General and now an EU Commissioner, on 12 November 1998 which I regard as a seminal contribution to the role of the regulator. Discussing the role of the regulator he quoted Article 15.2 of the Constitution. He also referred to the 1980 case of Cityview Press v. An Chomhairle Ealaíon and quoted from the judgment as follows:

In the view of this court the test is whether that which is challenged as unauthorised delegation of parliamentary power is more than a mere giving effect to principles and policies which are contained in the statute itself. If it be, then it is not authorised for such would constitute a purported exercise of legislative power by an authority, which it is not permitted to do so under the Constitution. On the other hand, if it be deemed within the permitted limits, if the laws laid down in the statute and details only are filled in or completed by the designate Minister or subordinate body, there is no unauthorised delegation of legislative power.

Mr. Byrne went on to comment on this when he stated:

The idea that regulators only fill in details may sound odd to the ears of those regulators who know the huge care for labour intensive specialist consideration which their jobs require them to give to their decisions and, indeed, the great social and commercial importance those decisions may have. However, that is the accurate statement of the relationship between their tasks and the task of the Oireachtas.

After this the Minister embarked on what appeared to be a consultation on the role of the regulator in the different areas over which she had some jurisdiction and for which she has responsibility.

However, many, including the Labour Party, made a submission to the consultative process on the accountability of regulators. The Minister in turn produced a Green Paper, but what is extraordinary is the way she is proceeding with the delegation of powers in an imprecise way and without even having addressed the considerations that arise in her Green Paper. If she was determined to establish regulatory bodies, regulators or whatever else, and in removing matters from the strict accountability of the State then, as required by the Constitution, she should have established where the accountability lay before she piecemeal and willy-nilly appeared to violate some of the submissions in the Green Paper that appear to have been accepted by her.

The Minister may respond by saying she will legislate in time to cover these aspects. That will not work. For example, section 38(1) states that "A person shall not question the validity of a determination or a request of the Commission under this Part otherwise than by way of an application for leave to apply for judicial review under Order 84 of the Rules of the Superior Courts". The then Attorney General, Mr. Byrne, addressed this point by stating that the judicial review is only one of the measures by which you could apply accountability. He went on to state correctly that judicial review can only deal with matters of procedure within narrow limits as to how, in fact, a particular decision has been taken.

The Green Paper was a very important contribution to the debate on what should be the mechanism under the Constitution for transferring accountably to new sub-legislative bodies. The view across other jurisdictions, reviewed by writers other than Mr. Byrne, is that it can probably be best and safely done when a clear policy mandate is given to the regulator. It may then be said, in terms of the case referred to by Mr. Byrne, that under Article 15 of the Constitution, the regulator is filling in the details.

Given that the Minister is not doing that, what seems to inform her thinking in this legislation and in other areas is that liberalisation of the market is the primary intention of the legislation. If that is the case where does accountability lie? Whenever there is a difficulty the Minister will wring her hands, as she has so often done in the House, and say the regulator is independent. I call on her to explain in what sense the regulator is independent. Is he independent in filling the detail of a policy function or is he independent in a policy sense?

When this issue was debated in the British House of Commons, those affected by these kinds decisions told its select committee on trade and industry – in this case the evidence of the United Kingdom Electricity Association – that they would prefer if the role of the regulator was more clearly specified. The Minister is doing her classic huff and puff act. She has a Green Paper on regulation, accountably, the role of the regulator, etc. Meanwhile she introduces legislation on aviation, electricity or whatever else.

This Bill flies close to the wind in terms of constitutional acceptability. It is difficult to see how it complies with the terms of Article 15 of the Constitution. Only somebody who was not well informed on what was required by European regulation would confuse the establishment of competition on the one hand with the destruction of State involvement on the other. The Minister's intention is interesting. I do not attribute any malevolence to her but I do attribute considerable deep ignorance. The idea that one can create competition and a liberal competitive involvement by destroying the State or its agencies is deeply ignorant as is that idea that if one knocks those out, everything else will fall into place and the consumer will be better served. Consumers are also citizens and, as such, they have rights under the Constitution. Voters are entitled to be protected by the Constitution. Where is the Minister meeting the norm of accountability? If she says judicial process will meet that end, what has she to say about the comments made by the former Attorney General, who served in a Government of which she was a member, to the effect that judicial review is limited in regard to what it can provide by way of accountability? Perhaps we live in an era where people have very little interest in respecting citizens' rights to accountability. In some jurisdictions, rabid, neo-liberal free marketeers suggest that anything which the state touches is wrong. At least, they have the merit of being up-front. The Minister is proceeding with pieces of legislation in regard to State sectors of activity which have been patiently built up with public investment but is not announcing what principles will guide her. Commissioner Byrne, former Attorney General, in page 14 of his paper states:

Delegation of authority must be done in a detailed and precise manner. The exact remit of any regulator must be clear and obvious to all those who will be affected by their activities. A coherent policy framework, formulated by the Executive and the Legislature, within which the regulator is required to make decisions, must be set out.

