Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 Feb 1950

Vol. 119 No. 1

Air Navigation and Transport Bill, 1949—Second Stage.

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.

We have no objection to this Bill receiving a Second Reading and it will not be our fault if its enactment is delayed beyond the end of the financial year. Many of the proposals in the Bill are of secondary importance, although we may have some questions to ask concerning them when the Bill is being considered in Committee. The main provision in the Bill is that relating to the increase in the subsidy limit. That amendment of the law was, in fact, needed two years ago. I do not know what complications were caused in the financial arrangements of the air companies by reason of the fact that the Government failed to produce this Bill two years ago. We know that the Dáil had to revote this year the subsidy voted in the previous year and that, because of the operation of the limit under the 1946 Act, no subsidy has, in fact, been paid since March, 1948

I should have thought that when the present Government had to produce proposals for legislation relating to civil aviation to the Dáil they would have availed of the opportunity to clarify their policy in regard to civil aviation development. They cannot but be aware of the fact that their policy and intentions in regard to civil aviation are clouded in vagueness. They have taken action which appeared to indicate a decision to limit the development of our air services. We can recollect the precipitate abandonment of the plans for the development of the transatlantic service, followed by the curtailment or abandonment of other services, in operation or contemplated, to centres in Europe. We are aware from Press reports that discussions were proceeding last year concerning certain of the clauses in the bilateral agreement with the United States.

We have had from the Government or any spokesman of the Government no clear expression of the Government's attitude towards civil aviation development. The few brief factual statements made upon the introduction of the Estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce did not help to clarify the position. This is the first time a Bill of this kind has come to the Dáil since the Government came into office and I should have thought that they would have realised the wisdom of doing what was done when similar Bills were before the House, of indicating in a general way the development in progress or contemplated for the future and the main aims of policy. It is all the more necessary in the case of the present Government because of the uncertainty and vagueness created by their own actions.

I do not know if the Government have in fact reached decisions of which the Dáil should be aware to limit our civil aviation development. We think they have, but from time to time Ministerial statements of a general kind have been made which suggested the contrary. This is a far more suitable occasion for a statement of policy, for a discussion of policy, than the Vote for the Department, on which a multitude of matters are raised by many Deputies, not all of which can be adequately discussed and some of which are not discussed at all, apart from the initial statement of them by the Deputy most interested.

Why should this State, as a State, concern itself with civil aviation development? I do not know what answer the Government would give to that question. Why should the taxpayers of this State be asked to subsidise civil aviation development? If we are to have State enterprise in the air and provision for subsidy to air development by the taxpayer, for what purpose should we do so? What is our aim? How far should the development go? These are questions about which, I think, the public knew the attitude of the Government in the past, but about which they do not know the attitude of the Government at present and I should like if, on the occasion of this Bill, some answer were given to them.

We undertook the development of civil aviation here through State-sponsored companies because we thought that was the most effective way of doing something which was desirable. We recognised in civil aviation a development which offered considerable benefits to this country as to every island country. We knew there would be difficulty in developing our own aviation transport services, both because of our limited resources and because of other factors which are apparent to anybody who is familiar with the history of the rise and decline of our merchant shipping. We recognised the fact, however, that a new opportunity was being given to us to break out of the position which had been created by the decline of the Irish mercantile marine and the fact that almost all of the surface passenger services from this country to other countries were operated by foreign companies and that the bulk of our freight traffic was also controlled by foreign companies. We felt, therefore, that something had happened of which we should take full advantage. We believed that if full advantage were to be taken of that new development the State had to interest itself in the matter.

We saw that in Great Britain civil aviation had in its initial stages attracted private capital, but that at a very early stage in its development it required the help of Government subsidy and ultimately private interests had to be acquired and amalgamated in State-sponsored companies entrusted with the task of civil air development. The history of civil aviation in other European countries was similar and there was no reason why we should repeat the experience of these other countries, but should rather begin on a substantial scale here by means of State enterprise. Another important reason why the development of civil aviation by a Government sponsored company was desirable was that because of its character it can only operate in consequence of and in accordance with agreements made on an inter-governmental level for the provision of landing rights and traffic rights abroad. The alternative to the establishment by the Government here of companies formed under the authority of legislation and assisted and financed by the Exchequer, as we saw it, was development by foreign companies and we felt that that was a process which would ultimately prove detrimental to the interests of this country and which should be forestalled by immediate action here. The development of civil aviation offered also an attractive source of employment to Irish workers, employment of a skilled kind which would increase their utility and earning power and which would not be available if the development did not take place at all or took place under foreign influence.

The decision to develop civil aviation by means of State enterprise was easy enough. The decision to assist its development by subsidies from the Exchequer was not so easy. In the development of a new service, such as civil aviation represented 14 or 15 years ago, it was easy to see that substantial expenditure would be necessary on what I might call experimentation and that the cost of developing the services and operating them was likely to prove considerably larger than the revenue that could be earned for a number of years. We knew that the decision to subsidise civil air transport development was likely to be criticised, often unfairly criticised, as representing the utilisation of funds on what would be described as a luxury service to the detriment of other purposes for which State money was being asked. Nevertheless, we took the decision to proceed with the development of civil aviation and to subsidise that development. Originally, the capital sums required for the establishment of air transport organisations and the purchase of equipment were moderate, but as development proceeded further capital had to be provided.

The 1946 Act, in fact, provided for a substantial increase of the limit to which advances for capital purposes for civil aviation could be made from the Exchequer. The fact that air transport services are being subsidised in all countries is a fact of which we should take notice. It is to be hoped and expected that air transport will prove capable of economic operation in the course of time but I doubt very much whether that stage has been reached yet or is likely to be reached for some years to come. Equipment is still very largely experimental and, in so far as it is desired to provide Irish air transport operating companies with equipment which is safe, suitable and up to date, then clearly, if new developments occur, old equipment must be scrapped and replaced by new equipment. That all involved expenditure of a kind which private enterprise could not undertake and which necessarily resulted in repeated calls on the Exchequer for help.

The best illustration of that development which I can give occurred in 1947. The air companies and the Government were criticised in 1947 for what were described as the heavy losses incurred that year after a profit had been made in the previous year. The House, I think, is aware that the company which operates the services between this country and Great Britain, Aer Lingus, is a joint company owned in part by Aer Rianta, the major Irish air company, and in part by the corresponding British company. That arrangement, which was negotiated shortly after the war, was, in our view, a beneficial arrangement which certainly increased the prospect of economic operation by ensuring for the joint company exclusive rights on the routes between this country and Great Britain. However, quite early in its history that arrangement appeared likely to break down over the question of the purchase of British aircraft. The British Government at that time were very interested in securing an international market for British commercial aircraft and one type of aircraft upon which they based their hopes, the Viking, appeared to be of a character particularly suitable for the shorter type of journeys between Irish and British centres. The technical experts of Aer Lingus did not like the aircraft and the Irish members of the board were against the purchase of these Viking planes. The decision by that company, in which the British European Airways Corporation had a substantial interest, not to buy British aircraft at that time would have been a very substantial reverse to the British effort to secure sales for these aircraft around the world and something in the nature of a crisis developed in which it appeared to me as likely that the outcome would be the termination of the agreement for joint operation on these routes. At that stage, against the recommendation of the technical experts of Aer Lingus and mainly having regard to the political considerations involved in the maintenance of the agreement, I took the decision that these aircraft should be purchased. The decision was, of course, influenced by the very favourable technical reports upon the aircraft which the British partners in the air company were able to produce from other sources. In the event these aircraft proved unsatisfactory by reason of the fact that they were unduly costly to maintain, and ultimately the board of Aer Lingus took the decision to ground them and to continue operating with the D.C.3's and to dispose of the Viking planes by sale. That did not prove very easy, although ultimately, I think, all were sold. The major part of the substantial loss of 1947 was due to that unfortunate experience, but I think that the development of civil aviation should not be restricted because of an occurrence of that kind. Commonsense will tell us that until types of aircraft are more generally standardised and until airport equipment has reached a definite stage in its development, it must inevitably happen that experimental development that looks promising will prove to be less satisfactory in operation and will involve a great deal of expense.

