Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (33, 34, 35)

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

139 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport his plans to publish the promised discussion paper on the future of the Aer Lingus landing slots at Heathrow Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2115/04]

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Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

161 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport the current position in regard to his future plans for Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2150/04]

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Eamon Gilmore

Question:

203 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Transport if he will outline the Government's plans for the future ownership structure of Aer Lingus; when a final decision will be made on this question; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2114/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 161 and 203 together.

As I said in my speech on 12 December last during the Second Stage debate on the Aer Lingus Bill 2003, I am currently giving careful consideration to the company's report on future options for the airline and I will be bringing the Aer Lingus views together with my own position to Cabinet shortly.

During the debate, I listened carefully to the concerns raised by Deputies about specific strategic issues in the context of a State exit from ownership of Aer Lingus. Having taken on board those concerns, I moved an amendment at Committee Stage, which was agreed, to provide that the Minister for Finance may not dispose of any shares in the company without the general principles of the disposal being laid before and approved by Dáil Éireann.

I assure the Deputy that if the Government decides to embark on a sale of all or part of Aer Lingus, I will set out for the House the basis for the Government's decision, including the arguments for and against such a sale. I will also set out how the Government proposes to deal with important strategic issues such as slots at Heathrow and I will outline the general principles of the sale being proposed.

I have already dealt with the position of Aer Rianta in my response to a previous parliamentary question.