Where is that policy framework? Will the Minister outline it in her reply to this debate? This legislation, which is bad in principle and constitutionally frail, is a very poor response to the very fine contribution of the Minister's former Government colleague.

I wish to share time with Deputy Roche.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Minister stated in her Second Stage speech that she shared the concerns of some people about giving over huge segments of public activity to newly formed independent agencies. She further stated that if we were merely to transfer power without accountability, there would clearly be a democratic deficit. The Minister believes that issues of transparency, independence and accountability constitute a prominent feature of this legislation and Members would welcome that.

I take on board Deputy Higgins's comments. As legislators, we must be very clear about what we do in regard to transparency and accountability in this Bill because we will have many more Bills along these lines. I would like to obtain greater clarification about some of the issues which arise in regard to this Bill.

The Bill will result in the establishment of a new regulatory body which will be known as the Commission for Aviation Regulation. The commission will regulate the charges levied at Irish airports by Aer Rianta and the Irish Aviation Authority in respect of services rendered to aircraft for take-off and approach. Will the Minister or Minister of State update the House on the implementation of the directive on ground handling which allows for free access for suppliers of ground handling services? The Minister will be aware that employees at Dublin Airport expressed concern that no minimum standards were proposed with regard to procedures, equipment, training etc. in the context of the directive. This anxiety was conveyed to the Minister by SIPTU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, among others. The Minister previously informed the House that she believed these were matters for the airlines themselves to resolve, together with the relevant regulatory agencies such as the Irish Aviation Authority, the Health and Safety Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency, the health boards and Aer Rianta itself. Is the Minister satisfied that the ground handling safety regulation is adequate at this stage?

I want to refer to the difficulties which have arisen at Dublin Airport, particularly those which arose during the summer months. Passengers and members of the public have complained about the serious congestion which occurs at the airport and the issue of public safety became a real concern earlier this year.

Unprecedented levels of economic growth have resulted in a large increase in passenger and flight numbers. Aer Rianta will deal with more than 14 million passengers this year and will operate in excess of 550 flights on peak days. This volume of passengers and flights should have been planned for long before now. I welcome the fact that Aer Rianta has a development plan for the airport which will see the space and facilities for airlines and passengers being doubled in a new terminal extension. Some 58 airline check-in desks are planned and the number of baggage reclaim belts has increased from five to ten. Additional entrances and exits, together with new lifts and escalators, are also being put in place. The public must be assured that adequate planning is under way and that public safety is not being compromised.

Aircraft arrival and departure times must be controlled and flights must be co-ordinated to ensure ground handling facilities are available. The Minister recently announced the appointment of an independent slots co-ordinator for the airport with a view to bringing about full co-ordination. This appointment, although overdue, is to be welcomed. Hopefully, airport users will see an improvement in the airport in the weeks and months ahead.

I want to raise an issue which is of particular relevance to my constituency, namely airport noise. An increase in passenger and flight numbers has resulted in increasing levels of airport noise which, at times, is almost unbearable for people living in the vicinity of the airport. Last year, work on a rapid exit taxiway required the closure of the main runway and the use of a secondary runway at night. This caused major headaches for residents in the Beaumont and Santry areas, among others. The work was not completed on schedule and Aer Rianta did little or nothing to appease local residents, nor did it explain to them why this intolerable noise was being visited upon them.

