Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 7 Jun 1961

Vol. 189 No. 11

Committee on Finance. - Air Navigation and Transport Bill, 1961—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The main objects of the Bill are:—

(i) to increase the authorised share capital of Aer Rianta Teoranta from £10,000,000 to £13,000,000; and

(ii) to provide for the issue by the Minister for Finance of repayable advances to the Company of such sums (not exceeding in the aggregate £1,000,000) as the Company may from time to time request.

Under existing legislation—the Air Navigation and Transport Acts, 1936 to 1959—the authorised share capital of Aer Rianta is £10,000,000 of which £9,975,541 has been issued. Aer Lingus and Aerlínte are subsidiaries of the parent company, Aer Rianta, the capital of which is used mainly for investment in the subsidiaries. The existing capital has been used by Aer Rianta as to £2,977,974 in Aer Lingus and £6,921,477 in Aerlínte, the balance being retained by the Company for its own capital purposes.

In the Capital Budget for 1961/62 provision has been made for the investment of £1,200,000 in the air companies, and tentative estimates of capital requirements in the years 1962/63 and 1963/64 show that an additional investment of up to £1,000,000 will be required, making a total investment of about £12,200,000. In the Bill provision is made for an increase in the authorised capital to £13,000,000. It is not possible at the present stage to predict exactly for how long this provision will meet requirements in view of the spectacular expansion in our air business— to which I will refer later—and to the possibility that the increasing traffic may necessitate additions to the companies' fleets and equipment.

The amount of £1,200,000 in the Capital Budget for this year includes £150,000 in respect of Aer Rianta's investment in a hotel project to which I shall refer later. The capital expenditure of Aer Lingus for this year is estimated at £450,000 which will be met by the Company from its own resources. The Capital Budget provides £850,000 which will enable the Company to liquidate a bank loan on which it has been operating for the past few years. Capital expenditure for Aerlínte is estimated at £600,000 of which £400,000 will be met from its own resources. The balance of £200,000 will be provided by the Exchequer. When these amounts have been issued, the capital structure of Aer Lingus will consist of £3,820,000 subscribed by the Exchequer and £1,000,000 long-term loan from a commercial source, as compared with £2,970,000 Exchequer participation and £1,500,000 loan capital on 31st March, 1961. The capital subscribed to Aerlínte will be £7,120,000 as compared with £6,920,000 on 31st March, 1961. There will be an increase of £150,000 in the amount retained by Aer Rianta for its own capital requirements.

Aer Rianta will require, for its own purposes, in the years 1961-62 and 1962-63 a sum of about £250,000 to cover the Company's investment in Irish and Inter-Continental Hotels Limited, a company formed to undertake the construction, furnishing and equipping of three hotels to be erected in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. The total cost of the project is about £2,750,000 and the balance of the capital required is being provided by means of a guaranteed loan under the Tourist Traffic Acts and by a number of banking and private interests. The amount of capital allocated to Aer Lingus for 1961-62 covers the liquidation of the bank loan already referred to and the purchase of such items as fleet and ground equipment. The main ground for repaying the bank loan is the undesirability of the Company having a large proportion of its capital in the form of loan capital. The capital required by Aerlínte in 1961-62 is for modifications in aircraft fleet, spares and equipment, ground equipment, premises and office furniture and repayment of working capital.

The provision for the issue of repayable advances from the Exchequer to Aer Rianta is a new feature, and will enable Aer Rianta to obtain capital for items which would normally be financed by means of bank overdraft. It is considered desirable that certain short term capital requirements should be met in some other way than by the issue of share capital. Examples of short term capital requirements are the purchase of electronic computing machinery which would be expected to pay for itself over a number of years and temporary cash shortages which would disappear in due course. The provision in the Bill follows the lines of similar provisions in the Electricity (Supply) Acts and the Turf Development Acts.

I think it would be well for me to give the House a brief outline of the results, financial and otherwise, achieved by the carrying companies— Aer Lingus and Aerlínte—during the past two years. In the financial year ended 31st March, 1960, Aer Lingus had an operating surplus of about £170,000 and in the six months ended 30th September, 1960, the operating surplus was £310,000. The financial accounts of the Company for the year ended 31st March, 1961, are not yet available but I understand that the airline as a whole—Aer Lingus and Aerlínte—taking both the transatlantic and European sectors together, will have a modest surplus for that year. In 1960/61 the number of passengers carried by Aer Lingus was 713,000, an increase of 25% on the number carried in 1959/60. The total amount of cargo carried—12,000 tons—showed an increase of 39 per cent. on the 1959/60 figure, and the quantity of mail carried—18,000 tons—showed an increase of 5 per cent. on the 1959/60 figure. In the year ended 31st March, 1961, Aerlínte carried 35,176 passengers, an increase of 51 per cent. or 11,898 passengers on the 1959/60 figure.

