The Air Navigation and Transport Bill, 1987, was initiated in Seanad Éireann on 1 October 1987 for the purpose of facilitating its early consideration by both Houses of the Oireachtas and, hopefully, enactment into law before the end of this year.
The Bill gives a clear indication of public policy to promote the greatest possible security and safety of civil aviation in the country and aims to provide a firm legal base for implementing that policy. The Bill is the outcome of a thorough review of the Air Navigation and Transport Acts, 1936 to 1986 in the light of experience both here and abroad, and it makes a wide range of robust — but nevertheless necessary — new provisions designed to safeguard Irish civil aviation in the years ahead. Ireland's airspace and airports are as secure and safe as the best in the world and, with the enactment and full implementation of the Bill they should remain so.
There is, of course, no room for complacency where the security or safety of civil aviation is concerned. I can, therefore, assure the House that the Minister for Tourism and Transport and I will vigorously pursue the attainment of even higher standards wherever possible — and take prompt action where proper standards are not being met — and that, notwithstanding the severe difficulties facing the Exchequer in the foreseeable future, adequate financial resources will continue to be made available for the updating and re-equipment of air navigation facilities in the country on an ongoing basis.
As Senators are aware, Irish civil aviation has developed enormously over the past decade, with ever-increasing numbers of persons travelling into and out of the country by air, with the entry of new air carriers and with the increasing variety in the range of air services to and from the country. For example, only three years ago, some four million air passengers passed through Irish airports. It is expected that in 1987 the figure will be 5 million. Of these some three and a half million will pass through Dublin Airport alone. Those are record figures, no doubt boosted by the Government'sIreland in 87 tourism programme which reduced access costs for tourists. I expect these records to be greatly exceeded as a result of the Government's five year development programme for tourism which is now in preparation. The completion of the European Communities internal market in air transport in 1992 should further increase the volume and range of air services between Ireland and other countries and, we hope, also open up worthwhile new business opportunities abroad for Irish airlines.
I must say I was disappointed at the failure of the EC Transport Council to agree, in June last, the first steps towards this 1992 deadline. I am hopeful that the obstacles to progress, the principal one being the Gibraltar question, can be removed by the end of the year if these measures are formally adopted at the forthcoming EC Transport Council in December. The liberalisation which we are all hoping for could make a vital impact on the 1988 tourist season.
We obviously need to maximise the benefit to Ireland from all of these developments and we must, therefore, continue to be resolute in safeguarding the interests of air travellers in Irish airspace and on Irish aircraft wherever they may be. Our civil aviation law must be fully capable of serving those objectives. The Bill is specifically designed to achieve that.
The Bill, therefore, substantially updates and strengthens the existing Air Navigation and Transport Acts, 1936 to 1986. While a comprehensive explanatory and financial memorandum was published with the Bill, it might be helpful to Senators' consideration of the Bill if I briefly outline its main provisions in 12 separate categories. I should mention that copies of both documents were supplied, on publication, to all Irish airport and aircraft operators, none of whom has made representations on the Bill.
Briefly, the Bill obliges aerodrome operators and all others doing business at aerodromes to comply with security and safety requirements and gives the Minister for Tourism and Transport specific power to specify and enforce security and safety requirements at aerodromes and in relation to aircraft, sections 5 to 9 and 12 to 16.
The Bill prohibits — and provides severe penalties for — activities which could endanger or disrupt aviation: having certain dangerous articles in aerodromes, aircraft or air navigation installations without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, sections 11 and 17; giving of any false alarm which interferes with the operation of any aerodrome, aircraft, or air navigation installation in the State, section 41; impersonation of "authorised officers" or "authorised persons" appointed to perform a variety of inspectoral and other duties under the Air Navigation and Transport Acts, secetion 40.
The Bill empowers the Minister for Tourism and Transport to prohibit or restrict dumping near aerodromes, so as to obviate danger, etc., to aviation from flocks of birds, section 21.