We must examine the EU regulations in regard to aircraft noise over built-up residential areas. These are Council Directives 92/14/EC and 98/20/EC, Commission Directive 1999/28/EC and EC Council Regulation 925/1999. The view of many of my constituents is that these are not enough as the problem seems to be getting worse. It may be that the EU directive on urban noise now proposed might bring some relief. A proposal for an EU directive relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise is being considered by the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Unprecedented economic growth has resulted in a major increase in urban noise, especially in the vicinity of Dublin Airport and the M1 motorway. This new proposal recognises for the first time that such noise is a major problem. Member states will be obliged to set up procedures to make noise maps of urban areas and of major transport facilities such as airports, roads etc. Action plans to reduce noise levels must also be prepared. This initiative would be welcomed by communities everywhere, particularly in north Dublin given the increasing calls for action in relation to noise. I call for the implementation of the proposed EU directive in the shortest possible timeframe.

I would like to know what is happening Aer Rianta's consultancy study which will propose a new noise management strategy, including the provision of noise monitoring at Dublin Airport. Earlier this year the Minister informed the House of this new strategy. Has it been completed, what does it involve and when will it be implemented?

This is a new problem which is becoming very serious for many residents who live in the vicinity of airports. I do not think the legislation promulgated at EU level is adequate. We must do more in this regard.

I noted what the Minister said in her speech on Second Stage in relation to airport charges in general, the issues which arise as a result of liberalisation of air services and strong economic growth. I also noted what she said in relation to the potential for conflict between the shareholder and regulatory roles, and she has got the balance right in the legislation.

There are other issues which we must address in the overall context of discussion on Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta, but it would not be appropriate to raise them in the context of this Bill. These include the future of Aer Rianta and the airports in general. There is much discussion among employees on this matter. The Minister has commissioned studies on the matter and is giving the issue careful consideration. Another related issue is pensions for retired staff of Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta. These pensions have fallen way behind the pensions of other semi-State employees and this must be addressed in the context of the discussion of the future of both companies.

I ask the Minister to consider the points I have raised. I again stress the need for clarification in relation to accountability and transparency. This will be the first of many Bills which will be presented to the House by the Department of Public Enterprise. On Committee Stage we will have to tease it out carefully, establish where we are going and ensure that adequate mechanisms are in place and that what we are doing is clearly understood by all concerned.

In general I welcome the Bill. It is good that we have commissions or regulators overseeing and regulating many of the functions in need of regulation. However, I join with my colleagues in raising the accountability of regulators. Increasingly the Ceann Comhairle tells us that Ministers have no responsibility to the Dáil for different matters. Sometimes I wonder if Ministers are doing themselves out of a job – soon they will be responsible for nothing, the way they are going.

We live in a democracy and we are elected as the democratic representatives of the citizens. From time to time we are asked by people to raise issues in the House on their behalf. Quite often when we do so we are told the Minister has no responsibility to the Dáil in the matter. We should examine this issue. Even if the Minister has no responsibility, we should put in place some mechanism whereby Deputies can get replies from Ministers. We are now at the stage where a citizen can table a request under the Freedom of Information Act and get more details under that mechanism from Departments than Deputies can in the House. In the context of the importance of democracy, in which I strongly believe, and the importance of politics, we should examine this issue and put in place a system whereby if a Deputy tables a question to a Minister the information, if available under the Freedom of Information Act, is made available in the House. The Minister may not be responsible, but the information could be given, because very often information is power. We must address this issue, and I compliment Deputies Higgins and Haughey on the proposals they put forward. For example, the ESB, the NRA and Bord Bia are not responsible in many ways to the House and we cannot get information about what they are doing even though they are responsible to the Government in other ways.

The Bill covers quite an amount of issues, even though on first inspection it looks quite innocuous. For example, the regulator will licence and bond tour operators and travel agents. This has not been examined and I hope that when the committee looks at this it might get an opportunity to examine what is meant and can tease out the requirements to get a licence. Perhaps tour operators and travel agents will make submissions to the committee, if they have not already done so, as there are many question marks in this context. For example, a number of years ago a colleague was in Spain on holidays and was told that if he wanted his child to sit with him on his return he would have to pay for that privilege, that the seats would have to be pre-booked. He was only told this when he had travelled to Spain. A regulator may need to examine such issues.

Air transport is vital to our economy from a business, tourism and social perspective. In recent days trains could not travel and roads were blocked. I flew from Cork this morning because I could not depend on the train or the roads. Certainly it is important to have a well regulated air transport system.

Competition has a part to play also. I understand this Bill will enable the Commission for Aviation Regulation to take charge of the three main airports. What about the smaller airports? Perhaps they should be included in some way or other.

