Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill, 1971: Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The purpose of this Bill is to enable Ireland to participate in an international scheme to collect charges from airlines for en-route air navigation services which we supply.

In common with other aeronautical authorities, we incur expenditure under two broad classifications in respect of air traffic control, radio navigation, communications and meteorological services provided for air transport. The first head comprises terminal services at airports such as approach and take-off control, instrument landing aids, radar monitoring and meteorological and general information. The second type of service comprises those provided to aircraft en-route to ensure safe and accurate navigation and these are provided not only for aircraft travelling to and from our airports but for aircraft crossing our airspace on their way to other destinations. These services, generally described as en-route air navigation services include air traffic control, radio aids, radar, telecommunications and meteorological services. Up to the present the only charges we have made are landing charges for aircraft using our airports and a special telecommunication charge per contact for aircraft on the North Atlantic route using our telecommunications service.

The recovery of en-route costs by an individual state presents difficulties where the air routes traverse the control area of several states and/or vertical sectors of routes subject to control by different authorities. In such cases the only satisfactory means of recoupment is on the basis of inter-state co-operation. Such co-operation is possible under the aegis of the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, known as Eurocontrol. This organisation, of which Ireland is a member, together with Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, was set up with the object of controlling air traffic in the upper airspace of the seven member states—above 25,000 feet in the case of Ireland—while the member states are directly responsible for these services in their respective lower airspaces. Meteorological services in both the upper and lower airspaces are the direct responsibility of the member states.

The cost of route air navigation facilities and services has been constantly increasing and will rise considerably in the years ahead owing to the automation of control services which will be necessary to cope with the growth and density of air traffic in Western Europe. Eurocontrol member states have been considering the ways in which they could recover the cost of these facilities in the form of charges levieb on the users. Following lengthy study of the problem, the member states eventually decided that Eurocontrol should introduce a charging system which is in line with recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation which has also carried out a study of the problem.

Under the charging scheme proposed, there will be a single charge for each flight calculated according to the distance traversed and the weight of the aircraft. The scheme will come into effect from 1st November, 1971. Eurocontrol will operate the scheme and collect the receipts. The receipts less the actual cost of collection will be distributed to the member states in proportion to their costs in providing these services. For the first two years it is aimed to collect only 15 per cent of costs plus the cost of collection, but the long-term aim is that the full costs of these services should be met by the air transport industry for whom they are provided.

Section 12 of the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Act, 1963, provides for the making of regulations for the payment of fees to Eurocontrol, or to the Minister for Transport and Power for transmission to Eurocontrol, in respect of air navigation services provided by Eurocontrol. The section also covers payment of fees to the Minister in respect of services provided by the Minister. The section, however, would not enable Eurocontrol to act as agent for the Minister in the collection of route charges. The purpose of the Bill is to replace section 12 by a new provision which will enable the making of regulations to provide adequately for the new system of charges. Regulations, as provided for under the Bill, will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Because the proposed charge will be a single one applying to the lower airspace, which is the responsibility of member states, as well as to the upper airspace it is necessary that a multilateral agreement be entered into by the member states, the main provision of which is to require the member states to establish the proposed charge in the airspace falling within their competence. For the collection of the charge it was necessary to complete a series of bilateral agreements between each member state and the Eurocontrol organisation, the main provisions of which are that each member state entrusts to the organisation the collection of the charge on its behalf and undertakes to take statutory powers to make it obligatory on airlines to pay the charge to the organisation. The organisation is required to distribute the receipts to the member states less the cost of collection.

These agreements were signed by the Irish Ambassador in Brussels in September, 1970. The multilateral agreement was signed with reservation as to ratification, to be followed by ratification when this Bill becomes law. The bilateral agreement with Eurocontrol will not become operative until the multilateral agreement enters into force following ratification by all member states.

I recommend the Bill to the House.

This Bill will be welcomed by the House for a number of reasons, not the least of these is that it is a pleasant change to those who are ratifying an agreement to find that the Bill has actually been introduced before the agreement is supposed to come into force. There are manypost hoc Bills of this sort and I congratulate the Minister on having brought in this Bill in due time.

The Bill is to be welcomed also because it gives us an opportunity of paying tribute to the very high standard of the navigational and meteorological services which are provided in this country. I have very great pleasure in paying such a tribute. On occasions when we are travelling by air we sometimes wish that other aspects, such as the handling of baggage, would reach the same level of efficiency as the handling of navigational control. On more sober reflection, we are glad that the priority is given to the question of navigational control.

When one looks at this section and compares it with the old section 10, at first sight it seems as if a lot has been done. In the Bill the Minister is replacing an original section of three subsections by a new section with ten subsections. On a closer look one finds a reflection in the new section 1 of the Bill of the growth in complexity since 1963 in regard to air navigation. There is need for multilateral controls because of the greater extent of overflying of national territories, and the introduction of provision for such matters as records, which were probably not part of the navigational aid at the time the original Bill was passed.

On a quick reading of the Bill, it is not possible to see any aspect in which one could suggest an alternative way of doing it. The enactment of an agreement entered into after negotiation is a technical business. Accordingly, the Bill is welcomed and the House will be happy to pass it with due despatch.

I do not think there is any more for me to say. This is an enabling Bill and it marks another step in the growing Europeanisation of our institutions. Eurocontrol will be the organisation concerned with the collection of these charges over the whole Western area. Each member state to that extent will have delegated through this European organisation the function of carrying out this job.

Question put and agreed to
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 20th July, 1971.