The total amount of cargo carried was 244 tons which was two and a half times more than the amount carried in 1959/60. The amount of mail carried was 49 tons, an increase of 11 per cent. on the 1959/60 figure. The Aerlínte financial results for the twelve months ended 31st March, 1960, showed that there was an operating loss of £589,080 for that year, compared with an operating loss of £788,599 for the eleven months ended 31st March, 1959. The accounts for the six months ended 30th September, 1960, showed an operating surplus of £143,000 compared with a deficit of £286,000 in the same period of 1959. These results were achieved when the aircraft used by the Company were on charter from Seaboard and Western Airlines. In the last three months of the financial year 1960/61 the Company operated its own Boeing jet aircraft and it is the invariable experience that the Winter months are not as favourable as the Summer months. Nevertheless, the prospects of the Company are bright and the number of passengers carried in the period January to March, 1961, was 5,837 as compared with 3,085 in the corresponding period in 1960. This trend is continuing and forward bookings are very promising.

I recommend the Bill for the approval of the House.

This measure, as the Minister said, provides for an increase in the authorised share capital of Aer Rianta. The report which the Minister has just given the House of the recent returns in relation to finance, the number of passengers, goods, and mail carried is satisfactory. The trend is in the right direction. The State investment in general air development is very considerable. The construction and equipment of airports and the purchase of aircraft for the air companies have involved very considerable State expenditure.

The results of the company are satisfactory. The trend in the case of the transatlantic air service is also in the right direction. I have always held the view that we should develop our air services to the fullest possible extent, while at the same time paying due regard to the resources of the country and to the opportunities which present themselves for proper development of our air services.

The staff of Aer Rianta and Aer Lingus are efficient and have brought credit on themselves and on the companies. They have a well-deserved reputation for courtesy and consideration in dealing with the public. It is, therefore, right that the standard of efficiency and courtesy set up by the officials and staffs of these companies should be fully recognised, because that standard has reflected credit on the companies concerned as well as on the individuals.

There are one or two matters to which I should like to advert in this debate. One is the question of whether it is desirable, in view of the very heavy capital commitments involved here and the nature of the particular investment, for Aer Rianta to invest money in a hotels project. I understand that companies elsewhere have made similar investments but, in view of the very considerable State investment involved here and the fact that this business is somewhat outside the range of activities which one normally associates with the air company, I wonder whether it is desirable to embark on an investment of that character. There is, undoubtedly, room for further hotel accomodation in the city and, indeed, in the country, and any project such as is envisaged deserves encouragement, but in view of the very heavy capital commitments and the large sums of money involved, whether it is desirable for the company to make an investment of that sort is a matter which is certainly open to some question. I mention it in order to hear the reasons the company decided to make this investment.

The other matter I wish to mention is that since the company acquired the Boeing jets, the bookings have considerably increased and I should be anxious to hear from the Minister if the Boeing jets have been found to be satisfactory, if the range of flight which they can cover is the same both ways, eastward and westward, and if, generally, the aircraft have proved satisfactory and as suitable as was estimated when they were purchased.

In air transport, one has to keep abreast of technical developments and if this country is to provide services comparable with or better than those provided by other countries, we must keep abreast of the various technical developments and secure, not only trained and competent personnel, but also the most suitable aircraft available. This is a particularly difficult matter for a small country like ours, because we have to buy these machines from suppliers outside the country and, consequently, the matter depends to a very considerable extent on judgement at a particular time.

Many years ago, in the Department of Industry and Commerce, when the matter of the purchase of the Viscount planes came up for decision for the first time, recommendations were made on the best evidence available. At that time, there were a number of opinions as to what was the most suitable plane to acquire. Eventually we took the decision to purchase the Viscounts and they have undoubtedly proved very satisfactory, but, when a new type of aircraft, which has not been proved from the point of view of public experience comes on the market, the opinions which have to be taken into account and the evidence which is available are not always as convincing as would be justified by subsequent events. While, as I say, the purchase of Viscounts proved very satisfactory, when the decision was taken initially, it was taken only after very serious consideration. I hope the Boeing jets will prove to be equally satisfactory.

Subject to the information, which I hope it will be possible to get on these matters, we approve of the terms of this measure.

I am very glad to hear the approach by Deputy Cosgrave to the matter under discussion today. We have now clearly moved from the attitude of mind on the part of some people, who regarded the development of air services as unnecessary, on the ground that we could not afford the expenditure for purely prestige purposes. It is now accepted that the development of air services serves a good utility purpose and is of general importance to the nation. It is also good to know that the operations of Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta are internationally recognised as offering exceptionally good services.

I also have a certain amount of doubt, such as expressed by Deputy Cosgrave, as to the wisdom of the Government in allowing a State-subsidised and State-supported organisation to get into a business in competition with private enterprise. I have heard a great many people criticising the entry of the air company into the hotel business, particularly at a time when there appear to be very big development prospects for private enterprise. I do not know how this new hotel venture will develop but, in my opinion, it is not an operation with which the air company or the air service generally should have close contact.

I want to take advantage of this opportunity to state publicity and to put on record one of the criticisms I have had with regard to air development in this country for a number of years. I have said many times—I have said it every year—that there is not sufficient consideration given by this air company, whether Aer Lingus or Aerlínte, to furthering the development of our exports by making available to our industrial side an economic air freight rate. I know they are tied up with this international body, I.A.T.A. who sit in various countries in the world and who have fixed air freight rates for all classes of goods. If that body were situated within the jurisdiction of the Republic, it probably would be invited to appear before the Fair Trade Commission.

The time has come when this State-sponsored body should recognise its responsibility to all the other sections which go to make up this State. We are now at the begining of an industrial revival which demands air freight rates that will make exports possible. I know—and I have evidence of it— that the reason these international conferences keep up these air freight rates is that if they reduced them to an economic level for those who would avail of an air freight service, they would not have sufficient planes to carry the cargo offered.