I represent a Cork constituency and I am obviously concerned about the future of Cork Airport. I have here a proposal by Aer Rianta on the future of Cork Airport headed "Major development plans for Cork Airport". The short-term plans include an airport extension, parallel taxi way link, taxi way and so on. I understand the runway overlay has been done but there is no sign of the other work starting. There is also an issue where Cork is concerned. Under certain agreements with the European Union I understand that transatlantic aircraft from America cannot use Cork Airport directly. They have to land in Dublin or in other airports. There is a large number of American companies based in the Cork region and more are to come. It strikes me as bizarre that a chief executive officer or directors of American companies cannot fly directly into Cork to visit their companies. They have to fly to the other airports first. I ask the Minister to look at this when the negotiations are under way. To allow these aircraft to land in Cork I understand a runway extension is required. Admittedly Aer Rianta's long-term plan 2004-20 mentions that a runway extension might be provided. However, that is a long way off. I ask the Minister to look at this with a view to seeing what can be done in the short-term to extend the runway in Cork. I have received some documentation to the effect that the Minister has said there is no real demand for an extension to the runway in Cork. That is not true. There are airlines that would use it if allowed. I ask the Government to look at this matter immediately.

I met a lady the other day who had come off the aeroplane in Cork in the torrential rain. Because the passenger facilities are not state of the art she got saturated. Those boarding aircraft in a downpour can also get saturated. Air bridges are needed so that passengers can get from the terminal to the aircraft and will not have to sit in aeroplanes soaking wet for one, two or three hours and arrive at their destination wet and cold. That is not good enough in this day and age. I ask the Government to ensure air bridges are provided as soon as possible.

Cork Airport is extremely successful. Yet I understand its marketing budget is not what it should be and is less than for other airports in the State. Why is this the case? I understand the budget is approximately £400,000 to £500,000 while other airports are allowed spend from £1.8 million to £2 million. There is something wrong here. I look forward to hearing the Minister's reply on that issue.

In Cork we need an extension of the runway and the terminal. In the summer the airport is jammed with people. The numbers using the airport have doubled in the past five years and are expected to increase even further in the next few years.

I have also received information on which I would like a response from the Minister. I believe Aer Lingus wants to pull out of domestic business in Ireland. The Cork-Dublin route is operated only by Aer Lingus. Aer Arann is there also but is working for Aer Lingus. A return flight costs £92. Given that Aer Lingus is trying to pull out of that route what measures will the Government put in place to attract other carriers to that internal domestic route from the south to the capital city? It is bizarre that other airlines have not come in there and operated a shuttle service. The actual aircrafts are full most of the time. When one tries to get a seat they are booked out. There is a demand even though the prices are high. Something needs to be done. I call on Aer Lingus, other airlines and the Government to look at this issue. For the commercial development of the country a fast, efficient and relatively inexpensive shuttle service between the two major cities and the two major parts of the country is essential.

I am pleased the Government has put on hold its plans to privatise or sell off the airports. We have to be very careful about this proposal. Airlines are like ports and railways. They are an essential part of the infrastructure. If we tamper with them we do so at our peril. I ask the Government to ensure the plans to extend the runway in Cork are put in place soon and to look at the marketing budget for Cork and ascertain why it is not as high as that for other airports. Will the Government ensure that airlines from across the Atlantic can land at Cork Airport direct so that directors of major international companies and passengers do not have to be inconvenienced by flying into one of the other airports first and then being required to either drive, get a bus or wait for a shuttle service to Cork? In this day and age it is bizarre that that is the case.

In general I welcome the Aviation Regulation Bill. I have major reservations about the issue of accountability. One part of the Bill deals with air rage. The final part increases the penalties for air rage from £500 to £1,500 and from £700 to £1,500 but the increases are not sufficient. There has been a major increase in air rage incidents across the world in recent years. This is a matter about which pilots are concerned. I do not know if the Minister would be happy to sit in an aeroplane if somebody had an air rage fit or was drunk and disorderly or using a mobile phone without permission. This is happening more and more on aircraft. Airline staff are under enough pressure without having to cope with these incidents. The penalties set out in the Bill may not be sufficient. If there was a sign suggesting one would be fined £3,000, £4,000 or £5,000 for misbehaving on an aircraft, that might be a deterrent. An aircraft is not an ordinary place. Aircraft travel at high speed a few miles above land and nobody can misbehave. There have been incidents where people have tried to get into the cockpits of aircraft and that is not good enough.

