I do not propose to add very much to the few remarks I made last week on this Bill except perhaps to point out at the outset the rather difficult position in which we Independents find ourselves. If we join the band wagon and chorus everything the Government do we are great fellows and are classed as Independents. On the other hand, if we make constructive criticism or query some of the money-spending, we are met with personal abuse. I should like Senators to realise our position in this matter, to realise it would be far easier for us to chorus everything rather than show the moral courage I hope we are showing in speaking our minds when the occasion arises.
I note from the Minister's statement in regard to the finances supposed to come from the jet aircraft that there is to be a loss of £800,000 in the first year of service and £200,000 in the second. The Government are relieved that the loss is not greater. I do not grumble at those figures but I want at all times to keep on setting them opposite the approach we have both to education and agriculture. In either of those spheres a matter of £800,000 is considered a big amount, but when we come to jet aircraft we take off in our sputniks and the sky is the limit.
Even taking those figures, I should like to ask the Minister to state whether the estimates upon which they were based assume that the present rate of air fares across the Atlantic will continue. Obviously, that will not be the case. You cannot have the situation where it costs twice as much per mile to fly the Atlantic as it costs to fly the continent of the United States. If that is the situation, then I think the major air companies must have a gold mine in the Atlantic route if they can keep flying their internal routes in the United States at half the cost. With a drop to almost half the present fares, what will be the effect on the returns from our jet venture? How much more than the estimated losses will arise due to that?
I find it very hard to see from the number of passengers given why we need three planes. Presumably, at most one service a day, both ways, is sufficient. I understand jet aircraft can travel in six hours from New York to Shannon. Therefore there should be no difficulty whatever in the same plane doing a round trip each day. In fact, I understand from those intimately connected with the aircraft industry that the real objection to jets is that the depreciation is so heavy that they have to be kept flying. Every minute they are on the ground they are, as it were, losing money. Consequently, I feel that one service a day would be more than ample to show the flag.
One plane as a stand-by is reasonable, but where does the third come in? Shall we have two standing-by? In the Dáil the Taoiseach estimated that by 1965 Aerlínte would carry some 53,000 passengers across the Atlantic. When you consider that a jet is capable of taking 140 passengers, that means that one jet will take 200 passengers a week and that we shall be operating our jet fleet at one-sixth of its capacity. I cannot see for a moment how we can hope to make a financial success if we are operating at one-sixth of the capacity. I know we have to lay up aircraft over long periods, but the point I am making is if we have to keep one as a stand-by or, as it appears to me, two, that is a crippling burden from the beginning.
Take a big airline like Pan-American or T.W.A. With those, I take it, one spare to every seven or eight operating aircraft would be the order of the service. The only hope I can see of making a success of our airline—and as we are in it we all certainly hope to make a success of it—is, first of all, to use our position here and our negotiating power to get into some air pool as quickly as possible. With our three jets, we may be able to get into some air pool. I think an air link with our friends across the channel would be the most profitable we could have, if that could be arranged or, alternatively, one with an American company.
The organisation of cargo space in those aircraft should be developed considerably, especially for our freight trade. A step in the right direction would be to extend the special privileges given to Shannon—25 years remission from duties and so on—to at least a 60 or 80 mile radius of Shannon to take in the cities of Galway, Ennis, Limerick and Tralee at least. Our problem is to put people into employment in those regions and there is no reason or necessity why we should face the task of erecting a city at Shannon. At present we have the workers going to and fro in buses. It would be much more suitable for our airline to locate industry in the centres of population. You would be doing the same job by keeping people working in Limerick, Ennis and so on.
A very good suggestion was made in the Dáil that the large airlines cannot afford to dispense with Shannon. Even in the jet air age it would be an important alternative port on the Atlantic. I wonder would it be possible that the landing fees could take into account the frequency of use? If an airline only uses Shannon as an emergency centre the fee should be far higher than for airlines with scheduled stops at Shannon.
We are not being pessimistic or defeatist about this airline, but we have to go into it with our eyes wide open and to realise we have about as much possibility of making money out of it as we have out of C.I.E. Yet both are necessary—at least C.I.E. is necessary, and perhaps the modern air age may call for the other. As far as I know neither Denmark nor Norway has transatlantic air services or contemplates a transatlantic jet service.
I think we should link all this up intimately with the tourist trade. Any empty space on a plane of ours crossing the Atlantic will be so much waste. It seems to me that, even if that space were to be filled by tourists thumbing lifts across the Atlantic, our economy would be all the better for it from the point of view of the dollars they would spend here. We should not let the intricacies of international air agreements stand in our way when it comes to utilising this jet service to its fullest extent. From that point of view subventions given to the tourist trade, or any of the other out-of-season enticements, are really a type of subsidy to our jet services. The money will pass from one State pocket into another and, therefore, the aim should be to keep the planes as full as possible.
I believe it is a mistake not to keep tourism and air travel under the one control. They are complementary and I should feel much better about this whole project had the two been put under the aegis of the one Department. The time has passed for that now but there may be a possibility of the Government reviewing the position sometime in the future and, when that time comes, I trust that tourism will be transferred to the care of this new Department. If that is done, we shall be able to develop the two together and possibly make a success of both.
I have the utmost confidence in the staffs of Aer Lingus and the subsidiary companies. They are manned by young men, enthusiastic young men, eager and anxious to do a good job for this country. They would be the first to agree with the criticisms that have been voiced here. The fact that we voice these criticisms does not mean that we are against the service. It simply means that we are worried because the pool of capital available to us for development is extremely limited. Many sources are pulling out of it. We have not had an opportunity of viewing the whole programme and seeing whither we are going and whether or not we may run short of capital for other services.
As I have said, time and time again, we are desperately short of capital for agriculture. I am in favour of expansion of and investment in air lines, and so forth, if that expansion and investment are not at the expense of agriculture. That is my worry. However, I have faith in the men who man Aer Lingus. If any group are capable of making a success of this new jet air line in face of all the obstacles in its way, then they are the people who man Aer Lingus at present. When this Bill passes into law I hope we shall all join in doing what little we can to make this service a success.