I am anxious to know, however, what is the present policy of the air company in regard to aircraft purchases. The D.C.3 is a very satisfactory aircraft of pre-war design, but likely, I understand, to be ineligible under international regulations for operation on international routes next year. If that is correct and if these international regulations are not modified or the period allowed for the operation of the D.C.3's extended, then clearly, this year or next year, Aer Lingus will have to reach very important decisions upon equipment policy, decisions involving substantial capital expenditure in the purchase of new aircraft to substitute the present D.C.3's. I do not want anyone to take from my remark that there is any unsatisfactory feature in the operation of these D.C.3's. The production of the D.C.3 represented probably the most important single development in the whole history of civil aviation. The fact that an aircraft which was developed and in commercial use before the war is still regarded as the main civil aviation type at present is a remarkable tribute to its designers. It is extremely safe and economical in operation. I do not know why the international air authorities have committed themselves to the adoption of regulations which preclude the use of D.C.3's on international routes. I understand, however, that they have done so and that companies that want to remain in operation of international services will have to acquire new aircraft before very long.

I do not think we should be perturbed by the fact that Aer Lingus is still losing money. I always felt that the development of air traffic on routes such as exist between this country and Great Britain necessitates striving initially to discover the maximum traffic potentiality, that the company should be more concerned with ascertaining the maximum traffic potentiality than with economic operation in the arrangement of services and fares, that the main concern should be to test the traffic possibilities of the routes and only when that had been done to trim the organisation and adjust the fares to the extent necessary to get the costs in proper relation to revenue. The pressure which was exercised in the past and which is no doubt still being exercised by the Department of Finance to balance up the accounts of Aer Lingus before the initial stage of development has passed is likely to prove detrimental to progress and I would urge on those who are responsible for aviation policy in the Department of Industry and Commerce that they should still seek to strive towards maximum development of traffic and to leave the matter of economic operation for the future. The present Government has at least this advantage which its predecessors did not have, that any intelligent and consistent policy of that kind will not be opposed here merely because it involves a subsidy sub-head in the Vote for the Department of Industry and Commerce.

However, when all these questions have been settled, when we have all agreed that civil aviation is properly a task for State enterprise, when we have agreed that the taxpayer may reasonably be asked to subsidise it, the more important question arises: for what purpose and to what extent are we to push that development? It is easy enough to argue in favour of development of air passenger services between this country and Great Britain and between this country and capital cities in Western Europe. The frequency of the services, the type of aircraft to be used can be related to the traffic potentiality of each route. But that we desire these services, that means of direct contact with British centres and European capitals by Irish airships is, I think, beyond question.

I want to suggest, however, that there is no argument that can be advanced in favour of State enterprise and Government subsidy for air transport to centres in Great Britain or to centres in Europe that is not doubly strong when advanced in favour of the development of air services across the Atlantic. I do not know what prompted the Government to take its hasty decision to stop the development of the transatlantic service. I know that many ridiculous statements have been made in justification of that decision by various Government spokesmen throughout the country. I think it is perhaps necessary to repeat right now that the development of that project to the stage it had reached when the change of Government took place, when the decision to abandon it was made, did not involve the taxpayers of this country in any loss whatsoever. The total expenditure incurred on plans for the development of the transatlantic air service—and most of that expenditure was of a character which would justify its being charged to capital— was substantially less, more than £100,000 less, than the profit realised on the sale of the Constellation planes purchased for this service.

However, I want to put seriously before the Dáil the case for the development of air services across the Atlantic, and I want to do so not upon Party or sentimental grounds. I would think it undesirable that this question of transatlantic air development should become or should continue to be the type of controversial Party question which it has been in the past. If we are to have here air transport organisations equipped and capable of maintaining communications with other countries overseas, is there any country in the world to which it is more necessary to plan for the maintenance of communications in exceptional international circumstances than America? Let it be quite clear that there is not now here any organisation, or any airplane in Irish ownership, capable of flying the Atlantic. We are completely dependent, in so far as transatlantic air travel is concerned, upon the operations of foreign companies, operations which may be curtailed or altered in accordance with commercial policy in times of peace or abandoned altogether for other considerations in times of war.

I have often drawn attention to the fact that when we entered the last war we found ourselves in this position: that we had not got a ship under the Irish flag capable of sailing the Atlantic, that we had not an airplane capable of flying it, that we had not even a radio station capable of carrying messages across it, and that even the cable stations operated from our territory were under foreign control, and messages had to pass through London before being transmitted. Perhaps the Government which was in office before the war is open to criticism for having allowed that situation to continue. It was, I think, busily engaged in useful work in the years it held office before the war. But, certainly, having realised the problems and dangers which were created by that situation, we took energetic steps during the war so far as possible to end it, and decided when the war was over that these steps would be completed.

Amongst the measures we decided upon then was the establishment of a transatlantic air service. A transatlantic air service has got commercial possibilities far more considerable in my view than air services to Great Britain and Europe. There exists in the United States of America a traffic potential which other air companies operating across the Atlantic would spend millions of pounds in publicity to create and still not succeed, a goodwill arising from the intimate relations between the two countries and the many families in America who have contact with families here, which we could turn to commercial advantage if we tried. There is no technical or no commercial or no political reason why this country should not be able to operate air services across the Atlantic as successfully as any other country.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted, and 20 Deputies being present,

I content myself with saying, concerning the development of transatlantic air services, that if the case for State enterprise and State subsidy of air development anywhere is based upon the essentiality of developing this new form of transport to an island country like this, the fact that the greater part of the shipping, whether for passengers or freight, coming to Irish ports is foreign owned, the fact that the alternative to enterprise by the Irish State in that field is enterprise by foreign countries and foreign companies, and the fact that it is a development which, if proceeding under Irish auspices, gives an opportunity of a valuable type of employment to Irish citizens—every single one of these arguments applies with double force to the development of transatlantic services and if there is no case for State enterprise and State subsidy in the development of transatlantic air services, then there is no case for State enterprise or State subsidy for air services anywhere.

I hope the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will give us more information concerning the Government's viewpoint on this matter than we have had heretofore. I assume most Deputies will agree with me that air transport is still in the infancy of its development. Looking forward 25 or 50 years, is there any Deputy who doubts that by then the great bulk of international traffic in passengers and freight will proceed by air? If that forecast is correct, then it is undesirable that we should hamper the development of Irish air services now by some false considerations of economy. The prospects of successful operation on the Atlantic are at least as strong, and in my view stronger, than the prospects of successful and economic operation to Britain and Europe. We are not objecting to the provision of the subsidy as proposed in this Bill for the air services to Europe. Is there any logical reason why we should object to the provision of a subsidy, if required, for the much more important development of operating services across the Atlantic?