Strict measures must be put in place to deter people from misbehaving on aircraft, especially during holidays. People might have a good deal to drink before they board an aircraft and they misbehave on it. If they are very much under the influence, they should not be permitted on the aircraft and perhaps we can examine that, especially if they are boisterous and potentially could misbehave. There is too much at risk if they distract the cabin crew or the pilot while the aircraft is travelling at great height and speed and has a few hundred passengers on board. More and more of these incidents have occurred. That provision needs to be examined and substantially strengthened.

I welcome the Bill and wish it well as it passes through the House but I ask the Minister of State to take on board the issues I raised.

(Wexford): I also welcome the Bill which covers a number of matters relating to the aviation industry, including the appointment of a regulator, accountability, air rage and a number of other issues. It has been debated in the House over a long number of weeks which demonstrates the interest of Members on all sides of the House.

Air transport is important to the economy. The south-east has been left behind in terms of a proper air service between the south-east and the rest of Ireland and, indeed, many European countries. Waterford regional airport is the only airport in the south-east and it could not be described as productive. There is only one flight per day between the airport and the UK and that service is provided by British Airways Express. However, the airline will pull out of the airport in February 2001 which means the airport board must try to negotiate with replacement airlines to provide a service to Waterford and the south-east. One flight per day which arrives and departs at unsuitable times is totally inadequate as it provides no advantage to business people in the region.

Different Governments over the years, for reasons best known to themselves, have neglected Waterford airport. The south-east has an airport with some facilities but there are no flights. The most interesting aspect of the airport is that Ryanair originated there and it was one of the first airlines to use the airport. However, Ryanair left Waterford and moved further afield and has made substantial profits. The board of Waterford airport should possibly negotiate the return of Michael O'Leary and Ryanair. The board is doing its best to negotiate a replacement airline for British Airways Express but it is doing so with its hands tied behind its back because the runway is completely unsuitable for the landing and take off of modern jets.

Despite repeated requests different Ministers have ignored the need to upgrade the airport's runway and invest the £7 million required to develop more facilities for passengers and to encourage and negotiate with new airlines to provide a service to the region. It is unacceptable that there is no flight between Waterford regional airport and Dublin. Deputy Stanton mentioned that he flew to Dublin earlier from Cork Airport. It is not possible to fly from the south-east to any part of Ireland, yet there seems to be a sincere effort to invest and develop Sligo, Knock, Kerry, Galway and Donegal airports.

One of the reasons the south-east gets few industries is that of the lack of airport facilities and as you are aware, a Cheann Comhairle, rail facilities are also not good. Waterford regional airport has been neglected for too long. I call on the Minister of State to make a commitment to invest heavily in the airport to provide an extended runway and extra facilities. The south-east is becoming similar to an island. We do not have great facilities to travel out of the region other than by car and the roads have become clogged up. It is important that the people of the south-east share in the success of the Celtic tiger economy, which is running ahead of itself. However, the region has not gained any advantage in terms of transport over the past five or six years during which the economy has been booming.

I ask the Minister of State to seriously consider extending, developing and providing a proper airport in Waterford for the six counties of the south-east, including my own county, Wexford, and Counties Waterford, Kilkenny, Carlow, Tipperary and Wicklow. There is a great deal of traffic chaos in Dublin and the time it takes to travel from the south-east to Dublin, whether one passes through Carlow and Naas or Arklow, is increasing all the time because of the major jump in the number of cars on our roads. It is time the south-east had a facility which would benefit the people of the region.

I have passed through Dublin Airport on a number of occasions recently. It is chaotic and is in a complete mess. Industrial relations in Aer Lingus seem to be at an all time low. The baggage collection area is overcrowded and it is absolutely frightening at times. Aer Rianta does not seem to have a clue how to address the problem. It is important that the Minister seriously examines making improvements at Dublin Airport. We all accept that it is being developed but customers should not have to put up with the archaic facilities there.

My major concern is the development of Waterford regional airport. Given the budget surplus available to the Government there is an opportunity to once and for all show an interest in Waterford and the south-east and to spend the £7 million required to extend the runway. It is a small investment in terms of the money in the Government's coffers to provide an adequate, decent and efficient service for the people of the south-east.