At the same time, those companies prevent the development of charter services. We could ship lambs in season to Switzerland, chartering planes that charge a reasonable freight rate. However, if these charter planes arrive at Collinstown and if a van arrives alongside to offload its contents on to the plane, it becomes uneconomic because a handling charge is made although there is no handling done by the company. That charge is what makes that business impossible. If the servants of the company were putting the lambs into the plane, the company would be entitled to something but this plane that arrives there is charged a landing fee which goes to pay for the upkeep of the airport.

I realise our exports are related to our productivity. We are not able to pay 5/- a kilo for exportable goods because they are not diamonds or gold. We are down to ordinary agricultural surplus. I do not know why Aer Lingus or Aerlínte have not considered the possibility of securing planes purely for freight purposes and offering an air freight rate which would attract business on a large scale.

In introducing the Bill, the Minister pointed out that there are periods of the year when our planes are not fully loaded with passengers. This is the period when, if you do not lose money, you certainly do not make it. I have pointed out here to the air service that this is the time when every journey could be made pay by arranging to have commodities at call to fill up the vacant spaces in the passenger planes when they fly light.

The time has come when those who are in control of the development and future of the air services should have a little more vision, a little more advertence to the national situation and not concern themselves solely with what is obligatory upon them because of international associations, and so forth. This is a small country and when air services were first discussed by the Government of the day, the Taoiseach, who was then Minister for Industry and Commerce and who was the father of all this development, pointed out we could not get into world competition with ordinary shipping, that we were too late, but we could get into competition with the world with air services. We were in time for that. As Deputy Cosgrave has rightly pointed out, we have in this country without doubt persons who, whether pilots or officers of the comapny, are equal in competence, intelligence and efficiency to those in similar occupations in any other country in the world.

In order to make our services grow and grow rapidly and at the same time help the development of industry in relation to which exports are vital, let the air services concern themselves with the unlimited possibility of the development of air freight as distinct from passenger-carrying services which are limited to a rather small growth and limited also by conditions and circumstances as they change from day to day due to world situations, weather and also to changes in the minds of people as to whether they want to be tourists.

We cannot guarantee that there will be an ever-growing stream of passengers coming to this country year after year but we can lay the foundations for constant shipment of goods, knowing that we have these items, that there are markets for them and that the only thing that stops their being sold abroad is the difficulty of meeting a freight charge.

It is possible for us to export to America ordinary items like fresh eggs. They could be put on board a plane either at Collinstown or Shannon and be on the tables of those who want to eat them the next day in the United States. What is the air freight charge today? It is 2/4d. a lb. I would ask the Minister to give the air company a bit of a shake up with a suggestion that they might meet to talk seriously with those who are concerned with the development of exports rather than be as difficult as they are in saying:

"Here are our rates. These are in accordance with I.A.T.A. We have no further interest in or consideration to give the matter."

It is now some four or five years since I first began to investigate this question. I urge the Minister to accept what I have said in the spirit in which I have given it and to put it to the authorities concerned that they should do something now about this whole problem.

I did not intend to speak on this Bill but when I saw that the Minister for Transport and Power was introducing it, I was interested. I am interested in anything the Minister for Transport and Power does. I do not want a day to come when I or any Deputy will put down a question regarding Aer Lingus or Aerlínte or Aer Rianta, Teoranta or, maybe, when we get out to the Airport and look at the planes and they bring us down to earth and we see "Irish Air Lines," and the Minister for Transport and Power will rise and in his usual form say that it is not his function.

I notice in Section 3 (1) the phrasing is "sums (not exceeding in the aggregate one million pounds), as the Company may from time to time request." I have no doubt a company of this sort would need that kind of money. I hope that when this Bill goes through and if the occasion arises for any Deputy to ask any question, he will be answered and that there will be no such thing as the Minister dodging the column.

As regards Irish Air Lines, let me say for a start that I come from a city where we always looked abroad before ever there were airplanes. I happened to notice that Deputy Briscoe said that when the present Taoiseach had it in mind to establish an airline, he said we were in time to get in, as far as the air services were concerned but we were not in time, evidently, as far as shipping is concerned. That is not correct. Even though it has nothing to do with this Bill, that was the time when they could have got ships for £30,000 or £40,000 rather than pay £300,000 for heaps of scrap.

What the Deputy——

I hope Deputy Moher will shut up or get up and not come in here as part of this conscript clacque that always comes in here.

Deputy Lynch is getting vexed.

We have Irish Air Lines and we can be proud of the personnel of Irish Air Lines and of their esprit de corps. They are a credit to us wherever they go. When these balance sheets were so good, as the Minister read out in his brief some time ago— they were very good last year: £350,000—I think Irish Airlines or Aer Lingus or Aer Rianta or Aerlínte should not have been so tough as to put their pilots out on strike. These people are worthy of better treatment. As we all know, this is a newly-established business in this country. Before I leave this end of it, I will say our personnel cannot be excelled by the personnel of any country; they might be equalled occasionally.