That would apply equally to shipping.

It does, and Deputy Hickey is no doubt as perturbed as I am by the evidence that other countries operating shipping services across the Atlantic are not unwilling to subsidise these services in order to maintain them in operation. Heretofore, Irish Shipping has been able to operate with commercial success and there has been no question of a State subsidy for the development of our shipping services. I think the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will know from the records of the Department that the consideration of various projects which looked promising and likely to ensure successful development, but which ultimately proved abortive, proceeded for a number of years before we decided to take the straight road by establishing a State company and doing the job ourselves. However, that is rather an aside.

Towards the middle of last year it was announced that representatives of the American Government had come here to discuss the alteration or amendment of the provisions of the agreement negotiated under my auspices with the American Government, particularly those provisions which obliged the American air companies licensed to operate in and through this country to make Shannon Airport their first port of call on the eastward run and the last port of departure on the westward run, and the suggestion was made that the American companies were themselves pressing to be allowed to operate into Dublin instead of into Shannon. I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary feels at liberty to discuss this matter now, whether these negotiations have reached any conclusive stage, or if he thinks it would be embarrassing to express a viewpoint at all. If he does think so, I shall not press him.

The negotiations are still continuing, and I leave it to the Deputy to use his own judgment in the matter.

I think it is just as well that the Dáil should know certain facts. The selection of the Shannon as the site for a transatlantic airport was made following consultation with all the international experts whom we could contact. If my recollection serves me aright, it was particularly and strongly recommended by the American experts who came here. It is, of course, true to say that the Shannon site was influenced by the fact that at that time there was no decided expert opinion as to whether the conquest of the Atlantic would be by means of land planes or flying boats. There were as many experts of one opinion as of the other and we felt that, in view of the lack of decision, it was desirable to locate the airport at a site where either type of development would be both convenient and possible. The Shannon site was ideal for that purpose.

Obviously, this country cannot be expected to provide two airports of the size and with the equipment necessary for transatlantic operation. Apart altogether from that obvious fact, there is another fact equally obvious; Dublin Airport is, if anything, overcrowded, catering as it does for all the services to Britain and Europe. We must contemplate a continued expansion of air travel and, consequently, an increasing strain upon the resources of Dublin Airport. It would be ridiculous to think that it would be possible to transfer to Dublin any of the Shannon traffic without creating conditions akin to chaos at Collinstown and without severely restricting the development of Irish civil aviation activities to Britain and Europe.

I do not propose to express an opinion as to the value of these restrictive clauses inserted in bilateral air agreements. I do, however, deplore the suggestion that the future of Shannon Airport depends upon the maintenance of these restrictive clauses. Once again, I reiterate my faith that we are only at the very beginning of civil aviation development and that inevitably, assuming international peace, air traffic will grow. As it grows, it will cater for wider classes of people in its passenger services and for increasing tonnages of goods in its freight services.

It is not necessary for us to be perturbed because there is a prospect that first-class traffic, that is traffic anxious to get from its point of departure to its ultimate destination in the shortest possible time regardless of cost, may at some stage by-pass Shannon. Long before considerations of cost will have ceased to be of interest in relation to first-class traffic, a great volume of second-class traffic will be developing; and when traffic costs have been reduced there will then be a third-class traffic development in relation to which considerations of cost and economy in operation will always be a vital factor. Looking into the future and ignoring entirely the passenger traffic potentialities of the Atlantic route, we can see an increasing development in freight traffic in which cost will always be a predominant consideration and to encourage which the legislation establishing Shannon as a free airport was enacted some years ago.

I think, therefore, it is important to urge that the Department of Industry and Commerce and the air companies should not allow themselves to be intimidated by any repetition of the ridiculous statements to which we were accustomed in the past from the present Minister for Agriculture in relation to civil aviation. Certainly they should not allow that misinformed criticism to limit them in any way in their efforts to maintain Shannon as an up-to-date airport in the matter of technical equipment. It is a fact that Shannon Airport is well equipped with all the most up-to-date navigational aids installed in compliance with the standards laid down by the international authority for transatlantic airports. It is a fact that it was efficiently staffed and efficiently managed that secured its position in the past; these facts will continue to secure its position in the future and continue to attract to it an increasing share of the inevitably increasing volume of transatlantic traffic. I think it is desirable that that should be stated and that disparaging statements and gloomy forecasts should be thoroughly discounted.

It may be that it is wise to postpone, as this Government has postponed, the construction of permanent buildings at the Shannon. The temporary buildings there are reasonably satisfactory. In view of the development in equipment and in the design of airport buildings, plus the element of uncertainty as to the type of traffic which the airport will handle in the future, we can afford to go slow in capital investment of that kind. But the fact that temporary buildings are being used is no argument in favour of having the equipment of the airport less than first-class.

I recognise that there may be some difficulty on behalf of the Government or on behalf of the Parliamentary Secretary in speaking upon this question of the negotiations with the United States authorities. I shall not press the Parliamentary Secretary to declare himself at this stage in that regard, but I do ask the Government to clarify in the public mind their attitude to air transport. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give the House an assurance that the initial policy of curtailment upon which the Government appeared obviously decided two years ago has since been reconsidered and revised, and that all the aid, all the drive and all the support necessary to secure the continued expansion of our activities in the air will be forthcoming. If that assurance can be given by the Parliamentary Secretary, then not merely shall we facilitate him in getting this Bill enacted before 1st April, but we shall do so enthusiastically.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will accept the invitation given to him by Deputy Lemass to avail of the introduction of the Second Stage of this Bill for the purpose of making a general statement of the Government's policy in relation to civil aviation. I think there can be no difficulty in getting general agreement with much of what Deputy Lemass said. Treating us to a history of the development of civil aviation in this country over the past 18 to 20 years, the burden of his speech was a plea for faith in the future of this form of transport. The only reply I would make to Deputy Lemass is this. I do not do it by way of defence. We on these benches—the Party to which I belong—have never made a fetish of criticising the development of our aviation services, nor have we ever made a fetish of welcoming retrenchment for retrenchment's sake where we felt that the capital expenditure that was being undertaken was wise. We always welcomed it. However, I think Deputy Lemass will agree that we must—to an extent, at any rate— cut our cloth according to our measure. What that measure is I am not in a position to state with any degree of certitude.

At the time it was decided to scrap the Constellations and abandon the transatlantic services many of us had heart-searchings as to whether it was or was not the correct thing to do. I am not yet in a position to answer that question. I do not agree with the proposition which Deputy Lemass put to the House, whereunder he asked acceptance of the idea that, if a case can be made for subsidising cross-Channel air services or air services to the Continent, it is a logical and a necessary sequitur that a similar case is capable of being made and is tenable in respect of transatlantic services. It may be so, but I do not think it follows as a logical consequence one from the other. My view of the steps that have been taken by the Government to date is that even if they were, in Deputy Lemass's view and in the view of his Party, retrograde steps, at least they are steps that can easily be retraced. If a case can be made in the future that it is necessary or desirable or advisable that transatlantic air services should again be inaugurated, that our Irish air companies should again carry passengers across the Atlantic, I do not think we shall be faced with any terrible difficulty in getting back into that business.

