I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1936, is the main statute governing civil aviation in this country. There were amending Acts in 1942 and 1946. This Bill is concerned with further amendments of a type shown by experience to be desirable, the principal one of which is to provide for an increase in the amount of the subsidy to the air companies. Section 79 of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1936, fixed at £500,000 the aggregate amount which might be paid to the air companies by way of subsidy during a period of five years from 14th August, 1936. The period was extended for five years from 26th of May, 1942, by the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act of that year. The sum of £500,000 was increased later to £750,000 by Section 19 of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1946, and the period in which payments might be made was extended for a further five years. The limit of £750,000 which might be paid by way of subsidy was reached in March, 1948. It is necessary to make provision in the present Bill to continue the payment of subsidies to the air companies.
The Bill enables the payment of subsidies to be continued for a further period of five years from the date of its enactment. Because of the difficulty of estimating what moneys would be required over a period it is thought better that the Bill should not specify a limit on the amount to be paid during the period. This Bill limits the period again to five years. Any subsidy which has to be paid will be subject to the control of the Dáil in the usual way and will be brought before it under the appropriate Vote each year. Aer Lingus showed a loss of £162,000 for the year ended 31st March, 1949. The original Estimate for the current year was £125,000 and it is expected that they will do considerably better than that. Because of the participation of the British airlines only part of the loss falls to be met by the Irish Exchequer.
Section 3 of the Bill makes clear that the Minister has power to prosecute in respect of breaches of the Air Navigation and Transport Acts—the two earlier Acts and this Act.
Section 5 of the Bill brings the definition of "State aircraft" into accord with that contained in the Chicago Convention of 1944.
The 1936 Act defines State aircraft as military aircraft and every aircraft used exclusively in State services, including postal, customs and police services. This follows the definition in the Paris Convention of 1919, which was replaced by the Chicago Convention of 1944. The definition of State aircraft in the Chicago Convention does not include aircraft used in postal services. As Ireland has ratified the Chicago Convention, it is desired to bring the definition of "State aircraft" into conformity with that convention, and also to make clear that the term relates to State aircraft of States other than Ireland.
Sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Bill clarify certain of the powers conferred on the Minister by the 1936 Act relating to the acquisition and disposal of land and the maintenance of water supply, sewage and other works ancillary to aerodromes.
Section 36 of the 1936 Act specifies the purposes for which land may be acquired, either by agreement or compulsorily, in connection with the establishment and maintenance of aerodromes. Certain purposes are stated, such as securing that lands adjacent to an aerodrome will not be used so as to cause a danger to aircraft using the aerodrome.
Section 6 of the Bill is intended to remove any doubts that lands may be acquired for any purpose connected with the development of civil aviation.
Section 37 of the Air Transport and Navigation Act, 1936, provides for the establishment and maintenance of aerodromes and the provision and maintenance in connection therewith of roads, bridges, approaches, apparatus, equipment and buildings and other accommodation. To remove any doubts it is desirable that specific powers should now be taken to provide and maintain water mains, sewers and sewage disposal works, electric lines, lights and signs. This is provided for in Section 7.
The Minister is authorised by Section 8 of the Bill to enter, before conveyance or ascertainment of compensation, on any lands compulsorily acquired by him. It might be necessary to exercise this power where the acquisition of land or of a water right would involve lengthy negotiation. This might arise particularly if the Minister wished to use land in order to comply with an international civil aviation requirement which had to be met before a specified date.
Section 10 of the Bill deals with the vesting of lands at Dublin Airport in the Minister. Some of these lands were acquired as long ago as 1918 by the British Government for use as a military aerodrome. The lands in question are subject to the provisions of the State Lands Act, 1924. The Minister is hampered in making agreements and leases with airlines and others because the procedure laid down in that Act is not appropriate as a result of the developments which have taken place since the airport was built. Section 10 is designed to remove these difficulties. Other portions of the lands were acquired by the Minister for Defence and it is now proposed to vest these also in the Minister for Industry and Commerce for convenience of administration.