I welcome the Bill which is a significant milestone for the hugely important aviation industry. When the Bill is enacted the commission will regulate five key areas of airport business – airport and traffic control; charges; ground handling service providers; the granting of operating licences to air carriers set up in Ireland; the administration of rules governing the allocation of take off and landing slots at airports; and the licensing and funding of travel agents and tour operators. The legislation addresses the management of airports with a throughput in excess of one million passengers per annum.

Up to 14 million passengers will pass through Dublin Airport this year. A couple of weeks ago I returned from Toronto through Dublin Airport on a Tuesday morning at about 11 o'clock and the baggage reclaim area was a total nightmare, given the number of people there. I know there are proposals to increase the number of carousels to ten and to open new check-in desks. Like many thousands of others using the airport, however, I wonder why there are such long queues to check in for flights. The Minister asked some of my colleagues whether the queues were at Aer Lingus desks, but as far as I am concerned it does not matter where the queues are. They are in Dublin Airport where all the people are congregating to go out on flights. On top of that, all those who are returning end up in the same area, trying to get out of the airport. When they do so, they have to cross the road to the car park, and those who require taxis may get one if they are lucky. The majority, however, remain a long time queuing for taxis.

Taking into consideration that we are trying to provide a friendly service for over six million tourists coming here every year, it should be recognised that a substantial percentage of them come through Dublin Airport. I am chairman of the Meath Tourism Promotional Company, which is only down the road from the airport, and I spend a substantial amount of money like all the other tourism agencies. I cannot see why the Government, which has been three and a half years in office, has not put together a proposal to deal with the overcrowding at Dublin Airport. Is the Government afraid to make a decision on a second terminal, be it at Dublin Airport or Baldonnel?

I am sure many people in the Baldonnel area would complain about the threat of noise from aircraft if such a development took place, but the bottom line is that tour operators will say: "There is no point in flying to Dublin, you will be in queues coming in and you will have far worse queues leaving the country." That is not the friendly attitude we should be projecting to people using Dublin Airport.

I have yet to hear the Minister's response to the proposed criticisms. She may appear on "Morning Ireland", "Today with Pat Kenny", "The News at One", or "Five-Seven Live", to present her point of view, but she is not making decisions about the aviation industry. Like the DART and Luas, we have allowed an unacceptable situation to develop. When one visits other countries to see what they are doing about tourism, people there say there is no point in visiting Dublin because it is clogged up all the time and one cannot get a taxi. Even if one gets a taxi, one will be sitting in traffic the whole day. The Minister is responsible for this but she has been ineffective in dealing with the long-term problems I have mentioned, not alone at the airport but also in introducing the Luas in parts of Dublin. The Luas was proposed and shelved, and then proposed again and shelved yet again while the Minister awaited different reports.

It has been mentioned that Aer Lingus will soon be operating in the region of 550 flights per day, which is an enormous number. Taking into consideration the other carriers operating into and out of the country's main airports, we have seen a huge growth in the aviation business. Aer Rianta has made substantial amounts of money during this time, but it has refused to put pressure on the powers that be, although perhaps it did with some Ministers in the previous Government, to make a decision about providing a second terminal. The millions of people using Dublin Airport every day on business trips find that the problems of congestion at the airport are no different from the traffic gridlock in Dublin.

The Government has a duty to ensure that its citizens are provided with the best transport services that can be made available. It is not as if a Minister can claim that funds are not available in the national development plan, which was six months to a year late. The details necessary to alleviate some of the transport problems are scarce, including the finalisation of reports and contracts.

If a Luas line was provided from the airport to Dublin and adequate trains were provided to rural areas, such as the Navan line, many people would not have to use their cars. Aer Rianta has provided a long-term car park which is so far from the airport terminal it is nearly half way to Ashbourne. If there was a faster way of getting to Dublin Airport people would not have to leave their cars in the long-term car park. At Dublin Airport everything is being put further away from where people want to go.

When somebody has the will to make a decision to build a second terminal, it should be done on the basis of a private public partnership. Many problems across the country are being solved by such initiatives. On this occasion, however, the Minister is unwilling to bring proposals to Cabinet to solve the problem. Whenever the decision is made it will take at least three years, given planning permission and other matters, before there is any progress towards a second terminal, whether at Dublin Airport or another location.

There is no willingness on the part of the other members of the Cabinet from Dublin to use their influence on the Minister with responsibility for transport to have this problem solved. We must make a decision at what level beyond which we do not want the numbers of tourists to rise over the next number of years because we have not provided the services and transport to deal with them while they are in the country.