There is one overriding consideration that, I think, must govern any decisions as to capital expenditure on either aircraft or machinery and that is the speed and quickness with which the ultra modern aircraft and machinery and equipment of to-day becomes the obsolescent, or obsolete, maybe, machine or equipment of to-morrow. For that very reason I think a case can be made for, perhaps, if not hastening slowly, hastening with a good deal of caution. To the protagonists of speedy development of civil aviation a good deal of embarrassment was caused by reason of the fact that stupid mistakes —minor, if one wishes—were made in the operation and management of our existing air services. I do not think that this is the time or the place to enumerate those mistakes or to deal with them. I think everybody in the House knows that things were done which gave rise to properly founded criticism. However, that criticism was then seized upon by certain people—and God knows we have plenty of them in this country—who are opponents of any kind of progress, be it social, economic or scientific. I think it is a pity that that took place.

I was glad Deputy Lemass approached this Bill and the discussion of this question in the non-partisan fashion in which he did. If there is going to be any protracted discussion of this measure I hope it will be on similar lines. I would appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to accede to the request made to him to give us a general statement on the Government's civil aviation policy. It may, perhaps, be difficult for him to do that. He may not have intended to do that in introducing this Bill. He may feel that this is not the occasion on which to do it—that, perhaps, it would be better to do so on the introduction of the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce. Nevertheless, I think he should accede to the suggestion made to him and give the House a general indication of the Government's views on this question.

Reference was made to private enterprise. I sincerely hope that, in the field of air transport, no undue encouragement will be given for the intervention of private enterprise. If we are to develop civil aviation services in this country I hope that they will be developed solely by companies publicly owned and controlled. That point of view will, probably, meet with as little sympathy from Deputies on this side of the House as it will from Deputies on the benches opposite. With that I am not concerned. I merely make that point to the Parliamentary Secretary for his consideration.

Deputy Lemass referred to the fact that the D.C.3's now being operated by Aer Lingus may next year not conform to the requisite international standards. I do not know whether that is so or not. However, I understand that if it is so their continued use may be possible as freight carriers.

The question of American pressure was referred to. I take it that that is a subject upon which we cannot, at the moment, press the Parliamentary Secretary. Let me content myself by saying that I hope that any pressure from any outside source—directed towards causing us to alter whatever policy the Government has decided is in the best interests of the State—will, in this as in every other respect, be resisted and strongly resisted.

I should like to conclude on this note. If it is not possible for the Parliamentary Secretary at this stage to deal with some of the matters that have been raised I would suggest to him that either he or the Minister for Industry and Commerce should, on the Committee Stage or on the Fourth Stage of this Bill, give us a general indication of the line of policy the Government intends to follow in respect of this important field of national development.

I am particularly interested in this Bill because, first and foremost, it deals with a matter of vital importance for the people of my constituency. I do not, however, propose to detain the House very long but I should like to draw attention to some of the criticisms levelled by the last speaker at Deputy Lemass's speech. I think that Deputy Lemass set a very good headline, which might be copied with advantage by other Deputies in approaching this matter from a non-Party point of view. Deputy Lehane stated that mistakes were made in the beginning but I think it is time that somebody pointed out another aspect of the matter. It has been truly said that a person who never made a mistake never made anything at all, but the fact is that this company which was established many years ago has been one of the most successful, from the point of view of operation, of any company in the world. I think it is a matter of pride for Irishment that this company has been able to operate for such a lengthy period without any serious accident. It reflects the greatest credit not merely on the management of the company but on the efficiency of its workers, on the efficiency of Irishmen who have thus proven that they are amongst the best aviators in the world. My only regret is that a number of them have lost their employment and have had to go abroad to earn the livelihood denied them here by the sale of the Constellation aircraft and the subsequent closing down of the Lockheed works which threw 300 men out of remunerative employment. These men were all highly skilled mechanics and they are now scattered all over the world. Deputy Lehane pointed out that the Government can retrace its steps and change its point of view. That may be so, but can it restore this industry which has been such a big loss to my constituents? I am afraid that it is now too late and that that cannot possibly be done.

Like Deputy Lemass, I do not want to press the Parliamentary Secretary for a statement which might be in any way embarrassing to him or to the Government at the present time but as soon as he or the Minister can do so, I think an assurance should be given to the House and to the people that there will be no weakening in our efforts to maintain our independent position and that, so far as the Shannon is concerned at all events, every step will be taken by the Minister and by the Government—and I might add with the backing of the entire House—to see that there is no interference with the operation of the Shannon airport and that no dictation will be permitted from any outside Power whatever.

I feel that the Parliamentary Secretary should have availed of the introduction of this Bill to give a concise statement of Government policy in regard to civil aviation. We do not appear to be clear in our own minds as to what exactly is intended in the field of civil aviation. It must be clear to the Parliamentary Secretary and to the Government, as a result of the speeches that have been made here this evening, that in the development of civil aviation, every support and encouragement, financial and otherwise, that may be required, will be made available without question by the House. I feel that it is only right that tribute should be paid to the officials of all kinds and types who run our air services at the moment for their magnificent record of efficiency and safety. I think that record is a remarkable one and that it is due entirely to the competence and the efficiency of everybody concerned with our air services. I agree with Deputy Lemass that the future of transport is in the air.

Literally or metaphorically?

In fact. I think that is a reasonable conclusion from developments over the past few years. This problem of the transatlantic air services will undoubtedly come up again. When, on the establishment of the present Government, the matter was halted, it was halted for the purposes of examination. There has been a period of two years in which to examine the problem. I am quite certain that this examination over a period of two years must have convinced the Minister and the Government that transatlantic air services should be established.

Why did we not establish a steamship service?

That does not matter. There is always a fight between a system of transport that is going out and the system that is coming in. I think that it was one of the criticisms of ourselves in the past that we made no real or genuine effort to build up a mercantile marine. We made no real or genuine effort to build up a sea service although this was a country that was ideally situated for the establishment of such a service.

The vested interests blocked that.

I agree that vested interests to some extent blocked us but a lot of the failure was due principally to our own lack of resolution in regard to it. I feel that there is now an opening this new method of transport both for passengers and cargo and that by being in on the ground floor, as it were, by being in at the beginning, we can create a service which will provide exceptionally well-paid employment for many thousands of our people and will enable Ireland to take a foremost place in the matter of aviation. I am quite sure that these considerations are receiving the attention of the Minister and of the Government. It is for that reason that I would have liked to have, in the introduction of this Bill, a statement of Government policy from the Parliamentary Secretary.

Deputy Lemass and Deputy Lehane have both mentioned—but passed away from—this question of what is known as "American pressure." Deputy Lemass says he does not want to embarrass the Parliamentary Secretary and the Parliamentary Secretary says the negotiations are on at the moment. I want to give the man in the street's view in regard to this. We have in Shannon equipped an airport that will take all these transatlantic airliners. The suggestion has been made that they will overfly Rineanna, and that it would be desirable and necessary for us, if we as a country are to get the benefits of this air service, to have another airport equipped to take these transatlantic liners in the vicinity of Dublin.

