Air Navigation and Transport Bill 2020: Committee Stage

Deputy Leddin is substituting for Deputy Matthews.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I also remind members that they are only allowed to attend the meeting if they are physically present in the Leinster House complex. In this regard, I ask that prior to making his or her contribution to the meeting, any member who is participating by Teams would confirm that he or she is on the grounds of Leinster House campus.

The meeting has been convened to consider the Air Navigation and Transport Bill 2020. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton.

It was agreed at the private meeting of the committee on Tuesday that due to the clash with parliamentary questions on transport that are currently taking place in the Dáil, I will be as flexible as possible in respect of the consideration of this Bill. In that regard, if members who have submitted amendments are not present when the section arises, I propose that those sections will not be dealt with at the time but will be taken at the end of the Bill. Is that agreed? Agreed. I also remind all members that should a vote be called, members must physically come to the committee room in order to vote.

We will now proceed with consideration of the Bill, to which 27 amendments have been tabled. Does the Minister wish to speak on every section of the Bill or just on those sections that members have queried?

I will speak only on the sections queried by members.

Sections 1 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 10

Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 26 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 12, lines 11 and 12, to delete “an tSeirbhis Aerloingseoireachta na hÉireann” and substitute “Seirbhís AerLoingseoireachta na hÉireann”.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 26 are technical amendments to section 10 and the Long Title of the Bill, simply making the Irish spelling of the service provider consistent throughout the Bill. Amendment No. 2 provides that the IANS may describe itself as Air Nav Ireland or ANI, which will assist the company to develop its commercial branding into a strong, unique and recognisable identity. The use of IANS, while suitable for the legislative provisions of the Bill, may not have a strong enough impact in the commercial world. The Finnish air navigation service provider describes itself as Fintraffic, while in Denmark it is Naviair and in Norway it is Avinor. Using Air Nav Ireland or ANI, as proposed, will support the new company in exploiting its commercial opportunities, while still retaining the official name of the company and its Irish form.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 10, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 12, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

“Alternative or additional names for IANS

11. Notwithstanding section 10, the IANS may, for operational purposes, describe itself by any of the following, whether as an alternative to, or in addition to, any other name by which it may describe itself by virtue of this Act:

(a) Air Nav Ireland;

(b) AirNav Ireland;

(c) ANI.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 11, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 12 to 14, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 15

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 14, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

“(3) (a) The Minister may direct in writing the IANS to pay a dividend to the Exchequer of an amount determined by him or her and the IANS shall comply with the direction (including any period specified in the direction within which the dividend is required to be so paid).

(b) The Minister may give the Board such general directives concerning the financial objectives of the Board as he or she considers appropriate and the Board shall, in performing its functions, have regard to such directives.”.

This amendment provides that the Minister for Transport may direct that a dividend is paid to the Exchequer and may give a policy direction to the company's financial objectives. The intention of this amendment is to enhance the financial influence the State has over its commercial company. While the IANS will be a fully commercial State company, transitioning from a commercial company with regulatory functions, it must also be aware of its continuing obligations to the State. This amendment provides comfort, certainty and clarity to the company and the State in financial matters. The provision may never be needed. Indeed, I cannot think of any recent case where it may have been considered. Providing this clarity will ensure that there is no uncertainty in the future when it comes to financial matters. It is [Interruptions], considering that we are forming a new company.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 15, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 16 to 46, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 47

There are two amendments. We will take amendment No. 4 first. Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are related and will be discussed together. I ask the Minister of State to move amendment No. 4.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 34, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

“(b) The IANS shall not prosecute an offence relating to an authorisation to aircraft to proceed.”.

This amendment and amendment No. 5 clarify that the new commercial body, Air Nav Ireland, will not have the role of enforcement of offences under section 47. Currently that role lies with Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, as the regulator. It will remain there and this amending clarifies that. The proper procedure for any incidents that arises is for the service provider to report it to the regulator. This amendment removes any ambiguity on these roles and responsibilities.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 34, line 28, to delete “(b) In paragraph (a)(iv)” and substitute the following:

“(c) In this subsection”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 47, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 48 to 55, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 56

Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 18 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 40, line 6, to delete “stored;”.” and substitute the following:

“stored;

‘Irish Coast Guard’ means that part of the Department of Transport that is known by that name;”.”.

This is simply a technical amendment that provides a definition for various coastguards for drafting purposes. Amendment No. 7 seeks to strengthen the Irish aviation safety regulatory framework applied by the IAA concerning aviation activities of the Irish Coast Guard. These include search and rescue, medical transfer and firefighting. These are currently regulated at national level. This amendment will align the regulatory and oversight activities by the IAA with European aviation safety regulations.

Amendment No. 18 provides that the Minister for Transport may make regulations to exercise the option of Regulation No. 2018/1139 on common rules in the field of civil aviation to apply certain elements of the European regulations to coastguards and search and rescue aviation activities. Currently these activities are regulated by member states at a national level. It is done in this State by the IAA.

The main roles of the Irish Coast Guard, IRCG, are to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport or to assist boats and ships within the State's jurisdiction. The IRCG is responsible for a response to and co-ordination of maritime accidents which require search and rescue, counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessels traffic monitoring. The IRCG has contracts for five helicopters, which are provided at bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo. The main IRCG activities aviation activities include search and rescue to people, the service of paramedical assistance to persons in remote or difficult access situations and the transfer of persons for urgent medical attention within the island of Ireland to and from the UK mainland.

Currently the European aviation safety regulations do not apply to aircraft and personnel in coast guard aviation activities. IRCG aviation activities are regulated at national level by the Irish Aviation Authority in the form of an air operator's certificate and the national search and rescue approval. The air operator's certificate allows an operator to perform specific operations of commercial air transport and the national search and rescue approval provides for remediation exemptions that are necessary to operate outside the requirements used to conduct commercial air transport without which some of the search and rescue operations would not be possible. In practice, the IAA already applies commercial air transport standards and procedures to the majority of IRCG aviation activities. These amendments formalise that and will serve to strengthen and clarify beyond doubt the regulation and the oversight by the IAA of aviation activities of the Irish Coast Guard.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 56, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

In section 57, amendment No. 7 is in the name of the Minister of State. Acceptance of this amendment involves deletion of section 57 of the original Act. It is a new section, which has already been discussed with amendment No. 6. If members have no comments, with their agreement this new section will be inserted into the Bill.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 40, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 14 of Act of 1993

57. Section 14 of the Act of 1993 is amended—

(a) in subsection (1)(a), by the substitution of “Schedule 1” for “the Schedule”, and

(b) by the substitution of the following subsections for subsection (6):

“(6) (a) For the avoidance of doubt, the reference to ‘(including making regulations)’ in subsection (3) includes making regulations that apply to the Irish Coast Guard.

(b) The company shall consult with the Irish Coast Guard before it makes regulations that apply to the Irish Coast Guard.

(c) The company shall, in making regulations that apply to the Irish Coast Guard, have regard to—

(i) the public benefit of the Irish Coast Guard,

(ii) the need to balance safety regulation with the need to provide effective emergency aviation responses to medical emergencies, accidents and serious incidents within the State,

(iii) the need to provide for greater specificity in relation to the regulatory framework for the oversight of aviation activities by and for the Irish Coast Guard, and

(iv) any regulations made under section 69A.”.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 57 deleted..

Amendments Nos. 8 to 10, inclusive, are in the names of Deputies Duncan Smith and O'Rourke. Deputy Smith is agreeable that Deputy O'Rourke moves the amendment if he so wishes, as Deputy Smith is not present.

.

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Alternatively, is it is possible to continue with the Minister of State's amendments?

I believe it is. In that case, I propose that section 58 and amendments Nos. 8 to 10, inclusive, in the name of Deputies Duncan Smith and O'Rourke be taken at the end of the Bill. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Is that not section 57 or am I not following this correctly?

No, we have completed section 57 and we are now on section 58.