I do not agree with the air companies going into the hotel business. It would be better for the Minister to reconsider this whole matter. The Irish hoteliers have done a reasonably good job. I have been travelling and staying in Irish hotels for longer than I care to remem ber and longer mayble than anybody is in the House. I know a great deal and have experience of a great deal of the improvements hoteliers have made. Now that they have made these improvements, I do not think it right that a State-sponsored company should go into competition with them in the three centres of Dublin, Cork and Limerick where we have airports.

Deputy Briscoe mentioned air freights. I do not think Irish Air Lines are doing what carrying companies used to do in the matter of air freights, that is, railway and shipping companies. I have to mention these because of the comparison. They operated for freights and in order to make sure that the freight would be offering, they sent out canvassing agents, especially in off-season times. I would recommend to the Minister and to the air companies that they should have canvassing agents. They have their own means of estimating what their carrying capacity will be at various times. Furthermore, knowing when the real off-season occurs, they go out and canvass various interests in the country, especially the fresh meat and fresh food interests.

I have no doubt that people in the fresh meat industry in this country have proved themselves to be pioneers in sending our fresh meat to the ends of the earth and in discovering markets we never knew existed. If there were canvassing agents from the air companies at the appropriate times, it could prove very profitable in getting us as much as possible out of the squeeze of the rings formed by the various air companies.

I am reminding the Minister now that if in the future, I or any other Deputy should ask him any question in relation to Irish Air Lines or Aer Lingus, or any of these air companies, I consider it to be his duty as a Minister of State who came before us and asked us to vote this money to answer our questions and not to duck out of it and say that it is a matter for the executive of Aer Lingus or the executive of any other portion of the company. It is good we have this company and it is good that when we are buying aircraft we should look to the United States and Great Britain because, as has been proved, they had good and suitable planes. We should not be buying aircraft from countries which buy very little from us.

First, I should like to air a small complaint. I am sorry the Minister did not make sufficient copies of his speech available to the few Deputies in the House to give us an opportunity of having the figures before us. There are a number of figures, and substantial sums of money have been referred to. I find it impossible to remember all the figures the Minister quoted during his speech.

The fact that the Minister comes to us looking for an increase in the capital of Aer Rianta from £10,000,000 to £13,000,000 is an indication of the activities of Aer Rianta and its offshoots, Aer Lingus and Aerlínte, during the past two or three years. It is only a short time ago, 1959, since the House sanctioned a very substantial increase in the capital—I hope I am correct in this sum—from £4,000,000 to £10,000,000 to cover the purchase of the jet aircraft for the transatlantic service.

The introduction of this Bill also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the establishing of Aer Lingus. I think it is an appropriate moment to pay tribute to that company for the remarkable progress they have made in that quarter of a century. Every one of us, irrespective of what doubts we may have had some years ago— certainly in the early year—about the feasibility and practicability of an Irish air line, would wish to pay tribute to the success of Aer Lingus and hope that in the quarter of a century ahead they will maintain their outstanding rate of progress. Anyone who travels with Aer Lingus, irrespective of whether they are Irish or are outsiders visiting here, cannot speak too highly of the courtesy and efficiency of the national air line. That is an enviable reputation which both the company and the staff would be anxious to maintain.

Deputy Briscoe and Deputy Lynch touched on what I thought was a very important point. That is, that in addition to the success which Aer Lingus and Aerlínte have achieved in the substantial increase in passenger traffic, they should make a greater drive to increase freight traffic. I say this because we have had a good deal of talk recently, and particularly in the last day or two, about the emergence of a Free Trade Area in Europe. Irrespective of any estimates we might make as to the chances of our home industries surviving in the competitive era ahead, we would all agree that one thing we should be able to sell competitively outside is the produce from our 12 million acres of arable land, whether by way of meat or other forms of agricultural produce, such as processed vegetables, butter, milk products, cheese and so on.

If that is so, as I believe it to be, it is essential that we have a rapid and efficient means of carrying this produce from this country to the extremities of what would be eventually, I presume, a European trading area. Now is the time to look ahead. Aer Lingus have shown commendable foresight in the past. I hope they will show the same foresight in establishing now, while all these proposals for a Common Market and a Free Trade Area are under consideration, contacts and making arrangements to have available when the time comes the latest means of carrying on refrigerated air traffic to the various parts of the Continent we will want to serve with our agricultural produce.

In reply to a recent question of mine, the Minister referred to the difficulties standing in the way of bringing the air passenger rates between airports in the Twenty-Six Counties and Great Britain into line with the rates between Northern Ireland airports and British cities. I understand the position is that air traffic between this country and Great Britain is treated as air traffic between two foreign countries, whereas air traffic between the Six Countries and Great Britain is treated as internal air traffic. It is, possibly, a difficult situation from the Minister's point of view. But, looking at it from the point of view of tourism and increasing air traffic between the two islands as such, it should be possible to do something to bring the two rates closer into line. Certainly, we do operate at a substantial disadvantage at the moment compared with the air traffic between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

It has always been my ambition that, instead of the terminus for the transatlantic air service ending as it does at Dublin Airport, it should end at the logical place, Shannon Airport. I long wondered at the cost of bringing down the transatlantic Boeing jet at Shannon for a few brief minutes, during which the passengers cannot avail of the advantages of purchasing at the duty-free shop, then bringing this very expensive aircraft into the air again and landing it a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes later at Dublin Airport. It would seem that the more efficient arrangement would be to have the service terminate at Shannon, to have the turnabout there, and to have the normal Aer Lingus services connect Shannon not only with Dublin but with London, Paris and other cities. Possibly I am motivated by certain selfish considerations in suggesting that, but it does seem to me that it would save considerable expense if that arrangement were come to. Furthermore, it would ensure that instead of the transatlantic planes being serviced at Dublin, they would be serviced at Shannon. That would give considerable employment in the south-west, where it is badly needed.