Dublin is a very short distance away from Shannon, relatively speaking, and the general impression created by that situation was that America was anxious to have another airport in this country which would be able to take American heavy bombers in time of war or emergency. That is the "pressure" that has been hinted at this evening. I think there ought to be a very clear and specific statement from the Government, through the Parliamentary Secretary, as to whether any such pressure as that has been exercised, or if the Government feel that pressure of that type is in fact being used by the American Government in regard to this country. I think the Government know and the Parliamentary Secretary knows, and it has been so stated here by Deputy Lehane, that we as a people would resent any such pressure by America or by any other foreign State, and that if pressure of that kind were exercised for the purpose of involving us in a war in the future that pressure would be resisted and the Government in resisting it would have the full support of the people as a whole.

It is an unfortunate thing, in regard to war, at the moment, that declarations generally are not made in advance. The war simply comes and the places that are to be occupied by the contending parties, the vitally strategic places, are occupied at once. If we are to provide facilities for the landing of heavy bombers in this country, we hold such an important strategic position that there is the danger that those positions will be occupied some morning before we wake up. That is a matter which must be before the Government for earnest consideration and it must be before the people as a whole. Collinstown is very near Dublin and if Collinstown is to be occupied by a force, and if some other force comes to bomb that particular place, we here in the City of Dublin will not be in a very happy situation.

If we are here at all.

We will not be here very long. I think those are the serious matters that Deputy Lemass hinted at and they are serious from the point of view of the general public. If the Parliamentary Secretary will make a statement on that matter now, that statement will be appreciated. If he indicates that it is not desirable to make it now, I do say that, in the public interest, the earliest possible opportunity should be availed of to make a statement in regard to it. The Parliamentary Secretary might be able to say whether it is intended to enlarge and extend Collinstown so that it will take the largest and the heaviest traffic from the skies. A statement even on that aspect of it will be of some help to us in assessing the present situation.

I wish to refer only to one section in the Bill, Section 8, which provides that when the Minister becomes entitled under the Principal Act to acquire compulsorily any land, he may enter on and take possession of that land before the matters of title or compensation are cleared up. It is an extraordinary thing that for two years in this House that particular step has been advocated in regard to the taking over of land for the purpose of building houses. It has been advocated for the purpose of curtailing the delay that faces local authorities in the acquisition of land for houses. Now, in the matter of acquiring land for the development of aerodromes, that principle has been included in the Bill. Does the Parliamentary Secretary think there is such grave urgency in regard to the acquisition of land for aerodromes that there must be this extra facility or speed in the acquisition of land before the matters of compensation and title have been finally determined? If so, is that to enable certain lands which are in mind at the moment to be acquired speedily, and if so what is the purpose of that speedy acquisition? I do hope that the Minister for Local Government will examine the section and that he will be able to avail of it, or of a similar section, in connection with the acquisition of land.

Everyone will agree that in a matter of this importance it is desirable that discussion should be entirely free from any suggestion of Party rivalries or Party politics. The debate this evening has proceeded in that way and for that the Parliamentary Secretary and Deputy Lemass and the other Deputies who participated in the debate are to be congratulated. If each of us will endeavour to give this matter all the thought and consideration it deserves, if we can look into the future in the way we ought to look into the future, it is quite possible that we will be able to build up an air service which will be a very valuable asset to the country. In that spirit I accept in general the principles that are contained in the Bill.

So far as this Bill is concerned we are supporting it because we believe it is in the best interests of the country. The request that the Parliamentary Secretary should make a statement on policy generally is one which I hope will be acceded to because the present position of the public mind in this matter is one of very grave doubt, even of discouragement. I have heard it said that some of the staffs have become so discouraged that the standard of efficiency which originally was to be found in the staffs has deteriorated.

When the present Government came into office it started out by closing down the air services with America, with the result that the staffs of flyers were scattered over the world and the Lockheed shops were closed down. Deputy Con Lehane spoke of its being possible to retrace our steps but it certainly will be a very difficult thing to do. It will take time to train staffs. I do not know whether it will be possible to get the Lockheed Company to come back or not. The opportunity, which was a golden opportunity—perhaps I should call it a dollar opportunity—is lost. All preparations had been made to start the service on the 17th March of that year. In the changing circumstances, other factors have emerged since that deplorable step was taken which should make any Government reconsider the situation. At that time people were not advocating that as many dollars as possible should be brought into this country. It is since then that the necessity for doing that has become more emphasised in the public mind. People did not realise at that time how important our tourist traffic was and that it was worth spending money on that enormous tourist traffic, that we should try to get more dollars rather than sterling by making it easier for Americans to come to this country, travelling by Irish services. When the question was raised in the Dáil the Minister for Finance said: "Yes, but they can come just as well by the American service." If they come by the American service, obviously we do not earn the dollars.

Then again there is the defence situation which has arisen and the sheer necessity of spending moneys so that we should have communications with the outer world in time of crisis. We should learn from our experience of the past. We went into the last emergency without any of these protective measures but we all felt that we needed communications by air services and otherwise and by a short-wave service with the outer world. There are now very weighty and urgent reasons why, even if the Government still think they were right in shutting down the service at that time, they should now change their mind and try to establish an Atlantic air service. From the point of view of traffic, it is admitted by the experts that the passage from America to Ireland is the bottle-neck of most of the European traffic. If we can capture a portion even of that, we are assured of having a sound business concern.

Deputy Con Lehane seems to speak with a divided mind. The psychology of coalition seems to affect people to such an extent that they cannot make up their minds about anything.

They do not have them made up for them.

In a sense I am disappointed with the Clann na Poblachta Party. They were supposed to be more intensely national in their outlook than Fianna Fáil.

That is true.

They were supposed to have a larger and more intense national vision and more determination in trying to build up this country but, when they came into the House, they developed the coalition mind and a divided attitude and, on matters of vital importance to the nation, they cannot speak with a clear mind and say what really will be the best in the interest of the progress of the nation.

Before I raise the point that I intend to discuss, I would like to reply to Deputy Little.

Ignore him. He does not count any longer. The debate was proceeding on a non-political plane until Deputy Little introduced a political note.

Impudent pup.

I do not know whether Deputy Little tried to introduce a note of——


——encouragement, or was trying to cause trouble here after the nice tone the discussion had taken up to that point.

That is what he was trying to do.

We in Clann na Poblachta are making up our own minds in our own Party and are not going to be influenced by one individual, as Fianna Fáil are. Like some of the other Deputies, I would welcome a statement from the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to Government policy for civil aviation. There is no doubt that there is a fog over the whole business at the moment and it is very hard to find out exactly where we stand. It is a good thing to hear Deputies on both sides expressing a wish that we should develop our air services to as great an extent as possible; in other words, to the extent to which we can afford to develop them. We are in a much better position to do so now, in view of the state of affairs which has existed since the previous Government went out of office. It was certainly necessary for this Government to call a halt when they came in and to find out where we stood, because all sorts of schemes were on foot and it was very difficult to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. The Government should now be in a position to make their policy clear as they have had plenty of time to make up their minds.

I should like to refer to one section of those who are employed in our civil aviation services, the pilots. I understand that a good number of these pilots would not be available to us if another emergency arose and if they were called upon to return to the forces in which they previously served. This is a very important point on which we should get information. If it is a fact that a large proportion of these pilots would be lost to aviation in this country on the outbreak of another war, it would be in our best interests to do something about that position, along the lines of giving encouragement to pilots who are being trained in the Irish Air Force, on the termination of their service, to enter civil aviation. If necessary, they should get preference in that regard. It would be a rather foolish situation to find ourselves in if to-morrow morning we had the planes while the men to fly them had disappeared. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary is in a position to give us a short statement of Government policy on civil aviation, although it may be unfair at this stage to ask him to do so. If he has not got a statement prepared on that matter, I hope we will hear such a statement from him in the very near future.