Section 59 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 41, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

“Amendment of section 23 of Act of 1993

60. Section 23 of the Act of 1993 is amended—

(a) in subsection (1), by the deletion of “for the purpose of compliance with so much of the Companies Acts, 1963 to 1990, as requires that there shall always be a minimum number of members of the company,”, and

(b) by the deletion of subsection (2).”.

This amendment outlines the conditions under which the Minister for Finance can transfer a share in the IAA. By this restructuring the IAA will become a regulator without a commercial mandate. As such, governance of the IAA will be more along the lines of the governance that now applies to the Commission for Aviation Regulation and not to a commercial company. Nevertheless, as a company structure it must, of course, abide by the obligations under the Companies Act 2014. That Act provide more flexibility to a single member company in respect of reporting and annual requirements. While this amendment does not change the structure of the IAA, it does allow flexibility for the Minister for Finance to facilitate it becoming a single member company to avail of more suitable reporting and annual requirements.

Section 23 of the Irish Aviation Authority Act restricts the Minister for Finance in the transfer of his share except where required by the Companies Acts. This amendment removes that restriction.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 60 agreed to.
Sections 61 to 64, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 65

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 44, line 33, to delete “the plan for aviation safety prepared by the State” and substitute “the State Plan for Aviation Safety prepared”.

This is a technical amendment to clarify the formal name of the state plan for aviation safety. This is the plan that the IAA prepares on behalf of the State and the new text more closely matches its formal name.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 65, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 66 to 71, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 72

Amendments Nos. 13 to 16, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 51, line 24, to delete “or”.

This amendment and the three amendments that follow provide that fixed-charge offences can be served on registered operators of unmanned aircraft if the persons operating the aircraft at the time of the offence cannot be identified. At present, the owners of certain drones must register as drone operators. However, it may be the case that another person uses that drone. It makes sense to assign responsibility and accountability to those who operate these types of aircraft. Further, the amendments provide that the registered owners of registered aircraft are ultimately responsible for the use of those aircraft in a similar manner to registered owners of cars.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 51, line 27, after “operator” to insert “or registered owner”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 51, line 28, to delete “section.” and substitute “section, or”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 51, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“(c) if the officer does not identify the person and the offence involves the use of an unmanned aircraft registered to an operator, the officer shall serve, or cause to be served, personally or by post, on the registered operator of the unmanned aircraft a notice under this section.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 72, as amended, agreed to.

I propose that section 73 be taken at the end of the Bill. Is that what Deputy O'Rourke is requesting?

If members are agreeable, we will take section 73 at the end of the debate. Is that agreed? Agreed.

NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 52, after line 38, to insert the following:

Regulations may be made to give effect to certain provisions of EASA Basic Regulation

74. The Act of 1993 is amended by the insertion of the following section after section 69:

69A. (1)The Minister may make regulations for the purpose of exercising the opt-in provisions of Article 2.6 of the EASA Basic Regulation to give effect to certain provisions of the EASA Basic Regulation relating to the regulation of aviation activities by aircraft (including related engines, propellers, parts, non-installed equipment and equipment to control aircraft remotely) while carrying out search and rescue, firefighting, coastguard or similar activities or services under the control and responsibility of the State, undertaken in the public interest by or on behalf of the Irish Coast Guard and the personnel and organisations involved in the activities and services performed by those aircraft.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1), regulations under this section may—

(a) make provision in relation to all or any aspect of (including any combination of) the matters set out in sections I, II, III and VII of Chapter III of the EASA Basic Regulation as may be specified in the regulations,

(b) apply either generally or to such class of persons or activities or services as may be specified in the regulations, and

(c) contain such incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as appear to the Minister to be necessary for the purposes of the regulations (including provisions repealing, amending or applying, with or without modification, other law, exclusive of this Act, the European Communities Act 1972 and the European Communities Act 2007).

(3) When making regulations under subsection (1), the Minister shall have regard to the following:

(a) the aim to strengthen the national aviation safety regulatory framework for aviation activities of the Irish Coast Guard and aligning it with European aviation safety regulations;

(b) the need to provide for greater specificity in relation to the regulatory framework of the oversight of aviation activities by and for the Irish Coast Guard;

(c) the need to secure the operation and safety of the aircraft, and persons and property contained therein, operated by or on behalf of the Irish Coast Guard and mitigate the risks pertaining to safety;

(d) the need to allow for immediate reaction to accidents and serious incidents and balance the safety requirements with search and rescue objectives;

(e) the interests and views of the civil aviation sector and the general public;

(f) the interest of international cooperation within the European aviation industry and the promotion of European aviation safety standards;

(g) the need to promote effectiveness in regulatory, certification and oversight processes.

(4) The Minister shall consult with the Irish Coast Guard and the company before he or she makes regulations under this section.

(5) A word or expression which is used in this section and which is also used in the EASA Basic Regulation has, unless the context otherwise requires, the same meaning in this section as it has in the EASA Basic Regulation.

(6) In this section ‘EASA Basic Regulation’ has the meaning assigned to it by section 32A(6).”.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Sections 74 to 77, inclusive, agreed to.

I propose that section 78 be taken at the end of the Bill, as I assume Deputy O'Rourke is requesting.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sections 79 and 80 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

Amendments Nos. 20 and 27 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Amendment No. 27 is consequential on No. 20.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 57, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

“PART 9

AMENDMENT OF AIR NAVIGATION AND TRANSPORT (AMENDMENT) ACT 1998

Amendment of section 13 of Act of 1998

81. Section 13 of the Act of 1998 is amended by—

(a) the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (5):

“(5) The aggregate at any one time of moneys borrowed under this section shall not exceed—

(a) in the case of daa and any of its subsidiaries, from the Dublin appointed day, €5 billion, and

(b) in the case of Cork Airport Authority and any of its subsidiaries, from the Cork appointed day, €100 million.”,

and

(b) by the deletion of subsection (6).”.

This amendment sets the DAA's statutory borrowing ceiling at €5 billion. The DAA's current statutory borrowing limit is just €2.2 billion. The DAA funds its investment programme from its own resources and many of these programmes are financed by borrowing. The DAA is subject to a statutory borrowing limit under the provisions of section 13 of the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998. The DAA's development plans are conditional on it surviving the impacts of Covid-19 and positioning itself to recover both financially and strategically. The delivery of a statutory mandate to operate, manage and develop both Dublin Airport and Cork Airport depends on the company having access to the necessary liquidity. To date, the DAA's statutory borrowing limit has been amended by way of statutory instrument. However, my Department has been advised by the Office of the Attorney General that legislation should be enacted to provide for a greater increase and to confirm the existing power over these limits. Given that this ceiling is set in primary legislation, a limit of €5 billion is considered appropriate as it needs to accommodate a relatively long timeframe. Any further amendments to increase the limit will require primary legislation. Importantly, and irrespective of the level of the statutory borrowing limit, the DAA is still required under legislation to obtain my consent and the consent of the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and for Finance prior to entering into any new borrowing, even if such new borrowings are within the statutory borrowing limit. Amendment No. 27 simply reflects these changes in the long title.

I thank the Minister of State. I support the amendment. With regard to the implications, we are to have a national aviation strategy review and this committee has, in the past, looked at the possibility of a new governance structure for aviation to replace the DAA or Aer Rianta. Would that proposal have implications for this legislation? In the context of any proposals that might come out of a national aviation strategy review, would the legislation and its provisions be reviewed?

This amendment enables the DAA to ensure it has access to the necessary liquidity. We are creating a framework for borrowing. This ceiling was raised by way of statutory instrument in recent months to enable the DAA to get access to funding during the Covid-19 crisis. No matter what it does, the DAA will always require the approval of the three Ministers, the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Finance, in respect of borrowing. There are safeguards in that regard.

