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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Jul 1946

Vol. 32 No. 10

Air Navigation and Transport Bill, 1946—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 to 10, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 11 stand part of the Bill."

On the section, could the Minister tell me what regulations are in operation at Rineanna with regard to passengers arriving there, so far as disinfection is concerned? We have passengers arriving there from all parts of Europe?

That is the responsibility of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.

What regulations are made by that Minister for dealing with incoming passengers at Rineanna?

There are public health officers present there, and there is an inspection of planes and passengers as they arrive.

Is it under this section that licences are given to private companies?

No. This section relates to the control and regulation of air navigation and air traffic. It has nothing whatever to do with the operation of air services.

Under what Act does this matter of licences come?

Under the Air Navigation and Transport Act of 1936..

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 12 to 20, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 21 stand part of the Bill".

On the section, this section makes provision for the capitalisation of this company. I would like to know how far does the section represent complete policy. As a result of the study that the Minister has given to the whole problem of aviation, can he tell us how far does he regard the expenditure that he is making provision for in the section as being adequate to the demands which will be made upon us in the future? Briefly, my point is this, what are the Minister's anticipations with regard to the possible ultimate figure which we may be required to set aside for the development of aviation? Presumably, having gone so far as we have gone, I take it the Minister has been compelled to look to the ultimate completion of his policy in this respect, and that he cannot in any vague or indefinite way be calculating the expenditure of £2 millions now and probably another £1 million later on. He must, in some way or other, have fairly definite views as to what his policy is going to mean for the country in this respect, and what we may be compelled to spend ultimately. Naturally, no country can at this stage visualise what the implications of aviation may mean for it, but there are definite limitations as far as we are concerned.

We have certain possibilities of development but there are limits to these. Perhaps the Minister would give us some indication as to what he visualises as the extent of our commitments. There has been general approval—and rightly so—of what the Minister has done. Although I made no contribution to the debate on the last occasion, I agree with everything said regarding the courage and enterprise displayed by the Minister and his Department. On the other hand, it is inevitable that certain people will have misgivings about the dimensions of the problem which will confront the country and it would be important for the Minister to set some limit to his proposals. Aviation is an essential of modern travel development but it may not be an unmixed blessing. We are only a small people and one cannot go into a city or a country town without feeling the pressure of other, populations against our own. We might become such a crossroads for the world, if we were to go on developing our potentialities in this respect, that a stage would be reached at which we would not be quite sure whether the country was ours or not. The Minister has a good deal of imagination and he must have studied this problem with a view to ascertaining how far it will be necessary to go in this direction, how many other airfields will have to be constructed and what will, ultimately, be the extent of our capital expenditure. The Minister may not be able to enlighten us much further but I should like to hear how far he thinks it is possible or advisable for us to go with this expenditure.

The capital sum mentioned in Section 21 represents the full investment which is considered necessary for the provision of the air services now contemplated. These air services, so far as Aer Lingus is concerned, can be gauged from the schedule to the British agreement. There has to be added thereto the transatlantic service which it is hoped to begin next year. This sum is the total investment in the companies which will be undertaking the provision of those services and it will be expended on the purchase of equipment for their operation. In addition, Aer Rianta may undertake certain operations in the overhaul and repair of aircraft. The provision for any capital investment in an undertaking of that kind is also within the limits of the sum mentioned in Section 21. No part of that sum will be invested in airports. The provision of airports is not a responsibility of these companies. It is not possible to say at what stage further expenditure upon airport development can cease. Not merely is air transport developing very rapidly but the apparatus required for the proper control of air traffic is being improved and it is necessary we should keep our airports to a high standard of efficiency. It is quite clear that, in the initial stages, we planned our airport facilities on too small a scale, that the development of air traffic is likely to be far greater than we originally contemplated and that, in consequence, facilities at airports must also be increased. At the present time, at Shannon Airport the accommodation for passengers and for the staffs of air-operating companies is being extended to handle the very much greater traffic passing through the airport than it was originally designed to handle, and it is possible that still further extensions will be necessary in the future. It was because of the impossibility of forecasting with any accuracy what the density of traffic would be, we postponed the construction of a permanent terminal building at the Shannon and decided to construct a temporary building which could be indefinitely extended, leaving the planning of the terminal building to be undertaken when a clearer picture of the facilities required at the airport could be drawn up.

It is, I think, likely that other airports will be required in the future. The provision of an airport at Cork has been considered and it may also be deemed desirable to assist in, if not to undertake, the provision of landing fields, as distinct from customs airports, at other centres in the country to facilitate private flying or charter flying, as distinct from the operation of scheduled services. Nobody could attempt to forecast with any degree of confidence how rapidly air transport is likely to develop or what facilities we shall have to provide to facilitate it. In so far as the provision of services by Irish companies is concerned, the immediate programme is fully covered by the capital sum mentioned here.

I am concerned with some observations made by Senator Baxter. In so far as they were related to the economic use of capital, I am in agreement with them but I was profoundly uneasy when he suggested there was danger that the use and development of air services might encourage association with other peoples and with other countries. That is a most dangerous doctrine. I hope we are not going to pull down the blinds and raise barriers against free association with the peoples of the world. I was glad that the Minister, in his reply, gave no encouragement whatever to the sentiments expressed by Senator Baxter.

Sections 21 to 28 and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take the Report Stage now.
Bill received for final consideration.
Agreed to take the Fifth Stage now.
Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be returned to the Dáil without amendment.