I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary one or two questions in regard to the general development of air policy and in relation to facilities at Shannon Airport. In connection with the controversy which has arisen in regard to the distance of Dublin from Shannon Airport, I should like to ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary has investigated the facilities for transport from Shannon Airport to the first train leaving Limerick for Dublin. So far as I know, there is a need for an improvement in communications from the hour of about 7 o'clock in the morning until 9 o'clock in the morning. Passengers who arrive from America and who wish to go on to Dublin and do not wish to take the plane, which leaves at 12 o'clock, are only able to get extremely expensive taxis at that early hour of the morning. There are two friends of mine who arrived and who had only that alternative. In one case, for some reason or other, there was not a taxi available at that early hour to bring the passenger to Limerick station.

I should like to ask also whether the Parliamentary Secretary has caused to be examined the whole question of the communications between Shannon airport and Dublin, and why it is that the plane service to Dublin is not availed of so readily—whether there is adequate publicity in regard to it in America and whether everything is being done to give people an exact account of how they can progress from Shannon airport to other parts of the country. The Department of Industry and Commerce might be able to give helpful information and advice on that matter to air companies. American friends of mine have inquired in regard to the matter and have not always been able to get the information as to how they can get from Shannon airport to any other point. It seems to me that there should be some sort of coordinated travel information provided in regard to bus, rail and plane services. It may be that my information is a little out of date, but that certainly was the case in regard to travel offices in the middle western part of America and it affected the interests of people of Irish origin who wanted to pay a call to Ireland on the way to Europe. More help could be given in that regard.

I should like to know also whether Aer Lingus have made any investigation as to how many of their passengers to Dublin are of Cork and Munster origin and whether the proportion of passengers——

Would that not arise more appropriately on the Estimate—a matter purely of administration?

If you think it a matter of detailed administration, Sir, very well. I was about to refer to the possibility of spending money on a Cork airport, which would come under this Bill.

Most of what the Deputy has said arises normally on the Estimate—pure administration. However, I will allow the Deputy to proceed with his argument.

I do not wish to extend the length or the scope of the debate, but it has been suggested that the proportion of people who travel from Munster to Europe and Great Britain by sea and rail is very much higher than the proportion who travel to Britain and Europe from the provinces and the regions nearer Dublin and Dublin City. I was merely inquiring whether that aspect had been examined in the light of the general progress of the European service and whether Aer Lingus had ever undertaken any kind of research as to the first origin of passengers. Allied to that is the question of having a feeder service from Cork to Dublin or a direct service from Cork to Europe and Great Britain. I presume that it would be entirely from Cork to Britain.

Again, in connection with the general development of aviation across the Atlantic, I should like to ask whether everything possible is being done to make use of Shannon Airport as a tourist centre and whether any experiments have been carried out of recent date to encourage passengers arriving there from America to take a tour around the country other than in a private car, whether any facilities in that respect have been suggested and whether the Parliamentary Secretary considers that such a scheme would be likely to succeed. It was very interesting to hear that Deputies of the Government Party are now reconsidering the question of a transatlantic service. I do not wish to be controversial, but I would not agree with Deputy Cowan. At least in my constituency when the suggestion was made that the transatlantic service should be cancelled for re-examination of the matter there was widespread hostility to it at that time.

I should like to repeat what other Deputies have said, that we would like to hear more of the Government's policy with regard to civil aviation in this country. All civil aviation development must be speculative and must cost very large sums of money. There is little or no profit to be made for a long period and, as with the development of all forms of communications, the Government of the day have got to assume that there will be an increase by some speculative percentage in the number of persons coming by air from all parts of the world across the Atlantic and develop air policy accordingly. They are bound to take a very large gamble with regard to any development and cannot wait until ideal planes are produced or more inventions discovered to facilitate aviation.

Lastly I should like to advert to the observation of Deputy Cowan regarding the fear that pressure might be brought to bear by the United States for the reconstruction of Dublin Airport to suit the purpose of war. I do not think that need be of very much concern to the Parliamentary Secretary in itself until he also allies with it the question of our own air defence.

Major de Valera

Glancing over this Bill one notices that it deals with certain details but it is rather difficult to get any picture of what precise policy is the driving force behind it; in other words, what precisely we are aiming at with regard to the development of air services in this country. That thought seems to be worrying some of the Government Deputies in addition and I think it might not be any harm if we were told at some convenient time what exactly is to be our policy regarding these services. First there is the paramount practical consideration that you are dealing with something which in its nature is very expensive. When you commit yourself to a particular line you are setting something in motion which involves expense and which also has a certain amount of inertia; by not pursuing energetically along the line on which you are launched, your effort represents in the end a waste. I do not wish to go back, to say "I told you so" or indulge in criticism of what has been done because spilt milk is spilt milk, but there is one lesson we can learn. If you lightly throw over something and later decide to go on with it you will not only have all the disadvantages and difficulties with which you initially were faced but you will have in addition certain specific difficulties caused by your hesitation. Perhaps I am being premature. It is reading too much into the Bill as it stands to say that we are being invited to consider transatlantic services again but, rightly or wrongly, I have got the impression since coming into the House that such an idea is abroad here now. If we are it is a great pity that we will not have the benefit of having made a start already, but on the other hand, if we are to make a late start we must face up to it.

Undoubtedly the development of air services here is something of more than ordinary importance to us. It is of some importance, as some people have always advocated, from the point of view of the day-to-day life of the country and it has assumed a peculiar importance that even its advocates could not have foreseen in full with regard to present-day economy in so far as it could be a factor in a dollar earning campaign. Undoubtedly it would be expensive, but its value would be that it would be a machine for exchange. Even though it may be expensive still it will earn dollars and you will be able to pay much of the expense in the currency you are not particularly short of and to that extent it is an advantage. I could go on in detail and build up a case for a transatlantic service, but I would like to hear whether it is contemplated. If it is to be redeveloped I presume we will be told. If it is, I should like to encourage it in so far as even from the present-day point of view it has its attractions, but from the point of view of future development it has even more. I think that Deputy Lemass mentioned earlier this evening its importance as a link with outside in the case of a crisis. A particular type of plane is involved which would not be easily got and if that is to be taken into consideration it is a question of time.