I have been following the meeting remotely but am now in Leinster House. I have followed every minute of it. In principle, I have no difficulty with a higher borrowing ceiling being permitted. I have no issue but I have questions along the lines of those of Deputy O'Rourke's. Does this higher borrowing ceiling reflect Shannon Airport coming back under the DAA umbrella again or under the umbrella of a new entity? This provision only came to my attention in recent weeks. I am going on a slight tangent but this cause of concern should be shared. In trying to raise capital, IAG has set up bonds relating to its landing slots at Heathrow and other European hubs. While I know the Minister of State and the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, must insist on certain safety checks, when an entity wants to raise liquidity, it is very important that we know what type of assets are being leveraged to get capital loans of that kind. I know landing slots do not necessarily belong to our country but I was certainly very concerned to see them used as loan collateral. If IAG was to run into major financial trouble, certain key strategic landing slots for flights from Ireland to Britain and continental Europe could disappear overnight. When Dublin Airport or any other aviation entity in Ireland is raising major liquidity, it is important that we know, to some extent, the kinds of collateral they are using to leverage this liquidity. I have no difficulty with the amendment in principle.

I thank the Deputy for sharing his concerns. This amendment enables the DAA to raise liquidity to manage and develop both Dublin Airport and Cork Airport. With regard to safeguards, the DAA will be required to get the approval of the three Ministers. The DAA has extensive plans. We anticipate a return to growth in all of our airports and in the aviation industry. As the Government, we will be monitoring that. We have put in place significant supports for our airports and airlines through those horizontal measures.

We will continue to do that. As the Deputy knows, aviation is currently in flux and, as a result, we are constantly ensuring we have the necessary supports in place. That will not stop with this Bill. We are just ensuring the DAA has access to that liquidity.

When the Minister of State tabled this amendment dealing with a higher borrowing threshold, did she and the Department do it on the understanding that the DAA currently constitutes Dublin and Cork airports or is there any thinking to the effect that this may also encompass Shannon Airport at some point in future? The number of political voices commenting on this matter has increased so is the Department thinking about it? Is this solely dealing with the current constitution of DAA?

It is solely dealing with the current constitution of the DAA.

Shannon Airport is outside the DAA and it also has the necessity to raise liquidity and invest. The Minister of State's comments on this amendment and section specifically reference the DAA. What are the implications of this for Shannon Airport Authority? What provision is made for a situation where that authority wants to raise liquidity? Is it dealt with differently or is there a different provision? Must it seek the permission of the Ministers Finance, Transport and Public Expenditure and Reform in the same way as the DAA?

Yes. To answer the Deputy's question directly, Shannon Airport Authority would have to seek consent as well from those Ministers. Shannon is different, I suppose, and although the DAA covers Dublin and Cork, rest assured that we want to protect the mid-west region as well, including Shannon. We are acutely aware of that. This does not have an impact on Shannon and it is specifically an issue for the Bill. Shannon has sufficient borrowing capacity now and, as the Deputies know, we are in constant contact with Shannon Group. We are looking at the future of the mid west and ensuring it has a viable future. This has no impact on Shannon but it is just dealing with the statutory borrowing limit in primary legislation. To answer the Deputy's question, consent is also required for Shannon.

Do any other members wish to comment?

If I may, I might reply to the comments of Deputy Carey and the Minister of State. I do not believe that has been fully been the case over the past 15 months. Shannon is quite unique when compared with Dublin and Cork airports because, as the Minister of State knows well, it encompasses several entities. There are heritage sites and Shannon Commercial Properties, etc. One of the big problems in the past 15 months has been with the heritage sites under the umbrella of Shannon Heritage. We were explicitly informed that there were potential liquidity issues arising in and around last summer. There was a campaign undertaken by me, Deputy Carey and all the people in the mid west to have the sites reopened. That was at a point when they may not have survived.

I suppose our concern is that in a normal trading year we worry about airports and what is landing. The heritage sites tend to operate by themselves. What became very apparent last year was that these sites are so intrinsically linked. There were cash flow problems for the heritage sites and if they are in a stage of jeopardy or flux, does it have a knock-on effect for the airport?

Last year, we could establish that Shannon Group is not able to move capital from one of its entities to the other, which also gives rise to challenges. Deputy Carey is right to ask the question and although we appreciate the answer, it does not reflect some of the challenges faced in the past year. Liquidity was one of those that specifically relates to the heritage sites. We have had separate debates about whether this should come under a different entity. The reality is that element is still part of Shannon Group and if one entity is failing, it damages the others. We must reflect on that as well.

I take on board the points made by the Deputies, which are valid. Shannon is completely separate from the provisions of this amendment, however. I assure the Deputies, from dealing with stakeholders in the region, of the importance of Shannon Group and the heritage sites. I met a number of stakeholders on the ground on the future of Shannon Heritage. We want to ensure that is viable, although we all recognise that a reduction in international travel has had a severe impact on those sites. That has been recognised and support has been given over a wide range of areas. That includes the employment wage subsidy scheme. I am very cognisant of the questions relating to the Shannon heritage sites, Shannon Airport and the overall picture in the mid-west region. That is a different debate but I assure Deputies that work is ongoing in that regard. I am in constant contact with the different stakeholders. The amendment has no impact on that. I am working hard, and I know all the Oireachtas Members from the area are doing the same, for the mid-west region. We want to ensure there is a viable future for those heritage sites. I reassure members that this amendment does not affect that in any way.

I thank the Minister of State.

Could the Minister of State clarify if the Shannon Group has sought increased borrowing capacity? Like the DAA, it is dealing with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. The DAA is seeking increased borrowing capacity. The position would be rectified by means of this amendment. Has the Shannon Group sought increased borrowing capacity?

No, it has not. Borrowing capacity is not a problem. We want to get international travel back up and running. We will have statements in the Dáil about that later. It is the priority. In the meantime, we are ensuring we support the airports with structure that can enable them to move on. Borrowing capacity is not an issue.

There was a promise of a review of Shannon Group. A public commitment was given that a review would be put in train. Where stands that review, which would consider the various entities coming under the umbrella of Shannon Group? When will that report be concluded and published? Could the Minister of State give us some insight on that?

Work in that regard is ongoing. The review is completed but we must look at the heritage sites in order to find the best future or home for them. There are issues around conservation of strategically important sites and monuments within the State, including repairs. All that work is happening while we work with local stakeholders and groups. I have engaged with a number of them. The work is ongoing and the Deputy can be assured it is a priority. We are seeking the best fit for Shannon Heritage.

When will it conclude?

Work is ongoing. I hope in the next couple of months we will get clarity on that. I assure the Deputy that work is ongoing behind the scenes on that.

When will a chairperson of the board for Shannon to be appointed?

That process is under way. The Minister has responsibility for that process. I hope it will be completed very shortly.

I thank the Minister of State.

Amendment agreed to.
Sections 81 to 91, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 92

Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 61, to delete lines 11 to 14 and substitute the following:

“(b) facilitate the efficient and economic development and operation of Dublin Airport,

(c) promote high-quality and cost-effective airport services at Dublin Airport, and

(d) take account of the policies of the Government on aviation, climate change and sustainable development.”,”.

Amendments Nos. 21 and 22 add Government policy on sustainable development as an objective that the regulator must take account of. The intention of this amendment is to make it clear that investments by the DAA that are related to the policy of Government on sustainable development will be reflected in the price determination. It is only right that this should be placed at the same level as economic development and cost-effective services. It also moves the need to consider Government policies on aviation and climate change to the same level.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 61, to delete lines 19 to 23 and substitute the following:

“(iii) the substitution, in paragraph (i), of “daa, and” for “daa.”, and

(iv) the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (i):

“(j) the need to encourage competition at Dublin Airport to—”.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 92, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 93 to 109, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 110

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 70, to delete lines 5 to 9 and substitute the following:

“(4) This section shall not apply to—

This and amendment No. 24 provide for members of the commission's superannuation scheme to be protected under the new section inserted by No. 24 to protect members of the single public service pension scheme. Staff will have no less favourable terms and conditions on transfer. This is explicitly referred to throughout the Bill. The wording of section 110 provides this protection. However, staff of the commission are split between members of the commission's own scheme and members of the single public service pension scheme. The commission's own schemes are closed to new members and can transfer with the IAA replacing the commission to administer those schemes. The members of the single public service pension scheme need a new arrangement. The Bill does not specify this new arrangement. It may be in the form of a new equivalent scheme or a category of an existing scheme that will be determined by agreement. Any such agreement must provide the same protection with no less favourable terms and conditions. This is being provided in a new section.