The Bill extends the scope of aerodrome by-laws to deal with illegal car parking by providing for the wheel-clamping or removal, etc., of the illegally parked vehicles, section 24; and provides extensive, but necessary, powers of search, etc. of persons and vehicles on aerodromes, to prevent crime etc., section 31; and enables the Minister for Tourism and Transport to make by-laws for all civil aerodromes and not only for Cork, Dublin and Shannon Airports, as at present, section 25.
The Bill substantially increases maximum penalties for all offences under the Air Navigation and Transport Acts to deter would-be offenders. It is proposed to raise these fines from £5-£1,000 to £1,000-£5,000, with or without a term of imprisonment as the court may deem appropriate in the cirsumstances. Details of these are given in pages 7 and 8 of the explanatory and financial memorandum to the Bill.
The Bill safeguards the interests of all persons using aerodromes who suffer injury, etc. by requiring all aerodromes to be insured against all public liabilities while in operation or prohibiting the operation of aerodromes if not so insured, section 10.
The Bill safeguards Exchequer investment in aerodromes against breach of conditions subject to which assistance was given, section 28. It also secures payment of aerodrome etc. charges due, including cost of dealing with abandoned aircraft, section 30.
The Bill enables the Minister for Tourism and Transport to decide earlier, within 14 days or less, on airline tariff proposals than present law allows, 21 days wait, section 47.
The Bill allows fees to be charged for Ministerial authorisation of air services by order, section 46, so as to cover administration costs. Fees are already chargeable for Ministerial authorisation of air services otherwise than by order. A total of £10,000 is expected to be recouped for such costs in 1988.
The Bill enables the Minister for Tourism and Transport to control use etc., of aerodromes, aircraft etc. for dealing with national or other emergencies, section 20.
The Bill enables the State to ratify a number of protocols to International Civil Aviation Conventions, Parts III and IV of the Bill. I shall return to these later.
Civil aviation needs concerted action between States for its growth and more so for its protection against terrorism which, unfortunately, has assumed an international character. The formulation and development of international civil aviation security policy and practice has been a major preoccupation both of individual states and of the various international civil aviation organisations, including the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Civil Aviation Conference. Ireland, through my Department, participates fully in the activities of these organisations and through them has had an input into the development of current international standards and practices which, I need hardly add, are implemented to the fullest degree at our own airports.
In discharging our responsibilities for the security of civil aviation in the State the Minister and I have available to us the valuable advice and assistance of the National Civil Aviation Security Committee, who operate under our aegis. The committee is chaired by a senior official of my Department and comprises also other representatives of my Department and representatives of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Defence, the Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta and the Irish Airline Pilots Association.
The committee advise the Government and the civil aviation industry on aviation security policy. They co-ordinate the various interests involved and are responsible for ensuring that internationally agreed and accepted security measures are implemented at all airports in the State. These measures, and their application at each airport are subjected to ongoing review and assessment by the committee whose decisions and recommendations are implemented through my Department. The committee are also responsible for ensuring that suitable machinery is in place to facilitate prompt decision-making and action in the event of a hijacking or other aviation related terrorist activity requiring decision at Government level.
The committee meet regularly and have been particularly effective in strengthening security measures at all airports in the country and ensure that procedures and practices conform to the highest standards of international practice. The National Civil Aviation Security Committee fully endorse the provisions of the Bill to promote the greatest possible security and safety of civil aviation in the country.
In relation to offences against civil aviation generally, Senators may be aware that international law in this regard is governed by the Conventions of the Hague, Tokyo and Montreal which provide a régime of prosecution or extradition for the perpetration of acts of violence against international civil aviation. Ireland is a party to these conventions — following enactment of the necessary legislation in 1973 and 1975 — and has participated actively in the preparation, within the forum of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, of a new international legal instrument which will extend the system of extradition or prosecution under the existing conventions to cover unlawful acts of violence at airports serving international civil aviation. This new instrument is expected to be approved by a diplomatic conference of states in early 1988 and we hope to bring forward the necessary legislation for its early ratification thereafter.