I note that in the Bill a period of five years is referred to in another connection. That period of five years seems to turn up in other more menacing connections if one follows international affairs and it might be no harm if we used that limit of five years as a basis for quick development, the plain fact being that whatever chance you have of getting facilities, personnel and equipment now your chances will become more remote as time goes on, that is, of course, always assuming that the international situation continues on the lines on which unfortunately it seems bent on continuing. Already two years have been lost. Already personnel have been scattered certain facilities have been lost and equipment has been scattered. I only refer to these things to suggest that if this matter is to be seriously considered there is an urgency about it. Perhaps I would become irrelevant by getting into defence matters and I content myself in regard to this aspect of the matter in asking the Parliamentary Secretary to pay some attention to the question of a liaison between his ordinary day-to-day peacetime requirements and his possible requirements if it becomes necessary to tie up with defence. A considerable amount of money is being spent on these matters and a considerable amount of money is also being spent on defence and the question of tying these up together for the maximum average benefit to the community should be considered. We, in this country, fortunately have not had a history of actual hostilities which would drive that lesson home to us. If there was any lesson we were likely to learn in the last emergency had it gone to the stage of being involved in hostilities, that lesson would have been the insufficiency of any proper co-ordination between the ordinary economic side of Government, the day-to-day living side of Government, if I may call it such, and the emergency defence requirements which would arise in such a situation. I will content myself, as this is more a defence matter than a matter under this Bill, by asking the Parliamentary Secretary to see that in his Department this aspect is not forgotten in planning and in organisation and that an adequate liaison is maintained both in theory and, more important still, in actual practical effect. The details of the matter can wait for the Estimates or another Bill.

The question of development of our air services generally calls for one remark and it is this: that if you have your service developed and, so to speak, have your market already developed sufficiently, thereby actually being in the field with your own little corner completely to yourself or to some extent to yourself, it gives you a prescriptive right and has the practical effect of excluding competition to some extent and leaving you more or less alone. In other words, the fact that you are developed in that particular field is something done in the direction of protecting your integrity. The same would apply to our Atlantic service and even internal air services. That reference is made both in regard to ordinary peace time and to defence in the future. If you are able to do the job yourself and to supply the service, you remove much of the inducement to others to come in and, by keeping the situation under your own control, you so far contribute to your own national integrity.

I think that is a fair principle. I think that it is on that principle, mainly apart from the economic advantages that one would hope to reap from a development of this nature, that you can justify expenditure and all the expense that attends on such a development as is contemplated.

Coming to the Bill in further detail, there is the question of the compulsory acquisition of lands for airports. The marginal note reads: "Entry on land, etc., compulsorily acquired under the principal Act before conveyance or ascertainment of compensation." That is probably nothing more than an administrative convenience. However, I may say, apart from the context, that except there is really great urgency in matters of acquisition or dealing with private property of this nature, I think it is unwise further to encroach upon the rights of individuals than we have done unless there is very serious justification for it. Already, the State machine has appropriated to itself very large powers in that regard for the benefit of the community. My own personal opinion is that it has got to the stage where we should lean a little in our consideration in favour of the private owner, in favour of the person whose property is being acquired by the State. On the other hand, I am willing to concede that matters of urgency for the benefit of the community must be taken into account. That was justifiably mentioned in the case of housing. But for the acquisition of lands for such a purpose as this I think such a power should not be taken unless there is some great urgency. I refer to this period of five years. There may be that urgency, but I think that the Parliamentary Secretary should justify in this House the reasons for such a procedure in a Bill such as this; that the people should be told in advance, anyway, what lands it is intended to acquire.

We can visualise two things. We can visualise either the extension of present aerodromes, such as Collinstown or Rineanna, or the development of such airfields as exist but which cannot be reckoned as first-class or workable fields. That would be, so to speak, a foreseeable development. Another might be the development of proper airports near our principal towns, say, in the vicinity of Cork, for the purpose of linking up with big airports or other internal air communications. Whether that would be an economically justifiable thing or not I am for the moment leaving to one side.

Lastly, there might also be the question of developing air fields, say, for external use. I mean external use, in the sense of airfields as ports for use between here and England or here and across the Atlantic. Therefore there are a number of possibilities. The people should know for what purpose the land is being acquired, for what purpose this section is inserted and what are the places where land is likely to be acquired for the purpose of developing air defences. Of course, I also concede to the Parliamentary Secretary that perhaps from the point of view of the Department of Finance he may not like to say: "I am going to set up an airport in such-and-such a place" for fear it might lead to speculation in respect to the land being acquired. Nevertheless, the people should be given some information.

Further, some information should be given as to what the purpose of the development is. The one trouble at the moment is that the idea was so well sold a few years ago, particularly in regard to transatlantic operation, by certain people, by members of the Government and their supporters, that many people were convinced that transatlantic air communications were a waste, that the development of our air services was a waste and an unnecessary luxury in this country, a luxury for which we could not afford to pay. If we now reverse engines, if we find, on a proper analysis and a proper view of this subject, that these things are worth developing, it is only fair that the people should be given the reasons and let them know where they stand. The unfortunate effect of the type of thing which has happened is that it leads to rumours and speculations and unrest, to people of a certain type using their ingenuity to see what can possibly be behind something perfectly simple. The only thing to nail that is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It would be interesting, however, to know just precisely what lands are in question and what development is contemplated.

The remainder of the Bill appears to be simply a matter of detail. To use Deputy McQuillan's words, there is a bit of a fog over the whole business and in that fog it is rather difficult to interpret precisely what the Bill aims at. For my own part, I am willing to accept that it is designed for nothing more than to deal with these details which, in ordinary administration, have been found to need some adjustment. It has been brought in to deal with this question of subsidy, as the Parliamentary Secretary has stated. There are, however, so many details covered in the Bill and there are so many things, like the power for acquisition and this Section 16, "By-laws relating to aerodromes" and so forth, that the ingenious person would not be without material upon which to speculate in the wildest manner and on the basis of which to circulate the wildest rumours. That being the situation, I think it would be well for the Parliamentary Secretary to clarify things, to let us know precisely where we stand in these matters, to let us know particularly in regard to these transatlantic services which, frankly, I did not think would come in under this Bill; I did not see its relation to it until it was developed in the House.

There is definitely this defence question; there is particularly this question that any dealing with this matter should be tied up with the probable defence of Ireland within the next five years. Taking all these things into account, I see nothing objectionable in the Bill, in any of its provisions. But again, I suggest, with others who have spoken, that the Parliamentary Secretary might help us by clearing away the fog to which reference has been made.

We have heard quite a lot about air services and the necessity for developing them. I think Cork has been very badly treated so far as air services are concerned. I should like to point out that very often there are four or five liners coming into Cobh. We have two airfields outside Cork, one within three miles of the city and the other within four miles of Cobh. These airfields could be made available for services even from Limerick airport. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary if it is the desire of the Government to develop the airfields that exist in the vicinity of Cork City.

I do not know what Deputies expect to get in the nature of a statement of policy, or what a mere expression of view can do to assist them to understand the Government's viewpoint on civil aviation. In so far as the Government have a responsibility for ensuring that civil aviation is developed on certain lines, and in view of the financial commitments to which we are liable under the Air Navigation and Transport Act in respect of subsidies to the air companies, our policy is to provide efficient air services and to run them at a profit, and, if it is not possible to run them at a profit, to keep the loss as low as possible.

In so far as any steps that could be taken to increase the efficiency of the air companies or to implement any statements made when the Government came into office are concerned, I think the reduction in the loss which was effected last year is in itself an indication of the effectiveness of Government policy in that regard. I am glad to say —and I can agree with the statements of a number of Deputies here—that the air companies here have an efficient record, particularly in so far as safety in operation is concerned. It is true that at the end of the war, when civil aviation revived after hostilities ceased, Aer Lingus became top heavy, but I think the steps that were taken in the past couple of years have reduced the effect which the anticipated expansion of the services and the consequent substantial increase in the numbers of persons employed by the company created.