The Minister of State will be familiar with an ongoing dispute involving former employees of the Irish Aviation Authority about the superannuation scheme. I tabled a series of parliamentary questions to get information about this. All that I am really getting is that the Minister of State has examined two submissions and those submissions have been referred to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I sought a reply from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform but it is always referred back to the Department of Transport. Perhaps this amendment will give the Minister of State an opportunity to shed some light on that dispute and bring the committee up to speed about when to expect a resolution to be reached on this long-standing issue that has caused serious concern and grief for former employees of the IAA.

I am aware of ongoing dialogue between the IAA and staff about pension matters. That is quite appropriate with the reforms that are provided for in this Bill. Two submissions have been made about section 41(7) of the Irish Aviation Authority Act 1993, which provides that a dispute about superannuation benefits may be submitted to the Minister for Transport for final determination by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. They are being considered in accordance with that statutory provision, as the Deputy highlighted. The appeals process is ongoing so I am not in a position to be able to provide any more comment.

Could the Minister of State find out and come back to the committee? It is a long-standing issue. I have been raising it for years. In this Dáil, I have tabled five or six parliamentary questions, which all get the same answer. The Department has received two submissions and they are with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Parliamentary questions about it are automatically transferred from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform back to the Department of Transport. It is like a merry-go-round. I would appreciate if the Minister of State could intervene to try to get some answers to this long-standing dispute.

I appreciate the Deputy's question. I can write to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform about this but it is up to him to determine, not me. I have received parliamentary questions from Deputy Carey and others about it.

When the Minister of State writes to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, will she come back to the committee with her response?

I can write back to Deputy Carey. We can contact the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform because it is the Minister's determination, not mine.

A couple of points have been made. The IAA has a major presence in County Clare. Many of its workers and former workers are based in the Minister of State, Deputy Naughton's, constituency. This superannuation dispute has been a long-running saga. As Deputy Carey said, it does not seem to be any closer to being resolved. A memorandum has issued from the Minister of State's Department to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform but it has been a long-running saga. We are looking for both Departments and the IAA representative group to come before this committee to hear both sides of this. That matter is still outstanding and having a memorandum between Departments pending action is probably holding everything up.

I join others in saying that this needs to be expedited. The Dáil will rise in five or six weeks. My crude understanding of how things work is that a Department reports costs to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to be accepted or refused, and if the report is refused, it needs to be revised and sent back again. It is important to establish exactly where this is. If this is something to be approved, we should get it approved and get things back to retired members. We need an expeditious update on this. It has gone on for too long. I welcome the Minister of State coming back to us and thank her.

The dispute process goes through my Department and is sent to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

As I said, I will write to the Minister regarding an update for the Deputy on this.

It is the same point. I support Deputies Crowe and Carey on this ongoing and long-standing issue, which needs some resolution as quickly as is possible.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 110, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 70, after line 9, to insert the following:

“Superannuation schemes or arrangements in relation to members of Commission or staff to whom section 110 does not apply

111.(1) The IAA shall, as soon as is practicable after the commencement of this section but, in any case, before the dissolution day, make the relevant scheme or arrangement.

(2) The relevant persons shall, on the dissolution day and by virtue of this section, become members of the relevant scheme or arrangement.

(3) In this section—

“relevant persons” means the members of the Commission and members of the staff of the Commission who stand transferred to the IAA under section 103 as members of the staff of the IAA and who were not members of a scheme or arrangement referred to in section 110(1) immediately before the dissolution day;

“relevant scheme or arrangement” means a scheme or arrangement referred to in section 41 of the Act of 1993 made before the dissolution day for the purposes of relevant persons becoming members of such scheme or arrangement on that day and containing terms and conditions in relation to superannuation no less favourable to relevant persons than those terms and conditions in relation to superannuation to which they were entitled immediately before that day.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Schedules 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

Deputy Smith has joined us. If it is agreeable to members, I will go back in the sequence of amendments to those in the names of Deputies Smith and O'Rourke. The first is amendment No. 8 to section 58. I will proceed to move through the amendments in the Deputies' joint names as they are separate but similar amendments. I will call Deputy Smith for the first amendment, then Deputy O'Rourke and will alternate it for the following amendments. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 40, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

“Licence Holders Forum Section

58. The Act of 1993 is amended by the insertion of section 14A:

“14A. (1)The Irish Aviation Authority shall establish a standing body to serve as the collective statutory collaborative and consultative forum in relation to air safety and its regulation between the Irish

Aviation Authority and persons or bodies that it licenses or authorises who are active in commercial aviation, to be known as the Licence Holders Forum.

(2) Without prejudice to subsections (6) and (7), the Licence Holders Forum shall meet at least twice per annum at which the Irish Aviation Authority shall be represented by its Chief Executive and be accompanied by such other staff of the Irish Aviation Authority as necessary. Secretariat services shall be provided to it by the Irish Aviation Authority.

(3) Each of the following may appoint one representative on the Licence Holders Forum—

(a) any air carrier holding an Air Carrier Operating Licence issued under Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008,

(b) any recognised trade union or recognised stakeholder group representing fifty or more persons authorised to hold a commercial pilot’s licence or an airline transport pilot’s licence,

(c) any recognised trade union or recognised stakeholder group representing 50 or more persons licenced or authorised by the Irish Aviation Authority other than holders of commercial pilot licences or airline transport pilot licences. Where the particular class of licensed person is less than 50 then 50 per cent of their actual number by function shall suffice.

(4) The Licence Holders Forum shall also comprise such other representatives of stakeholders in aviation safety as determined jointly by the representative of the Irish Aviation Authority and those persons appointed pursuant to subsection 3.

(5) The Licence Holders Forum shall adopt its own procedures including arrangements with respect to the promotion of candour and the treatment of confidential information.

(6) The Irish Aviation Authority shall consult the Licence Holders Forum at least 28 days in advance in relation to the following—

(a) its proposal of a draft statement of strategy pursuant to section 29A. (1),

(b) its submission to the Minister of any report pursuant to section 32(1) or 32(2),

(c) its submission to the Minister of an aviation safety performance statement in accordance with section 32A(1),

(d) the adoption of a State Plan for Aviation Safety in accordance with Article 8 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1139,

(e) the making of a decision pursuant to section 36,

(f) in respect of its adoption of any implementing measures (including orders pursuant to section 58) to give effect to any domestic, European Union, or international law requirement concerning or relating to authorisation or licensing, and

(g) all proposed or requested initiatives concerning the authorisation of licencing of personnel or carriers.

(7) The Irish Aviation Authority shall keep the Licence Holders Forum informed in relation to the following matters—

(a) the Irish Aviation Authority’s fulfilment of its regulatory performance plan as an element of its aviation safety performance plan,

(b) the implementation and operation of the Licence Holders Charter adopted under section 14B,

(c) any concern of any representative as to technical or safety standards for aircraft or air navigation or anything affecting or likely to affect the safety of civil aviation, and

(d) any guidance, clarifications, or direction issued under the Charter adopted under section 14B.

(8) Each representative on the Licence Holders Forum may propose for discussion anything in relation to—

(a) the licensing of persons or carriers involved in civil aviation,

(b) safety concerns associated with any licence or authorisation issued by the Irish Aviation Authority, and

(c) any issue concerning the safety of aircraft or air operations, whether or not regulated or subject to the oversight of the Irish Aviation Authority.”.