I should have indicated at the outset that I wish to share my time with Deputy Currie. The Minister has let down a substantial number of people by not making decisions in this area. The Bill will do some good but there is an alarming number of gaps in what she has done. Perhaps the Minister, in replying, will account for her inaction in dealing with the problems in Dublin Airport and in other parts of the country.

As the Minister is aware from a deputation from Baldonnell Airport liaison committee she met recently and from comments made by me on Question Time on the previous occasion when she answered questions, which was Thursday, 19 October, there is widespread concern among people in the vicinity of Casement Aerodrome and along the flight path of the possibility of civil aviation activities at Baldonnell.

This concern is based on safety and environmental grounds. The flight path to and from Baldonnell is over a built-up area with proposals for the construction of thousands of houses over the next few years. It is not strange that people would worry about their safety in such circumstances, especially in the aftermath of the Concorde crash in Paris. Television pictures graphically showed how close thousands of people along the flight path were to the catastrophe. It has been calculated that aircraft will be flying over Tallaght Hospital at an altitude of 500 feet. What effect will that have on patients and staff? What effect will low flying and, in some cases, old and noisy aircraft have on schools? Residents tell me that, while they are reasonably satisfied that safety in the air will be catered for, safety on the ground will not.

The Minister and so-called experts may say that these fears are exaggerated. That may or may not be the case. The Minister and I know that fear of the unknown is the greatest fear and there is no doubt that local residents in the vicinity of Baldonnell and along the flight path have been and are kept in the dark about the true facts surrounding non-military use of the aerodrome. The first and priority need is to inform people of the Government's intentions for Baldonnell and to provide the maximum factual information on the position.

I welcome the Minister's statement in reply to parliamentary questions on 19 October that the Government has no intention to open a State airport at Baldonnell. However, she went on to say: "If a private investor wishes to do so, that is a matter for him or her". Surely that is not the position. It is a matter for the Minister for Defence and the Government as to who uses this Department of Defence airport. In the earlier part of her reply, the Minister said as much. The Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, told the House on 15 May last that he would like to make a final decision on the use of Baldonnell and publish the report before autumn. It is now clearly autumn, if not winter. When does the Minister understand the report will be published?

Fears have been expressed inside and outside the House that section 46 represents the thin end of the wedge for Baldonnell. We have been told by the Minister and the Minister for Defence that section 46 is designed to cover Gormanston for the purpose of a flight training school. The Minister said that in the House on 4 October. She said on 19 October, the previous occasion she answered parliamentary questions, in response to me that she would reflect on section 46 and she seemed to promise that, in her reply to the Second Stage debate or on Committee Stage, she would make it clear that section 46 referred only to Gormanston. The only doubt in her mind was:

The question remains whether this should be done by way of deletion of section 46 or confirmation that it refers only to the potential introduction of a pilot training ground at Gormanston.

At Question Time on 19 October, I asked the Minister:

Will the Minister make clear in her thinking on section 46 that that refers to Gormanston and not Baldonnell? The Minister is nodding her head in agreement but will she put it on the record of the House that that means "yes"?

The Minister replied: "Yes". I look forward to the Minister responding on this matter and giving the confirmation I expect.

I am also aware that, on 1 November, a deputation from the Baldonnell Airport liaison committee met the Tánaiste and the Minister for Defence, that they were given certain assurances and that they came away thinking it was a satisfactory meeting in terms of section 46 because they believed the Minister for Defence told them that he felt that section 46 would not be proceeded with now. They did not get a satisfactory reply to their probing on the future possibilities of civilian operations at Baldonnell because he persisted in saying that he was referring to the immediate future. The delegation did not find that reply reassuring. Perhaps the Minister for Public Enterprise will reassure us on it.

The delegation from Baldonnell Airport liaison committee raised with the Minister the question of planning permission. My Fine Gael colleague, Deputy Olivia Mitchell, raised the issue at Question Time on 19 October. The Minister for Public Enterprise replied that she would also reflect on this issue: case there was an implicit, rather than stated, easement in it, whereby, while there would always be a need for planning permission, larger scale aviation could be developed without many of the rigorous matters to which Deputy Mitchell referred, such as environmental impact studies. I am reflecting on that, so that any applicant will have to undergo the full rigours, as is proper, in terms of planning permission and the other attendant matters now required for any application. I am certainly reflecting on section 46 to see whether an amendment tabled by me or another Member or a deletion would be the appropriate way to deal with it.