The Minister's figures showed a very substantial increase in the number of passengers carried on Aerlínte. We should not forget that that increase is concurrent with a very substantial decrease in the number of passengers carried by other air lines which now either overfly Shannon or call there much less frequently than previously. The result has been a very steep drop in the sales of the duty-free shop at Shannon, which has shown a steady decline over the past three years. Possibly, this cannot be helped. I know the Minister's predecessor, the present Taoiseach, took the point of view that if we did not cater for what is described as the Irish-American air traffic the danger was that this traffic would be taken to London, Paris or elsewhere and some arrangement made to ferry them back to Dublin or Shannon, and that arrangement would be so unsatisfactory that there would be a complete falling off in air traffic between the United States and this country.

I do not know if that is a valid argument. I am not sufficiently versed in transatlantic air traffic to give an opinion. Certainly, from the point of view of Shannon, the greater the number of landings there, the greater the number of passengers who embark or disembark there, the greater the number of people who purchase goods in the duty-free shop, the better for the airport and for the citizens who live in Limerick, or Ennis, as the case may be.

I wonder if Aer Lingus have investigated the possibilities of developing an air ferry service between Great Britain and this country? Perhaps the distance is too short and the cost too heavy but, as we do not seem to be able to make any inroads into the monopoly that controls the cross-Channel trade between ourselves and Britain by sea, it behoves us to do everything we can to bring as many people and as much goods as we can by air from Great Britain to this country and vice versa.

In spite of what I think some of the other speakers have said, I believe Aer Lingus has done a considerable amount of work to encourage tourists to come to this country and I think their offices, in various parts of the Continent, certainly, and in New York and other United States cities have been in the nature of tourist bureaux. I am quite certain they could do more and, if so, I would ask the Minister to use his good offices to get them to "sell" this country to a greater degree.

Comments have been made on the desirability or otherwise of Aerlínte investing funds in the development of these new hotels in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. I join with other speakers in having some doubts as to the desirability of a State-sponsored company competing in what, up to now, has largely been left to private enterprise or to the private enterprise system with the aid of State funds. The Minister will probably reply that there are certain areas of the country still short of hotel accommodation and would probably point to the Limerick area as one of these. But it is a fact that at present very substantial and extensive alterations and additions—in some cases complete rebuilding programmes —are being carried out to Limerick hotels. I ask the Minister to have regard to that when considering investing substantial State sums or funds of State-assisted companies in a branch of activity so far carried on by private enterprise.

Taking it by and large there is, no doubt, still room for improvement in the standard of hotel accommodation in this country. We are making substantial progress and, generally speaking. I think the hotel industry is alive to the necessity of improving hotels and bringing them more into line with those in other countries but that takes time and a good deal of capital. The accumulation of capital by private enterprise, as I am sure the Minister will agree, is an extremely difficult thing especially in the case of a private or family-owned hotel which has been, perhaps, in the same family for two or three generations. It is difficult to get capital and I think every opportunity and concession should be given to the hotels to develop the industry themselves, if necessary with State aid.

I may be wrong in the forecast I am now going to make but I think before the end of two years the Minister or possibly his successor will be coming back to the House to seek to increase again very substantially the capital of Aer Rianta. One thing about air traffic is that you are either in it or not. Once we made the decision to go into transatlantic air traffic and stay in it it is obvious that we must be prepared to vote very substantial funds indeed. If we are to judge from the reports one reads from time to time the development of air traffic is going ahead very rapidly and, within a few years' time, people will be talking in terms of supersonic planes crossing the Atlantic in two or three hours. If we are to keep up in this race this House should realise that it will be a very expensive business and some future Minister for Transport and Power will not be coming to this House for an increase of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 but perhaps for an increase of £20,000,000 or £30,000,000.

In assessing the value of our investment in transatlantic air traffic, I think we should have regard to the investment in terms of employment for our people and also in regard to other business outlets where sums of that size might perhaps be better invested. Personally, I have always been a believer in air traffic. I think the success of Aer Lingues is an indication that we can do the job. The only doubt, if I might express a doubt, is in the country's financial capacity to stay in what is a very expensive race. However, we are in it now and I think we must stay in it. The Minister's technical advisers and those connected with Aer Rianta and its subsidaries are the best judges as to what the future cost of these developments is likely to be.

I never heard anybody in this country express anxiety or apprehension in regard to Aer Lingus. I think everybody wanted to see Aer Lingus established and to rejoice in its success. I can with a clear conscience say that I have travelled by many air lines and none provided a better service than Aer Lingus. I suppose I have travelled as much by air in foreign countries, in five Continents, as any other Deputy. I have never found any other air line to provide a superior service to that provided by Aer Lingus.

One feature of our service has often struck me and that is that the pilots of Aer Lingus seem to be able to bring down an aeroplane with less bumping than pilots of any other aeroplane on which I have travelled. That is a very important thing. Taking off and coming down are often serious ordeals for people not familiar with air travel and one of the most remarkable features of Aer Lingus is the skill with which that important business is transacted by our pilots.