At that time people were employed on the basis that there would be a great increase in the number of flights, in the passenger and freight traffic. It is also true to say that the increase in the number of persons employed and in the general administration of the company was tied up with the proposed transatlantic air service by Aer Linte. That service was abandoned by this Government after mature consideration, after they had examined the records of other air companies operating transatlantic air services, and after taking into consideration their responsibility to the taxpayers for keeping the financial commitments as low as possible.

I do not think there would be any advantage in discussing now the wisdom or otherwise of that decision beyond saying that I suppose there is no science—certainly there are few sciences—which has witnessed such development and expansion over the past quarter of a century—certainly since the beginning of the last war—as aeronautical science, and for this company to embark on a transatlantic service in view of the experience other countries had was a thing which this Government did not feel they could reasonably accept.

The losses which Aer Lingus incurred were reduced last year. I hope the deficit anticipated in the coming year will show more reasonable proportions. I agree with Deputy Lemass that at the end of the war it was reasonable to assume that the possibilities of developing air traffic seemed to be greater than they have turned out to be in practice. It is true that Aer Lingus during one year had a profit, but it is also true that that was a very exceptional year. That was the year when hostilities ended and large numbers of people were anxious to get business contacts, either to resume old associations or secure new contacts, and make up for the time lag which had operated during the war period, when they were prevented from getting across to Britain. Restrictions on movements were relaxed and there was a great rush in the latter part of 1945 and in the early part of 1946.

In so far as the Government can take any steps to improve the existing services or to provide services which will show a remunerative return, then all our energies will be bent in that direction. On the question as to whether we intend to operate new services or provide more frequent services on existing routes, our decision will depend on traffic potentialities. Aer Lingus is constantly alive to the need for surveying the potentialities of the various routes. That company during the past year has reopened routes that fell into abeyance during the war years but which were operated prior to the war. It has also inaugurated some new services, according as it appeared to the company that there was a possibility of securing sufficient traffic to warrant such services being provided. In the coming year I understand the company proposes to continue those services on a seasonal basis or for whatever period during which it is likely to secure sufficient traffic to warrant such services on the same routes or on additional ones.

A number of general matters were raised and I think that I have now covered the Government's policy in relation to those matters. Discussion also centred on the negotiations which have taken place on and off between the American authorities and ourselves in so far as they affect the compulsory stop at Shannon. At this stage I do not want to say much about that matter, but I think it is right that I should point out, particularly for the information of those Deputies who appear to labour under a misapprehension when they describe the negotiations as due to American pressure, that under the bilateral agreement concluded in February, 1945, there is provision for a revision of the terms of that agreement. In addition there is the right to terminate the agreement on a year's notice by either party. It is, therefore, neither correct nor accurate to describe the negotiations or the discussions as due to American pressure. Either party has the right to ask for a revision and either party has the right to terminate the agreement on a year's notice.

In so far as Deputy Lemass has stated the facts about Shannon, I do not think anyone will disagree with him. Shannon was selected as the site after examination by international aviaction experts. With regard to the question of building another aerodrome, I think any Deputy who contemplates that step is misinformed as to the purpose of Shannon airport. That is quite a different matter, however, from the terms of the bilateral agreement concluded in 1945. That is the agreement which obliges transatlantic users to stop at Shannon. Up to the present the number of landings at Shannon has been fairly constant. As to whether the tendency is upward or downward, no one can form any definite opinion either way. I do not think anyone could come to the conclusion that more planes will land there in the future than have landed in the past. Under the agreement, if there should be a greater number of crossings of the Atlantic in the future, then they will be obliged to land there, but on the present surveys and with the present transatlantic traffic the number of planes stopping at Shannon has remained constant over the last few years. It is a matter upon which different persons may have different opinions.

There may be a wide diversity of opinions as to the future development of civil aviation. It is only right to say that up to the present planes crossing the Atlantic cannot economically over-fly Shannon. Even the stratocruisers carrying a full load, and these are the most up-to-date planes, cannot over-fly Shannon economically. In so far, therefore, as aeronautical development is concerned there is no technical or economic reason why transatlantic planes should over-fly Shannon. No machine has yet operated on the transatlantic service which, with a full load, can within the bounds of practicability or within the bounds of possibility over-fly Shannon Airport.

It is true to say that we have expended considerable sums of money in providing a proper airport at Shannon together with the meteorological and other services necessary there. While the airport buildings are not of a permanent nature, they are, nevertheless, adequate for present needs. It is also true that Dublin Airport is overcrowded. If transatlantic operators were to come into Dublin the existing facilities would be entirely inadequate.

A number of Deputies raised specific points on sections of the Bill. I think the only point worthy of consideration at this stage is that the Bill is designed to extend the limit for subsidy. That is the main purpose of the Bill. The other sections are merely for the purpose of tidying up or making provisions for matters that were not covered in the earlier Bills. It is true that Section 8 is rather wide. I agree with Deputy de Valera that power of this nature to acquire private property should only be taken in very exceptional circumstances. The only reason for this provision is because airports have, from time to time, to be extended in order to meet with increased traffic or provide longer runways to accommodate different types of planes. The delay in the acquisition of land for such a purpose can cause serious trouble and disruption at the airport. I would like to mention that notice is always given in advance to those persons whose land adjoins the airport of any proposed acquisition. In so far as Dublin Airport is concerned, the people have been notified that certain extensions are contemplated and they are given adequate advance information of the nature and extent of the lands it is proposed to acquire.

Deputy Childers asked some questions about the facilities for transporting persons from Shannon Airport to Limerick City and also from Shannon Airport to Dublin. He mentioned that persons landing at the airport have difficulty in catching the early train at Limerick. I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that planes land at the airport at different times. Transatlantic planes very often land during the night or in the early morning. It is not always possible to have public services available, but I understand that taxis are available if anybody wishes to leave the airport in the early hours of the morning. At the airport there is adequate notice of the time of the departure of the Shannon-Dublin service. Information is also available in regard to train services. I shall, however, have the matters which the Deputy mentioned brought to the notice of the company and also to the notice of Córas Iompair Éireann.

I do not think there is anything else I can add, in so far as Government policy is concerned, except to say that it is not the intention of the Government to reopen the transatlantic air service. As I said at the outset, that decision was taken after careful consideration. I know that the Opposition do not agree with the decision but, in view of the heavy financial commitments which the Government had to meet in respect of subsidy to the air companies at that time and which, up to the present, have not been able to be run at a profit, the Government decided that it was not in the public interest that they should reopen the transatlantic air service. The rumours which some Deputies have mentioned—or the extent to which there is some suspicion or some uneasiness—I believe, have no foundation. Whatever justification there may have been, for a short time after the transatlantic air service was discontinued, that further cuts were contemplated, I think the last two years have dispelled any such idea. The stability which exists, both economic and social, is, I think, ample proof that the Government propose to continue the air companies and we hope that the success which has attended their activities up to the present will be increased in the future.

Deputy Lemass asked me about the policy of the company in respect of D.C.3. aircraft. Some consideration was given to the possibility of limiting the use of these aircraft or to the restriction of their use after a certain length of time. I understand now that no limit has been placed on the use of these aircraft but that the company have under consideration the question of acquiring suitable machines to replace them. They have, I understand, examined and are still examining from time to time suitable aircraft with which to replace the D.C.3.'s when they are no longer suitable for service.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 21st February, 1950.