Section 11 provides that these lands, as well as some other lands acquired at Shannon Airport under Emergency Powers Order, will be treated as if they had been acquired under the 1936 Act. This is being done in order to ensure that the provisions of the 1936 Act relating to the development of aerodromes will apply to these lands.
Section 42 of the 1936 Act empowers the Minister to dispose of land no longer required by him for the performance of his duties or the exercise of his functions under that Act. His right to lease sites, buildings, space or rooms at State aerodromes or to dispose of land other than land acquired by him under the 1936 Act is not expressly provided for. Section 12 of the Bill puts the position beyond doubt.
The presence of unlighted obstructions such as high buildings in the vicinity of aerodromes may be a hazard to aircraft. It is essential that such obstructions should be marked, particularly where there are night operations by aircraft. It is important that the Minister should have powers where necessary to affix lights or signs to obstructions and that his officers should have access to these lights of signs for maintenance purposes. Section 13 of the Bill proposes to give the Minister such powers. It also provides for the payment of compensation where any person proves that his estate or interest is injuriously affected in consequence of the exercise of these powers.
Recommendations have been made by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, of which Ireland is a member, about controlling the height of obstructions in the vicinity of aerodromes, particularly in the areas extending directly from the ends of runways. Up to the present, the Minister has not had power to regulate the height of buildings or other structures in the vicinity of aerodromes, which would constitute a hazard to aircraft. It is now proposed in Section 14 that the Minister will have power to regulate the height of buildings in the vicinity of aerodromes. The Minister may by Order declare a particular area to be a protected area and within that area no buildings may exceed a height fixed by the Minister. Provision is made in Section 14 for the giving of notice to interested parties of the making of a protected area Order and for ensuring that any permit granted by the Minister in connection with a protected area Order shall not operate to release the holder from any restrictions imposed under the Town and Regional Planning Acts, 1934 and 1939. Provision is made for the payment of compensation where any person proves that his estate or interest is injuriously affected in consequence of the making of a protected area Order.
Provision is made for the laying on the Table of each House of the Oireachtas of every protected area Order as soon as it is made. Either House may pass a resolution annulling such Order within the next subsequent 21 days on which it sits.
Section 16 of the Bill enables the Minister to make by-laws for the maintenance of order and the control of traffic at State aerodromes and lays down penalties for the violation of the by-laws. The Bill also enables the Minister to make by-laws for the custody and disposal of lost property found at State aerodromes.
Officers authorised by the Minister will have power to prohibit and restrict the entry of and to remove, persons, animals and vehicles; to control traffic and enforce speed limits and parking regulations; and to enforce the by-laws.
Section 22 of the Bill provides that a State aerodrome is a public place for the purpose of any other enactment. The provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1933, and of the Licensing Act, 1872, refer to public places and the section is intended to make it clear that the provisions of these Acts apply to State aerodromes. Part X of the Road Traffic Act, 1933, deals with the lighting of vehicles on any road and it is intended that that Act should apply to roads in a State aerodrome.
Section 23 of the Bill provides that, for the purpose of the management of Dublin Airport, Aer Rianta may act as agents of the Minister unless and until he otherwise directs. Aer Rianta have been managing the airport since 1940, and no change is contemplated. It is desirable that there should be statutory recognition of this arrangement because of the increasing activity at the airport.
Section 24 of the Bill modifies the Water Works Clauses Acts, 1847 and 1863, so that the Minister may, with the permission of the sanitary authority concerned, sell water to any person from the supply at a State aerodrome.
I should be glad of the co-operation of the House in having this measure enacted as soon as possible, in view of the necessity to pay subsidy before 31st March. The provision for subsidy, if not paid before then, would have to be made in the Estimates for next year and, consequently, I would appreciate any co-operation possible in having the measure enacted.