I thank the Chair and committee for how they have ordered business today to facilitate me, in particular. I move amendment No. 8, which relates to a licence holders' forum. There are regular Irish Aviation Authority, IAA, forums where the airlines and the IAA meet and where operational and other issues are discussed, but some of the unions that represent licence holders have been excluded. This is a practice that cannot go on and this amendment would rectify that. We are calling on this legislation to oblige both the IAA and the Irish air navigation service, IANS, to establish a stakeholders' forum to include the Irish Air Line Pilots' Association, IALPA, and the other unions representing other licence holders, which would meet every quarter to discuss and consult on relevant issues.

My amendment No. 9 relates to the licence holders' charter. The Minister of State is likely to have seen these amendments before. She may have received them at short notice, but it would be interesting to hear back from her about the general thrust of them. She will appreciate where they are coming from and what we are trying to achieve. They are put forward in good faith. The licence holders' charter would involve pilots and other licence holders. Engineers and cabin crew are licensed by the IAA but have no mandated way of interacting with it. That has implications.

IALPA is looking for a pilots' charter, and similar charters for engineers, cabin crew and operators etc., which would plainly set out the rights and responsibilities of each party and how they should interact with each other. A pilots' charter is intended to make the relationship between the regulator and the individual pilot licence holder more explicit and protected under the new Act. It would aim to ensure proper consultation on proposed new regulations, that queries are answered and there is a right of appeal on IAA decisions, particularly as they impinge on licence holders' exercising of their rights.

I have received the amendments. IALPA has also been in touch with me. I do not believe what is being put forward here materially changes the spirit of the Bill. To have a licence holders' forum would be a constructive thing. It would allow more voices in the room. I will be interested to hear the Minister of State's take on it but, certainly, from what I have read of it, and in my deliberations with IALPA, I do not believe it materially changes the intent of the Bill. In my opinion, it adds to it.

I just want to hear what the Minister of State has to say about these two amendments, specifically amendment No. 8. I will come in after that.

I thank the Deputies. I certainly understand the intentions and the spirit of these amendments but I cannot accept amendments Nos. 8 or 9. Amendment No. 8 proposes to establish a licence holders' forum in national legislation. First, it must be borne in mind that regulations governing pilot licences, and commercial air transport and standards, are developed at EU level. The process for developing EU regulation is transparent and it provides for input from all stakeholders. Indeed, the basic regulation 2018/1129 specifically requires the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, to involve social partners and other stakeholders when consulting on EU regulations. It is this EU-level focus that is the most effective means of influencing standards.

The IAA is the competent authority under many of these regulations. It does consult and engage with stakeholders. However, if the intention is to influence those standards, this amendment is not the way to do that. The way to do it is engaging at EU level. The IAA currently runs many different stakeholder events, often to address new or emerging issues. For example, my Department and the IAA held a symposium in Dublin Castle on the introduction of the EU unmanned aircraft system operations regulation. This involved both airlines and employee representative bodies. Other events can be targeted to a specific group, such as airport safety managers, to focus on specific topics.

The forum structures and stakeholders at these events need to be responsive to the particular issues that are being addressed. Once the new single aviation regulator is established, I expect and will ensure that this engagement will only develop further, in a collaborative way, and will involve the most comprehensive and effective stakeholders. I expect communication will be improved with licence holders and the engagement will be responsive and follow good practice. We will have a new board and chairperson all dedicated to open, transparent decision-making.

This is not a question of stakeholder engagement being useful or not. It is just a question of the most suited form of that engagement. That is where I understand the spirit of these amendments. To place this forum in national legislation would, in my opinion, lead to an inflexible and ineffective form of engagement, which would not contribute to a collaborative approach to regulation. Instead, it would place a formal, rigid and unresponsive structure in place at national level. In particular, the amendment fixes in primary legislation the forum's membership, participants, meetings, matters it considers and communication from the IAA. I question whether that is where we want the new regulator to dedicate its resources. We should just be mindful of that.

I consulted the IAA to highlight the concerns raised on stakeholder engagement, which this amendment is trying to address. I am conscious there is a perception that some stakeholders are not receiving an equal hearing. I have been assured that as the new regulator is embedded, there will be a renewed emphasis on broad and inclusive stakeholder engagement.

Such a forum for all licence holders will be on its agenda.

On amendment No. 9, which proposes the establishment of a licence holders charter in primary national legislation, it is important to note that licences for commercial aviation are issued in accordance with EU regulations. The rights, obligations and privileges of individual licence holders derive from these EU regulations. The European Aviation Safety Agency published these regulations and associated guidance materials. I understand that the published consolidated document for air crew licences runs to over 1,700 pages. Interpretation is driven by this material and if any stakeholder can seek clarity from the European agency directly.

On the amendment on a forum, the level at which we legislate is very important. If the intention is that the licensing system is operated in an integrated and transparent manner, the focus should be on a pan-European approach, not on primary national legislation.

I support the principle of open, transparent communication. However, the prescriptive roles and procedures set out in this amendment are not suited to that aim, nor are they the most effective way to bring it about. A particular issue of this amendment is that it requires formal written guidance but not from the body that develops the guidance.

I understand the desire to have a written charter setting out an understanding for all partners to consult. Such a charter would provide clarity to all stakeholders. The IAA has this with its customer charter. That is set out clearly and is available on its website. I have been assured by the IAA that it is committed to consulting stakeholders, including licence holders, on strategy in the coming months. This consultation will include plans for future engagements with licence holders. While I support the engagement of stakeholders, it is a different matter to prescribe such engagement in national legislation. For this reason, I cannot accept the amendment.

I appreciate the intention of these amendments. I am not in favour of setting a legal obligation to establish such a forum or charter within primary national legislation. This would not provide the flexibility to effectively manage consultation and stakeholder engagement. However, I will ask my officials to follow up and engage with the IAA to ensure that other forms of effective engagement can be progressed and implemented. I hope that explains the reasons I cannot accept these amendments.

The Minister of State's response is disappointing. Would she be open to further engagement before Report Stage? It sounds like she is open to what we are trying to achieve, at least in spirit. She may view the proposal as a bit rigid. If there was a way she and I could meet while this legislation is being debated and before it is finalised, I would appreciate it as it would improve the current position. I will leave it at that. The Minister of State might engage with us before Report Stage.

I echo that. I appreciate the Minister of State's response. The amendments are born out of a reality that does not reflect some of what she said regarding the opportunity for stakeholder engagement. While the Minister of State is offering the opinion that the proposals are too rigid, there needs to be some sort of accommodation to improve the current state of affairs in which important stakeholders feel excluded from a number of important forums. I also appreciate the Minister of State's commitment to follow up with the IAA, it is important to engage with other stakeholders, including Deputies, in advance of Report Stage.

I accept the Minister of State's point that including this provision in primary legislation could lead to rigidity. However, she accepted that there are stakeholders that feel left out of forums. I agree with previous speakers on the need for the Minister of State to meet us in the middle to find a solution. It is all well and good going back to the IAA but there needs to be some sort of structure, shape and timeline for stakeholder engagement and a facility to ensure that also happens at a European level. There will need to be further engagement without us to find a solution that works for everybody.

I agree that the amendments are detailed and prescriptive. I see that the Minister of State recognises the importance of licence holder engagement and that positive engagement with stakeholders should be at the heart of this process. I ask that, before Report Stage, the Minister of State consider some other form of formalising the principle of stakeholder engagement and liaise with the committee and other stakeholders to achieve that goal.

I thank the Deputies. They appreciate the complexities involved in including this provision in primary legislation. I hear the points they make around consultation and engagement. I assure them that engagement will be at the heart of the IAA and it will be mandated to do that. Deputy Carey alluded to engaging with the committee. If the Deputies agree, we could arrange a meeting before Report Stage to talk through some of these issues.