I welcome that statement and the assurance by the Minister. I look forward to its early implementation. I repeat and underline that any proposals for change in the use of Baldonnell must be fully discussed with the local community and must have the fullest possible consultation process. Genuine fears must be addressed and must be seen by the local community to be addressed.

I wish to contribute to the debate on this important Bill in regard to a number of matters. Representations have been made on the Bill by many concerned citizens within County Kildare. It is seen in the northern part of the county that further development of Baldonnell as a civilian airport will cause major problems for many of the developments which are now being put in place in Kildare. As a result of the high demand for housing in the capital city, developers have made major moves into Kildare, Meath, Wicklow and Louth to provide further houses for people working in the capital. There have, as a result, been major residential developments in many areas in north Kildare, such as Ardclough, Straffan and Celbridge. People in these areas have formed action groups in regard to the development of Baldonnel Aerodrome as a civilian airport.

As previous speakers said, there has been a change in the stance taken by the relevant Ministers in relation to section 46. The previous Minister said on 24 January 1996:

Two airports for Dublin would duplicate infrastructure and facilities. The entry costs of adopting Baldonnel would be high. Airlines could well be reluctant to transfer to a secondary location because of the inability to offer an integrated service and the absence of the hubbing opportunities that are available through Dublin Airport. The coming on stream of the Baldonnel project would coincide with the planning abolition of intra-EU duty free sales from 1999 and will have adverse implications for all airports.

One wonders why the position has changed so much from what the then Minister said at that time.

If we develop Baldonnel as a civilian airport, there will be problems for that general area. Why was the planning authority for that area not au fait with this proposal when it let so many business parks be developed in that area? The south-west development there is creating thousands of jobs. There are further applications for sites all along the carriageway, from Naas to Clondalkin, for the development of business parks, industrial parks, hotels, golf courses and so on. However, according to this Bill, the density of vehicles in that area will be increased by the inclusion of a civilian airport. That will create major traffic problems. We saw over the past few years the major delays that were caused by providing one extra line of traffic from Clondalkin cross to Rathcoole. That caused major hold-ups for about a year and a half. All the relevant infrastructure would have to be put in place to develop a civilian airport, which would have implications for other developments.

As a member of a sporting body, I deeply regret the problems being caused for the FAI in relation to Eircom Park. That association was on its knees for many years and had no real input into its own activities in terms of its own stadium. A superb chief executive has now put together a package which means the association is self-sufficient in terms of the provision of its own playing areas. A proper national facility should be provided for this association which has done so well over recent years. Who would have thought in the 1950s, when people packed into Dalymount Park for only the odd match, that we would see this association represent us so proudly at international level, at World Cup and European Cup matches? However, now that it has the chance to build a stadium, it seems every hindrance possible is being put in place to prevent that happening.

It should have been made clear to the FAI in the initial stages of this development that there were problems in relation to the provision of Eircom Park. We must remember that this issue was raised by the Department of Defence in relation to a number of flights and not in relation to a civilian airport. That is a major problem. If we develop Baldonnel as a civilian airport, we will endanger many lives by having flights across the densely populated areas of north Kildare, Dublin and Wicklow.

As a rural Deputy, I have received numerous representations in relation to the small private airfields that are beginning to adorn the countryside as a result of the Celtic tiger. Airfields are suddenly opening near local villages. One wonders what the regulations are in relation to these. Do they need permission from the local authority for the number of flights? Many of these airfields have opened for business purposes. It is all right if the owner of an airfield has his own aeroplane. However, many of these are business ventures which provide flights for parachutists, people wanting scenic views and so on. The constant use of airfields for such purposes is creating problems for people in those areas. One wonders whether they got planning permission. Are there records of the number of flights in any particular airport or airfield that ordinary people can check? What size aircraft are allowed use these airfields?

On my way to a match in Newbridge recently I was diverted onto a side road because an aeroplane had overrun the runway in an airfield and gone onto the main road. All the traffic had to be diverted. One wonders how planning permission was granted for an airfield so close to a national road, the N78. An increase in the number of airfields is becoming the norm as a result of the Celtic tiger. However, there is nothing in this Bill that will control the demand for airfields or give guidelines to local authorities in terms of control of usage and the records of these airfields.

Debate adjourned.