Speaking as one who has flown on many air lines all over the world, including most of the great American air lines, British air lines and Air France, I have often been struck by that peculiar feature and I patiently await, in all the flights I have made by Aer Lingus one bump on coming down such as I have frequently met on other air lines, and I have yet to experience it. Bumpless travel would not be sufficient justification for an airline, but apart from the outstanding performance of our pilots, there is the general standard of comfort and atmosphere associated with Aer Lingus which I have not found excelled in any air service I have used. The financial results of Aer Lingus show the fruits of that distinguished service which they provide. It is very important that we should be clear in our minds on the distinction between Aer Lingus, Aerlínte and Aer Rianta which are three distinct units, or ought to be. I notice, however, in the Minister's statement a tendency, which I have often noticed before, and that is, to start to mix them all up at suitable moments for the purpose, I am afraid, of confusing the public mind.

As far as I understand the position, Aer Lingus is doing remarkably well, considering the competition it has to meet on the European air routes it services and in that I include Dublin, London and other English cities. Aerlínte, I understand, operate the transatlantic service and Aer Rianta is the holding company which finances both operating companies. We should bear in mind for the future when examining these figures that the operating results of these airlines, Aerlínte and Aer Lingus, are one thing, but we cannot dismiss the fact that the operating costs of these airlines carry no charge in respect of the costs of Shannon Airport itself.

According to an answer furnished by the Minister for Transport and Power on 9th February this year, the expenditure on Shannon Airport, which included capital expenditure on the provision of buildings, facilities and equipment, total operation of facilities and interest on capital and depreciation and pension liability, amounted to £13.789 millions. For the same period, the total receipts amounted to £4.976 millions. When you examine these figures more closely, the capital expenditure for providing building and equipment amounts to £4.1 millions; the total operating costs of facilities amount to £5.7 millions; the interest on capital expenditure and depreciation amounts to £3.5 millions and pension liability to £.3 millions. The total revenue, including landing fees, rents, concession fees and profit on catering and sales at the Airport amounts to £4.9 millions. That means there is a net deficit on that account of £8.8 millions up to and including 9th February, 1951. We have to bear that aspect of the situation in mind when we consider the situation of Aerlínte because these figures I have quoted have no connection whatever with Aer Lingus.

If I may interrupt the Deputy for a moment, it would be hardly fair to him to measure receipts against total costs. There is a loss which represents the failure to pay depreciation and interest on capital.

I have tried to give the fullest possible picture.

I am sure the Deputy has.

To date, the operating cost of facilities is £5.76 millions. The total receipts, including landing fees, rents, concession fees and profit on catering and sales at the Airport are £4.9 millions, so that, on the operating of the Airport, there is a deficit of £800,000.

Over and above that, there is a large capital sum outstanding which represents over-investment in the Airport which has to be borne in mind when reviewing the operations of Aerlínte. What I want to emphasise particularly is that these figures I quoted have no reference at all to Aer Lingus which operates from Collinstown and has only the remotest association, if any, with Shannon Airport. I can never fully understand why those using the Airport at Shannon cannot be required at least to meet the operating costs of the Airport. I imagine a great deal of bluff goes on naturally, in which the large American and British operators threaten to overfly the Airport but I often wonder if to-morrow morning they were told we were going to close down Shannon Airport, how long the bluff would last.

Shannon Airport has operated to save the lives of thousands of passengers and the fate of many aircraft because it was available to serve as an emergency landing. It is much closer to the transatlantic routes than any other landing place with comparable facilities. I cannot believe that transatlantic operating companies could, with equanimity, contemplate the disappearance of Shannon as it would so very substantially add to the normal hazards of the services they operate. I am quite convinced they would be prepared to pay a very liberal premium to insure against its disappearance.

As I see the situation at present, we are providing capital investment of £13.798 millions and we are getting the advantage of that for our own three jet aircraft and we are getting the landing fees and the diminishing yield of catering and sales, but I feel we should be able to derive from the total volume of transatlantic traffic using that Airport sufficient to meet the total cost of its operation. It has always been a mystery to me why we cannot. Sooner or later, this House must face the facts about transatlantic traffic as operated by an Irish company and in a statement of this kind, it is a silly thing, for which I rebuke the Minister, to run away from the facts and to try to cloak them.

I now formally charge him with doing that. He tells us very properly in paragraph 8 of his statement:—

I think it would be well for me to give the House a brief outline of the results, financial and otherwise, achieved by the carrying Companies —Aer Lingus and Aerlínte—during the past two years. In the financial year ended 31st March, 1960, Aer Lingus had an operating surplus of about £170,000 and in the six months ended 30th September, 1960, the operating surplus was £310,000.

That is clear and comprehensive, but now read the next paragraph:—

The financial accounts of the Company for the year ended 31st March 1961, are not yet available but I understand that the airline as a whole—Aer Lingus and Aerlínte— taking both the transatlantic and European sectors together will have a modest surplus for that year.

