The principal object of this Air Navigation and Transport Bill is to enable the Chicago Convention on international civil aviation to be implemented. That convention was opened for signature at the Chicago Conference held in 1944 and it will come into force when ratified by 26 States. On coming into force it will replace the Paris Convention of 1919, to which this country is a party, and the Havana Convention of 1928, to which many States on the other side of the Atlantic were parties. When the Chicago Convention comes into force, international co-operation in civil aviation will, for the first time, be expressed in one instrument.
At the recent assembly of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation at Montreal it was recommended that early and simultaneous ratification by all the signatory States should be effective, and the 1st March next was set as a target for the purpose. The convention has already been ratified by eight States. It was signed by the Irish delegates to the Chicago Conference and was approved by the Oireachtas in April, 1945. It cannot, however, be ratified until the necessary legislation to give effect to its provisions has been enacted, and this Bill is designed for that purpose.
Current regulations for the conduct of civil aviation in this country are based on the Paris Convention of 1919. The Air Navigation and Transport Act of 1936 empowered the Government to apply the Paris Convention by Order. In the present Bill it is proposed to give that power to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in so far as the implementation of the Chicago Convention is concerned. It is considered necessary to take that step, because civil aviation practices and standards which are the subject of these Orders and regulations are developing rapidly and are liable to constant changes and modifications; moreover, these Orders and regulations are concerned with air navigation practices and procedures and are of little concern to persons other than those immediately concerned with the operation of aircraft.
Provision is also contained in the Bill for the payment of expenses arising out of the Chicago Convention and our membership of the International Civil Aviation Organisation set up by the convention and for the charging of fees on licences and certificates issued under the regulations applying to the convention. The other portions of the Bill deal with Aer Rianta Teoranta, which is the company established by the Air Navigation and Transport Act of 1936, and its subsidiary company, Aer Lingus Teoranta.
Senators are, no doubt, aware that a bilateral agreement on air transport was concluded recently with the British Government. At the same time as that agreement was concluded between the two Governments, an agreement was entered into between Aer Rianta Teoranta and the British Overseas Airways Corporation. Under these two agreements Aer Lingus Teoranta will be established as a joint operating company. Its capital will be increased to £1,000,000, of which 60 per cent. will be held by Aer Rianta and 40 per cent. by British interests. Aer Rianta will have the right to nominate the majority of the directors, including the chairman. This joint company, Aer Lingus Teoranta, will enjoy the sole right to engage in air transport between this country and Great Britain and will also be given commercial rights of entry in Great Britain on routes from Shannon Airport or Dublin Airport and points on the Continent of Europe. The agreement with the British Government also provides for the granting of rights to the British to operate a transatlantic service through Shannon Airport. The British Government have undertaken to recommend to the Government of Newfoundland that the same rights be granted in Newfoundland to Aer Rianta on the projected transatlantic service between Ireland and North America. As was announced some time ago, Aer Rianta Teoranta will commence the operation of a transatlantic service as soon as the necessary aircraft and equipment have been secured.
It is still an open question whether the service will be operated by Aer Rianta or by a subsidiary company to be established by Aer Rianta. In either event the capital required for the project is estimated at about £750,000. Certain other developments by the company are also contemplated and the Bill proposes, therefore, an increase in the normal capital of Aer Rianta to £2,000,000. Moreover, it is anticipated that arising out of new services there will be necessity to continue subsidy arrangements for some years. The Bill accordingly provides for an increase in the aggregate amount of subsidy, which was limited by the 1926 Act to £500,000, to £750,000 and extends the period over which subsidy may be paid to five years from the date of the commencement of this Bill. The period over which subsidy will be payable would otherwise expire on the 25th May, 1947, in accordance with the provisions of the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act of 1942 which extended the period originally, fixed in the 1936 Act.
Certain changes in the constitution of Aer Rianta and Aer Lingus become necessary as a result of the developments which have taken place. The Bill provides accordingly for the deletion of nationality clauses in the memorandum of association of Aer Lingus Teoranta which are incompatible with the inter-company agreement between Aer Rianta and the B.O.A.C. The deletion or the amendment of clauses of that character is not provided for in the Companies Act of 1908 and legislative action is necessary.
The Bill also covers amendments to the 1936 Act providing for changes in the constitution of the board of directors of Aer Rianta and for an extension of the principal objects of the company as listed in the Second Schedule to the Principal Act. The substitution of a board of directors consisting of not more than seven or less than three directors will give a degree of flexibility not afforded by the board of five directors fixed by the Principal Act.
The extension of the objects of the company removes any doubts as to the legality of its participation in a project for the repair and overhaul of aircraft which is in contemplation.
These are the main purposes of the Bill. I do not think the Seanad will have any difficulty in approving of them. The production of the measure is a consequence of the two agreements to which I have referred, the multilateral agreement made at Chicago governing the regulation of air navigation and transport, and the bilateral agreement made with the British Government covering air transport services between this country and Great Britain and to countries beyond Great Britain. Unless the necessary implementing legislation is enacted, full effect cannot be given to these agreements.