International civil aviation also has an important humanitarian and a commercial dimension for which the Bill makes provision. Following the shooting down by USSR military aircraft of a Korean Airlines 747 in USSR airspace on 1 September 1983, an Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation was convened at Montreal in 1984, at which a protocol to amend the convention was adopted. That protocol, which has been fully supported by Ireland, obliges contracting states to the convention to refrain from the use of weapons against civil aviation in flight but does not prejudice the right of states to shoot down aircraft when acting legitimately in self-defence. Early ratification by Ireland is, therefore, most desirable in order to secure sufficient ratifications — 102 — to bring it into force at an early date. New legislation is required to enable Ireland to ratify the protocol and sections 36 to 38 of the Bill provide accordingly. So far, over 30 states — including seven EC states — have ratified that protocol. The seven EC states are Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain.
The commercial dimension of international civil aviation is specifically catered for by the 1929 Warsaw Convention, as developed over the years, which provides a standardised international code to govern the documents of carriage, and the liability of carriers for loss or damage in the carriage by air of persons and their baggage and cargo. Ireland and over 100 other states are party to the convention. The Warsaw Convention was amended by The Hague Protocol in 1955, notably to increase from about £7,500 to about £15,000 the limit — expressed in Poincaré Gold Francs — on a carrier's liability for death or injury to a passenger. The Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1959, gave effect in Irish law to The Hague Protocol.
Growing dissatisfaction with the liability limits of the Warsaw Convention — as expressed in the outdated Poincaré Gold Francs — developed in the following decade and culminated in the drawing up of four protocols to the convention in Montreal in 1975. The main purpose of the protocols was to substitute special drawing rights of the international Monetary Fund for Poincaré Gold Francs in the Warsaw Convention, The Hague Protocol, and in the 1971 Guatemala City Protocol. Each of the 1975 protocols must be ratified by 30 states before it can come into force.
The 1971 Guatemala City Protocol provided for an increase in that liability limit to about £90,000 — with provision for increases of about £10,000 in the fifth and tenth years after it comes into force — and allowed states to establish a supplementary fund to provide extra compensation if they wished to do so. This protocol has not yet come into force and, as worded, could only do so when it had been ratified by at least 30 states on the condition that the total international scheduled air traffic of the airlines of five states which have ratified it represents at least 40 per cent of the total international scheduled air traffic of the airlines of the member states of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In effect, this meant that ratification by the United States of America would ordinarily be required to bring the protocol into force. However, the 1975 Montreal Protocol No. 3 expressly provided that its own ratification by a state would automatically mean ratification of the 1971 Guatemala City Protocol.
I understand that the US Administration is now moving towards seeking the approval of the US Senate for the four 1975 Montreal Protocols. Montreal Protocol No. 1 substitutes special drawing rights for Poincaré Gold Francs in the original Warsaw Convention while Montreal Protocol No. 2 makes a similar substitution in the Warsaw Convention as amended by The Hague Protocol. Twenty states — including seven EC states, namely, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK — have already ratified both Montreal Protocols Nos. 1 and 2.
Montreal Protocol No. 3 substitutes special drawing rights for Poincaré Gold Francs in the Warsaw Convention as amended by both The Hague and Guatemala City Protocols. Eight states — including four EC states, namely, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK — have already ratified Montreal Protocol No. 3.
Montreal Protocol No. 4 relates mainly to the updating of the system for recording carriage of cargo by providing an option for the use of "means" other than an air waybill, prescribed in the convention as it stands, as a record of the carriage of cargo — if the consignor agrees — to take account of the growing computerisation of the business of carriers and consignors of cargo. The protocol also provides for the substitution of the special drawing rights to express the liability limits for cargo and operates a strict liability system for cargo, with a certain limited number of specified defences open to the carrier. The defences are: (a) inherent defect, quality or vice of the cargo; (b) defective packaging of the cargo performed by a person other than the carrier or his servants or agents; (c) an act of war or an armed conflict; and (d) an act of public authority carried out in connection with the entry, exit or transit of the cargo. Eleven states — including five EC states, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK — have ratified the Montreal Protocol No. 4.