That is an astonishing change. At a certain point we are told the results of Aer Lingus and Aerlínte, and while we are in that mood, having heard of the handsome surplus on the part of Aer Lingus, we come upon the Delphic phrase: "The financial accounts of the Company for the year ended 31st March, 1961, are not yet available" but the Minister understands "that the airline as a whole—Aer Lingus and Aerlínte—taking both the transatlantic and European sectors together —will have a modest surplus for that year." If the Minister had the information on which to base that judgement, presumably he had corresponding information with regard to Aer Lingus and Aerlínte.

Later in his statement, after giving the statistics of the number of passengers carried by Aer Lingus, the Minister said:—

In the year ended the 31st March, 1961, Aerlínte carried 35,176 passengers, an increase of 51 per cent. or 11,898 passengers on the 1959-60 figure. The total amount of cargo carried was 244 tons which was two and a half times more than the amount carried in 1959-60. The amount of mail carried was 49 tons, an increase of 11 per cent. on the 1959-60 figure. The Aerlínte financial results for the twelve months ended 31st March, 1960, showed that there was an operating loss of £589,080 for that year, compared with an operating loss of £788,599 for the eleven months ended 31st March, 1959. The accounts for the six months ended 30th September, 1960, showed an operating surplus of £143,000 compared with a deficit of £286,000 in the same period of 1959.

He then goes on to say:

In the last three months of the financial year 1960/61 the Company operated its own Boeing jet aircraft and it is the invariable experience that the Winter months are not as favourable as the Summer months.

That is the strangest non sequitur I ever read. He does not go on and tell us what he means by that, except to say: “Neverthless the prospects of the Company are bright” Oddly enough, having given us results up to the six months ending 30th September, he then jumps the three months between September to January, resumes the tale for January-March, 1961, and says that: 5,837 passengers as compared with 3,085, were carried comparing January-March, 1961, with January-March, 1960. “This trend is continuing and forward bookings are very promising,” he says.

I suggest to the Minister that if he has the information on which to forecast a modest surplus in the year for those two companies, he must have corresponding information which will enable him to tell us approximately the surplus for Aer Lingus and the deficit for Aerlínte. It would be much better to tell us that, than to give us that Delphic calculation. How can one know that A plus B equals 10 if one does not know the value of A or B? Can that make sense? To know that A plus B equals 10, you must know what A or B are, because if you know what either A or B is, then, if A is unascertainable, the answer is that A amounts to 10 minus B, or if B is unascertainable, B equals 10 minus A.

There is one thing certain: if the net result is a modest surplus or £10, you must have a corresponding loss-no more—in either one of the different constituent parts which have gone to make up the modest surplus. From that proposition there can be no escape. I suggest that it is self-deception for the Minister to pretend he does not know the value of A and B, if he can vouch to the House that the sum of them represents a modest surplus.

I should like to be reassured on certain important matters. Most of the airlines at present are throwing heavy emphasis on their ability, with modern jet aircraft, to travel direct from the begining of the journey to the end. Reading international advertisments for Pan-Am, T.W.A., Air France, the Dutch and the Scandinavian combines, it is noticeable that they state their ability to travel from Rome to New York, Paris to New York or London to New York in one stage. Great emphasis is laid upon that.

Are we in a position, with the equipment we now have, to give a corresponding unqualified guarantee in respect of the Shannon-New York and the New York-Shannon trip, that in all the circumstances our equipment can make the journey in one stage? I saw recently that President Kennedy, when returning on a military aircraft from Paris, stopped at Gander to ensure that before his arrival in Washington, he would get a night's sleep, before he embarked upon the dull grind of his presidential duties. I cannot imagine anyone going to Gander. I was there once and I could not rest until I got out of it because one manages to suffer from claustrophobia in one of the most exposed spots of the world, surrounded by forests and tundra. It is a most desolate spot. I should like to be reassured by the Minister that we are in the position, with the equipment we have acquired, to make the flight from Shannon to Boston or New York without the necessity for any intermediate stop arising, through the necessity for re-fuelling or activities of that kind.

There is no use in pretending, and I do not want to pretend, that I share the view that once you have taken a gamble, you are in it and cannot get out of it. I did not believe that our entry into the transatlantic air war was a wise or prudent enterprise. I still do not believe it was. I am quite certain that Aer Lingus was not only wise, but I never doubted our capacity to build up that service into something that would equal, or excel, any corresponding service in Europe. I think all our resources should be mustered and deployed to keep the service of Aer Lingus in the forefront of international aeronautics. We have the personnel to do that; we have the facilities, and there is no reason at all why we should fall behind in the race.

The situation in regard to transatlantic transport is quite another cup of tea. We are a small country with a population of under 3,000,000. As Deputy Russell pointed out, it is common knowledge that, in the course of the next decade, the type of aircraft necessary to operate up-to-date transatlantic services will change progressively and the capital burden will grow. We are already taking very heavy losses on this traffic. I doubt if we will ever break even on it. Mark you, the equipment we now have is as up-to-date as that of any airline in the world. I think the Boeing 707 we are operating is as up-to-date a machine as any airline in the world is in a position to put in the sky. In five years' time we will be in a radically different situation.