Do members agree?

Yes. I thank the Minister of State.

With that, how stands amendment No. 8?

I will not press this amendment at this stage. We will have further discussions before Report Stage.

Does Deputy O'Rourke intend pressing amendment No. 9?

The same applies. I will withdraw the amendment, with leave to reintroduce it on Report Stage, if necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.

Amendment No. 10 was discussed with amendment No. 8. I assume the amendment will form the basis of the discussion with the Minister of State before Report Stage.

I can speak to the amendment.

We did not discuss amendment No. 10.

The Deputy is correct.

I would like to discuss it.

My apologies. We can discuss it.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 40, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

"Crew Peer Support Programmes

58. The Act of 1993 is amended by the insertion of section 14C:

"14C. (1)The Irish Aviation Authority shall periodically review the crew peer support programmes provided by the holders of air carrier licences or otherwise made available by them to crew pursuant to the requirements of CAT.GEN.MPA. 215 to Annex IV (Part – CAT) of Regulation (EU) No. 965/2012.

(2) A comprehensive review of each such support programme shall be conducted by the Irish Aviation Authority at least every three years and no more frequently than at one year

intervals, in respect of which it shall consider the following—

(a) the nature of the programme having regard to the size and diversity of the air carrier in question,

(b) the ability of the programme to provide access to the requisite range of expert supports,

(c) the accessibility of such a programme including encouragement as to its use and the freedom of crew to access an alternative crew peer support programme to meet their personal needs,

(d) the adequacy of confidentiality arrangements,

(e) the involvement of crew representatives and recognised stakeholder groups in establishing and supporting the programme,

(f) the selection and training of peers, and their independence from any conflicting management or supervisory functions within the Air Operator’s Certificate holder or otherwise,

(g) the provision of adequate resources to the programme,

(h) the provision of mental health professionals to support peers when required by programme users, and

(i) the accessibility of programmes services and support by online and other electronic means.

(3) In conducting these comprehensive reviews, the Irish Aviation Authority shall seek feedback from users of the programme to the maximum extent feasible, consistent with maintaining strict confidentiality concerning the identity of crew and their personal circumstances.

(4) In the event of any deficiency in a crew peer support programme being found during a comprehensive review, the Irish Aviation Authority may direct changes to any such programme, which shall be binding. That shall be without prejudice to the ability to the Irish Aviation Authority’s power to direct changes in respect of deficiencies other than those identified during a periodic comprehensive review.

(5) The Irish Aviation Authority shall convene the Crew Peer Support National Forum which shall be chaired by the Irish Aviation Authority’s Chief Medical Officer and include representatives of:

(a) the air carriers that it regulates and any persons engaged in the provision of support services to them or on their behalf;

(b) pilot associations and other recognised stakeholder groups and any persons from those associations engaged in the provision of support services to them or on their behalf.

(6) The Crew Peer Support National Forum, which shall receive secretariat services from the Irish Aviation Authority, has the following functions—

(a) the sharing of best practice on crew peer support programmes,

(b) encouraging the implementation of cooperation and joint resource sharing between different crew peer support programmes,

(c) the development of a common (anonymised) data base to identify trends and to monitor the effectiveness of crew peer support programmes,

(d) making recommendations to the Irish Aviation Authority as to the requirements of crew peer support programmes, and

(e) creating or encouraging the provision of a national crew peer support programme under a separate structure, whether through co-operation between programmes, or by other means, and to be accessible—

(i) by all crew irrespective of their employer,

(ii) by crew not willing to use the programme made available by their employer for personal confidentiality or other reasons, and

(iii) to crew who are out of work.".

The amendment is also in the name of Deputy O'Rourke who, I am sure, would like to speak to it as well.

This amendment is more from the heart than the head. It proposes to establish a standardised peer-to-peer support programme for the industry. A number of incidents have motivated it but the most high-profile tragedy was the Germanwings crash of 2015. It is recognised that pilots need to be provided with support programmes to deal with personal and mental health issues. This should be done in a way that does not necessarily impact on licensing. I ask that this be considered.

Aer Lingus has a good programme. Other airlines have varying programmes at different levels. We need a standardised peer support programme across the industry. We believe we could be a leader in this and it is something that should be brought in.

Similarly, the peer support piece was one of the points the representatives I spoke with were quite passionate about. I also took from the conversation that there are schemes in place but they vary and, in some instances, are little more than box-ticking exercises that do not really grasp the issue at hand. A comparison was made between the employee assistance programme and the need for peer support together with the opportunity that might be afforded to suspend a licence temporarily without any assumptions being made in relation to it. A comparison was made on the nature and extent of the schemes in place for smaller companies against an appreciation of the cultural differences between companies, including internationally.

The important piece regarding confidentiality is that it should be peer to peer but with a degree of removal. That point was made about smaller companies in particular. If the schemes were in-house, they did not provide for the type of confidentiality that is needed. The representatives pointed to the challenges of Covid and the implications it has had for people. They mentioned issues like sexuality that, again, can be difficult for people to contend with and to share with people they are working with daily in a very closed setting. That is where this amendment comes from. From listening in an open way to the representatives, there is, at the very least, significant room for improvement on the regime in place at the minute.

I cannot accept amendment No. 10. This amendment relates to a crew peer support programme. Peer support programmes are governed by EU legislation, mainly Regulation No. 2018/1042. This regulation introduced new requirements for support programmes that require operators to enable, facilitate and ensure access to a proactive and non-punitive support programme that will assist and support flight crew in recognising, coping with and overcoming any problem that might negatively affect their ability to exercise the privileges of their licences safely. Such access shall be made available to all flight crews. These requirements came into effect in February this year. I understand the European Aviation Safety Agency will review their effectiveness next year. Our Department and the IAA will be feeding into that and will be consulting industry about that review. This is an important safety issue; of that there is no doubt. A proactive and non-punitive support programme will benefit the aviation industry, crews and the public, which is why I strongly support action in this area. However, the place for that action is primarily at EU level as it is an area of EU competence.

The IAA is already the competent authority in respect of this EU regulation and already ensures every operator is compliant with it. The amendment proposes a further national level requirement that includes national reviews and a single national forum. It prescribes the timings, areas covered by the review, actions the IAA will take and the establishment of a national forum and its functions. The IAA is operating within a larger, integrated, single European civil aviation system. Replacing this programme and forum at a national level in primary legislation does not address it as a pan-European requirement. If the programme needs a review or engagement needs to be strengthened, that should be done at European level with a focus on the European Aviation Safety Agency with the EU making programmes that can be developed there. This should help to ensure a pan-European approach can be taken.

In addition, the EU-level approach will avoid conflict between Irish national requirements and the EU area of regulatory competency, or for applying a non-level playing field to Irish industry. It is my view that primary legislation is not suited to a hard code or a forum structure of rules and procedures in an area where the competence is at European level. That is the reason I cannot support this amendment but, again, I understand the intent of it.

Similar to my previous response, it might be something we pick up between now and Report Stage. I will not push this to a vote.

Yes. It would be helpful for the Minister of State and her Department to hear from IALPA on these issues. I know there is some engagement, but no one is better able to articulate these issues than the people who have lived them. That is also important between Committee and Report Stages.

On all these amendments, IALPA met me as well and I listened to its members. They put these issues forward to the Department but I do not think they have received replies. The Department got these amendments at quite short notice. This legislation will not be enacted today. It is very important the Minister of State, with her officials, facilitate a meeting with Evan Cullen of IALPA and his team. I have heard warm tones in the Minister of State's response and she gets exactly where IALPA members are coming from. While she might not accept the amendment as worded in its entirety, there is some scope here. As Deputy O'Rourke stated, I ask that, between now and the next Stage, the Minister of State would engage and see where some of IALPA's concerns could be accommodated.

