Written Answers. - Air Services.

Brendan Howlin

Question:

156 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Transport the Government's proposals for the future of Aer Lingus; the discussions he has had with the management or the trade unions regarding the future of the airline; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2740/03]

As I indicated to the House in my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 95, reference No. 23457/02, on 26 November 2002, I met the board of Aer Lingus on 31 October 2002. During that meeting I recalled to the board the previous Government's decision in October 2001 to facilitate private sector and staff investment in the company to support its future development provided the survival plan was fully implemented.

I stated that as the company moves into a new phase and as agreement has been reached with the unions on the summary terms of a proposed new employee share ownership plan, the time was approaching to assess the future options for the airline, taking account of the previous Government's decision.

Since that meeting further progress has been made in relation to the ESOP with SIPTU members accepting the terms in a recent ballot. IMPACT members accepted the ESOP when agreeing to the survival plan as amended by the Labour Relations Commission.

It will be necessary to enact primary legislation to provide the legal basis for the ESOP. I propose to introduce an Aer Lingus Bill to provide for the establishment of the ESOP.