I agree with the previous commentary. We all accept there are new levels of maturity in how mental health is dealt with, including peer support programmes and, particularly, the requirement for confidentiality so people feel free to deal with the issue. If this is going to be dealt with under an EASA review, there are two things to consider. I agree with Deputy Crowe and Deputy O'Rourke, in particular, on the need to engage with IALPA and, beyond that, to facilitate IALPA to engage with this EASA review. It is obviously vital that they and other stakeholders across Europe have their voices heard on what they require, which they will know given they are the people who are operating in the field.

I thank the Deputies. I will ask my officials to meet with IALPA about this. I will also meet with the Deputies regarding these amendments before Report Stage, if that is okay.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 58 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

We now move to section 73 and amendment No. 17. This is a new section. Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 25 are related. Amendment No. 25 is consequential on amendment No. 19. Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 25 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 52, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

“Investigations and administrative penalties

73. The Act of 1993 is amended by the insertion of the following:

“63G. (1) For the purposes of ensuring compliance with air carrier operating licence obligations (which is deemed for these purposes to include an air operator certificate) and compliance with any other

obligation of any air carrier the Irish Aviation Authority may cause such investigation as it thinks fit to be carried out.

(2) The Irish Aviation Authority may, for the purposes of subsection (1), direct one or more authorised officers—

(a) to carry out the investigation, and

(b) to submit to the Irish Aviation Authority an investigation report following the completion of the investigation.

(3) The Irish Aviation Authority may define the scope and terms of the investigation to be carried out, whether as respects the matters or the period to which it is to extend or otherwise, and may, in particular, limit the investigation to matters connected with particular circumstances.

(4) Where more than one authorised officer has been directed to carry out an investigation, the investigation report shall be prepared jointly by the authorised officers so directed and this section and sections 63H to 63J shall, with all necessary modifications, be construed accordingly. The Irish Aviation Authority may designate one authorised officer as the principal investigator. Any reference to an officer is a reference to one or more officers as authorised.

(5) As soon as is practicable after being appointed to carry out an investigation, the authorised officer shall—

(a) give the air carrier concerned notice in writing—

(i) where the examination concerned is being carried out in respect of a complaint, setting out the particulars of the complaint concerned, or

(ii) where the examination is being carried out of the Irish Aviation Authority’s own volition, setting out the matters to which the investigation relates,

and

(b) afford to the air carrier an opportunity to respond to the notice under paragraph (a) within seven days from the date on which the notice was given (or such further period not exceeding 28 days as the authorised officer allows).

63H. (1) An authorised officer who has been directed under section 63G(2) to carry out an investigation may, for the purposes of the investigation—

(a) require a person, being an air carrier, or an employee or agent of such an air carrier, who, in the authorised officer’s opinion—

(i) possesses information that is relevant to the investigation, or

(ii) has any record or document within the person’s possession or control or within the person’s procurement that are relevant to the investigation, to provide that record or document, as the case may be, to the authorised officer,

and

(b) where the authorised officer thinks fit, require that person to attend before him or her for the purpose of so providing that information, record or document, as the case may be,

and the person shall comply with the requirement.

(2) A requirement under subsection (1) shall specify—

(a) a period within which, or a date and time on which, the person the subject of the requirement is to comply with the requirement, and

(b) as the authorised officer concerned thinks fit—

(i) the place at which the person shall attend to give the information concerned or to which the person shall deliver the record or document concerned, or

(ii) the place to which the person shall send the information, record or document concerned.

(3) A person required to attend before an authorised officer under subsection (2)—

(a) is also required to answer fully and truthfully any question put by the authorised officer, and

(b) if so required by the authorised officer, shall answer any such question under oath.

(4) Where it appears to an authorised officer that a person has failed or is failing to comply or fully comply with a requirement under subsection (2) or (3), the authorised officer may, on notice to the person and with the consent of the Irish Aviation Authority, apply in a summary manner to the Circuit Court for an order under subsection (5).

(5) The Circuit Court, on hearing an application under subsection (4), where satisfied that the person concerned has failed or is failing to comply or fully comply with the requirement concerned, may—

(a) make an order requiring the person, within such period as the Court may specify, to comply or fully comply, as the case may be, with the requirement, or

(b) substitute a different requirement for the requirement concerned.

(6) The administration of an oath referred to in subsection (3)(b) by an authorised officer is hereby authorised.

(7) A person the subject of a requirement under subsection (1) or (3) shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges in respect of compliance with such requirement as if the person were a witness before the High Court.

(8) Any statement or admission made by a person pursuant to a requirement under subsection (1) or (3) shall not be admissible in evidence in proceedings for an offence (other than an offence under subsection (12) brought against the person, and this shall be explained to the person in ordinary language by the authorised officer concerned.

(9) Nothing in this section shall be taken to compel the production by any person of statements, records or other documents or other information which would be exempt from production in proceedings in a court on the ground of legal professional privilege.

(10) For the purposes of an investigation, an authorised officer may, if he or she thinks it proper to do so, of his or her own volition conduct an oral hearing.

(11) Schedule 3 shall have effect for the purposes of an oral hearing referred to in subsection (10).

(12) Subject to subsection (9), a person who—

(a) withholds, destroys, conceals or refuses to provide any information or statements, records or other documents required for the purposes of an investigation,

(b) fails or refuses to comply with any requirement of an authorised officer under this section,

(c) in purported compliance with a requirement under this section, gives to an authorised officer information, documents or records which the person knows to be false or misleading in a material respect, or

(d) otherwise obstructs or hinders an authorised officer in the performance of functions under this Act,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable—

(i) on summary conviction, to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both, or

(ii) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €250,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

(13) In this section, a reference to a document or record includes a reference to copies of such document or record.

(14) The powers conferred under this section on an authorised officer to whom subsection (1) applies are in addition to the powers conferred on such an authorised officer under section 63C.

63I. (1) Where an authorised officer has completed an investigation, he or she shall, as soon as is practicable after having considered, in so far as they are relevant to the investigation—

(a) any information, records or other documents provided to him or her,

(b) any statement or admission made by any person,

(c) any submissions made, and

(d) any evidence presented (whether at an oral hearing or otherwise), prepare a draft, in writing, of the investigation report (“draft investigation report”) and give, or cause to be given, to the air carrier to which the investigation relates—

(i) a copy of the draft investigation report, and

(ii) a notice in writing stating that the air carrier concerned may, not later than 28 days from the date on which the notice was served on it (or such further period not exceeding 28 days as the authorised officer allows), make submissions in writing to the authorised officer on the content of the draft investigation report.

(2) An authorised officer shall—

(a) as soon as is practicable after the expiration of the period referred to in subsection (1)(ii), and

(b) having—

(i) considered the submissions (if any) made in accordance with subsection (1)(ii), and

(ii) made any revisions to the draft investigation report which, in the opinion of the authorised officer, are warranted following such consideration, prepare the investigation report and submit it to the Irish Aviation Authority with any such submissions annexed to it.

(3) An investigation report and a draft investigation report under this section shall be in writing and shall state—

(a) whether the authorised officer—

(i) is satisfied that an infringement of a relevant provision or, as the case may be, a relevant obligation of the air carrier to which the investigation relates has occurred or is occurring, or

(ii) is not so satisfied,

(b) where paragraph (a)(i) applies, the grounds on which the authorised officer is so satisfied, and

(c) where paragraph (a)(ii) applies—

(i) the basis on which the authorised officer is not so satisfied, and

(ii) the authorised officer’s opinion, in view of such basis, on whether or not a further investigation of the air carrier is warranted and, if warranted, the authorised officer’s opinion on the principal matters to which the further investigation should relate.

Irish Aviation Authority to consider investigation report

63J. (1) The Irish Aviation Authority on receipt under Section 63I(2) of an investigation report, shall, for the purposes of the inquiry concerned, consider the report and any submissions annexed to it.

(2) Where the Irish Aviation Authority, in considering the documents referred to in subsection (1), forms the view that further information is required for the purpose of enabling it to make a decision as to the existence of an infringement, it may, as it considers appropriate, do one or more of the following:

(a) conduct an oral hearing;

(b) give the air carrier to which the investigation concerned relates—

(i) a copy of the investigation report, and

(ii) a notice in writing stating that the air carrier, within 21 days from the date on which the notice was served on it (or such further period not exceeding 21 days as the Irish Aviation Authority allows), make submissions in writing to the Irish Aviation Authority in relation to such matters as the Irish Aviation Authority may specify in the notice;

or

(c) direct an authorised officer to conduct such further investigation into such matters as the Irish Aviation Authority considers necessary having regard to the investigation report and submissions (if any) annexed to it.

(3) Schedule 3 shall, with any necessary modification, have effect for the purposes of an oral hearing referred to in subsection (2)(a).

(4) Sections 63H and 63I and this section shall apply to a further investigation conducted in compliance with a direction under subsection (2)(c), as if the reference to an authorised officer in those sections was a reference to an authorised officer directed under subsection (2)(c) to conduct the further investigation.

Power of the Irish Aviation Authority to decide to impose administrative fine

63K. (1) The Irish Aviation Authority, in considering—

(a) whether to make a decision to impose an administrative fine, and

(b) where applicable, the amount of such a fine, shall act in accordance with this section.

(2) Where the Irish Aviation Authority has considered a report and any submissions in accordance with section 63J(1) and, as applicable, having regard to its exercise of any of its powers under section 63J(2) and the outcome thereof, it may decide to impose an administrative fine in respect of any violation by an air carrier of an applicable requirement.

(3) The maximum amount of a fine that may be imposed in respect of a violation is 10 per cent of the turnover of the air carrier in the most recent financial year for which audited accounts are available.

(4) In setting the amount of an administrative fine, the Irish Aviation Authority shall take into account the following—

(a) the nature, gravity and duration of the infringement,

(b) whether it occurred negligently or intentionally,

(c) the degree to which the infringement endangered public safety,

(d) any relevant previous infringements by the air carrier, and

(e) the principle of proportionality

(5) The Irish Aviation Authority, as soon as practicable after—

(a) a decision to impose an administrative fine is confirmed under section 63L(3)(a) or

(b) the court decides, under section 63L(3)(b), to impose a different fine,

shall give the air carrier concerned a notice in writing, requiring the air carrier to pay the amount of the fine concerned to the Irish Aviation Authority within the period of 28 days commencing on the date of the notice.

(6) An air carrier shall comply with a requirement referred to in subsection (5).

(7) All payments received by the Irish Aviation Authority under this section shall be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such manner as the Minister for Finance may direct.

(8) In this section and section 63L a reference to a decision to impose an administrative fine shall be construed as a reference to a decision by the Irish Aviation Authority to impose such a fine.

Appeal against administrative fine

63L. (1) An air carrier that is the subject of a decision to impose an administrative fine may, within 28 days from the date on which notice of the decision concerned was given to it under section 63K(5) appeal to the court against the decision.

(2) The court, on hearing an appeal under subsection (1), may consider any evidence adduced or argument made by the air carrier, whether or not already adduced or made to an authorised officer or the Irish Aviation Authority.

(3) Subject to subsections (4) and (5), the court may, on the hearing of an appeal under subsection (1)—

(a) confirm the decision the subject of the appeal,

(b) replace the decision with such other decision as the court considers just and appropriate, including a decision to impose a different fine or no fine, or

(c) annul the decision.

(4) The court shall, for the purposes of subsection (3), take into account the matters set out in section 63K(4).

(5) In this section, “court” means—

(a) the Circuit Court, where the amount of the administrative fine the subject of the appeal does not exceed €75,000, or

(b) in any other case, the High Court.

Circuit Court to confirm decision to impose administrative fine

63M. (1) Where an air carrier does not appeal in accordance with 63L(1) against 15 a decision by the Irish Aviation Authority to impose an administrative fine on the air carrier, the Irish Aviation Authority shall, as soon as is practicable after the expiration of the period referred to in that subsection, and on notice to the air carrier concerned, make an application in a summary manner to the Circuit Court for confirmation of the decision.

(2) The Circuit Court shall, on the hearing of an application under subsection (1), confirm the decision the subject of the application unless the Court sees good reason not to do so.”.

I commend the people who put the amendment together on the level of detail. This deals with the issue of graduated sanctions. At present, and as proposed in the Bill, the IAA is limited to one sanction for entities, airlines, maintenance organisations, airports, flying schools and licenceholders not in compliance with regulations. This is the removal of the licence or permit. Not surprisingly, this means the IAA could be reluctant to impose such a drastic sanction, which is problematic in terms of effectively regulating the behaviour of those entities that come under the authority's remit. It is argued that the IAA needs to be able to apply graduated sanctions in addition to the ultimate sanction of removing a licence or permit, and the lack of such graduated sanctions weakens the IAA's effectiveness. People will appreciate the concept of graduated sanctions and the ability to influence the behaviour of organisations. There is a comparator. The banking regulator, the Central Bank, has the ability to apply graduated penalties and routinely does so as part of its regulatory activities. The inclusion of this section, which would permit investigations and allow for the application of graduated sanctions if wrongdoing were found, would be an important regulatory development in the sector.

Deputy O'Rourke summed it up extremely well so there is no need for me to add anything. Our amendments come from the same source and there is now agreement the Minister of State will meet us and will ask the officials to meet the people who have done a lot of work on the amendments. I am happy with this approach if other members are also. I am not sure whether Deputy O'Rourke is. I do not feel I need to add much to what Deputy O'Rourke has said.

I thank the Deputies. I cannot accept amendment No. 17 and the related amendments Nos. 19 and 25. However, I agree with the sentiment. The ultimate sanction of losing a licence should not be the only sanction available to the regulator. Sanctions must be effective and proportionate. I recognise that having a single sanction only may weaken the IAA's response to issues. Withdrawal of a licence, approval or certification, which is available at present, can have a significant impact on an individual's livelihood or a significant financial impact on a commercial operation. This is why I agree wholeheartedly with the intentions of the amendment. I have examined the detail of the amendment and must commend the Deputies on their efforts. It is very extensive and includes a detailed system of administrative fines, including investigations, reporting, decisions, appeals and ultimate recourse to the courts.

I bring to the attention of the Deputies that the provisions are already provided for in the Bill. Fixed charge offences are provided for in section 72. Summary offences may be declared by the Minister for Transport by means of regulations made by the Minister. The Minister may prescribe the amount of each fixed charge and may prescribe different amounts for different fixed charge offences and for different classes of aircraft.

Section 72 was drafted specifically with the intention of addressing the lacuna in enforcement identified by having this single action. While the detail of the penalties will be left for regulation, I suggest that the Bill as initiated will achieve the same aim as the proposed amendment without the need to prescribe full sanctions in the system. I suggest this is the most effective and efficient implementation that meets the aim of the proposed amendment. We are already making provision for the tools for a graduated response within the Bill.

I thank the Minister of State for her response. I am happy to withdraw the amendment to provide an opportunity for the officials to meet and discuss their concerns and proposals, and for the Minister of State to meet the committee in advance of Report Stage. If necessary, we might table amendments on Report Stage or the Minister of State might do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 73 agreed to.
SECTION 78

Amendment No. 19 has already been discussed with amendment No. 17.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 56, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

"(2) The Act of 1993 is amended by the insertion of the text set out in Schedule 4 as Schedule 3 to that Act.".

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 78 agreed to.

Amendment No. 25 cannot be moved.

Amendment No. 25 not moved.
TITLE

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 7, line 5, to delete "Seirbhis" and substitute "Seirbhís".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 7, line 16, to delete “and to provide” and substitute the following:

"to amend the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998 to increase the aggregate at any one time of moneys that may be borrowed under section 13 of that Act in the case of daa and any of its subsidiaries; and to provide".

Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.