Goodness knows I am not an expert on transport problems but, if we are going to operate a transatlantic service, our minimum equipment must be three machines because we will have to keep two operating in order to maintain the schedule. In peak periods it may be requisite to operate three. One thing we have got to have is a standby because in modern circumstances, if people book jet aircraft depending on its time schedule and its amenity, one simply cannot offer an entirely different kind of transport in the event of one of our jet aircraft being temporarily withdrawn from service for normal servicing operations. Therefore we must face the fact that a minimum of three aircraft is requisite to maintain a transatlantic schedule. The capital cost of that will be gigantic and it seems to be true—though this is a matter again of technical detail—that as the capital cost of these aircraft grows, their passenger capacity must grow with it, because a very high occupancy is absolutely essential in order to attempt to break even with capital cost and the minimal provision for depreciation requisite for maintaining the service.

The situation as I see it is, therefore, that we have Aer Lingus growing, expanding profitably, justifying itself most comprehensively, providing a service which is in every respect excellent, financing the capital invested in it and generally doing an admirable job. With Aerlínte we have a service which, I understand, is quite excellent. We have a splendid personnel. At the moment we have excellent aircraft, but we are taking staggering losses. Now no one must find fault with that if that merely represents the initial stages of getting into the picture, blazing the trail. The problem is: are we not faced with a situation in which the evolution will be that the more irrevocably we are committed to that venture the heavier our capital costs will become and the more staggering will be our losses, to a point ultimately at which Aer Lingus would be quite unable to meet, as the Minister suggests it has met in the past year, the deficit of the sister company, Aerlínte?

I would far sooner see the profit of Aer Lingus ploughed back into Aer Lingus so that, as well as keeping abreast of what the others offer, we can be a step ahead of them. Mark you, I think we can be, but I do not think Parliament wants Aer Lingus to pay a profit to the Treasury. I think Oireachtas Éireann would cheerfully see Aer Lingus use its annual surpluses for servicing its capital and improving its facilities. We might as well face it: it is one of those awkward facts that, in respect of certain services, such as transport, power and light, State-operated enterprises, once they come off, can use their surpluses to improve their services. They have no dividends to pay. We are adopting the strange device here that, having developed this admirable service, we are now driven into the position in which the entire surplus, which might be used to keep Aer Lingus away in front of all competition, will be poured into Aerlínte, which may well be starting a race that it can never win.

Think on what Aerlínte means. We are now operating between New York, Boston and Ireland. T.W.A., Pan-Am., B.O.A.C. and Trans-Canada, all these lines, are operating not only from their capital to New York—that is only half their journey—but right across the United States. If they can tap Chicago, Salt Lake, San Francisco, and all the points in between, for traffic they have got an immense initial advantage over us. But nobody has corresponding advantages over us in regard to our Aer Lingus operations. We have been able to run services to any point in Britain or Europe where it suits us to do so. We have been able to try out routes to see if there is a demand and, when it proved there was not, to drop them without any crippling expenditure at all.

I rejoice to learn—I am astonished the Minister has not seen fit to mention it here today—that Aer Lingus is at present investigating the possibility of the acquisition of jet aircraft of medium size so that we can move over to provide jet services on the European lines. I think that is an admirable development. It is made possible by the splendid services that Aer Lingus is operating. That is the kind of progress and development I welcome. I should love to have it to tell that Aer Lingus was providing an all-jet service on these intermediate routes before any other air company in the world. I think the publicity value of that would be invaluable. I think that, if we were in a position to say in respect of services between Great Britain and every other country, Aer Lingus was one jump ahead, blazing the trail, the advantage would be incalculable from the point of view of attracting passengers who would prefer Aer Lingus services. They would be coming with their hats in their hands to a company like Aer Lingus which had acquired the reputation of always being in front of progress, so that they would have it to tell that Aer Lingus, which was notorious for investing a large amount of capital in its services, having surveyed the whole field, had chosen their aircraft. That is the kind of thing that is valuable publicity, not only from the point of view of attracting custom but also from the point of view of getting advantageous terms from the suppliers of aircraft.

I recognise that there may be force in the argument to which Deputy Russell referred. I believe he said he understood the Taoiseach was apprehensive that if we did not operate from Shannon other airlines would by-pass Shannon, that unless we operated this service others would not bother to call. Others are not bothering to call. When Shannon was first built, of course, every transatlantic service called at Shannon as the first point of call. It is notorious that the vast majority of the Continental services and services to London are by-passing Shannon every day but I very much doubt if any of them would face with equanimity the disappearance of Shannon, as I have already said. I believe it would be possible to keep Shannon operating without getting ourselves involved in this staggering cost which we are meeting and which Deputy Russell envisages may grow as our obligations to maintain larger and larger jet aircraft arise in the effort to maintain our place in the transatlantic travel field.

I was rather surprised also that in seeking further capital the Minister did not take the opportunity of dealing in greater detail with the prospects of freight traffic. I remember saying in this House 15 years ago, just after the war, that with the situation which was developing then, the long-term prospects of Shannon were extremely ambiguous because, with the capacity in aircraft to travel much greater distances non-stop, their tendency to come down at Shannon would grow less and less but that I recalled that the port of Hamburg and the port of Rotterdam had grown great on entrepót trade, especially the port of Hamburg, and that it appeared to me that in the new world to which we were moving it was not inconceivable that you could shove back entrepót trade from the west coast of Continental Europe to the west coast of Ireland. I also said that it seemed that it ought to be possible to bring bulk freight into Shannon and by providing adequate facilities there to persuade people to break the bulk there and to distribute to the Continent of Europe.

That proposal was then derided by the Minister for Industry and Commerce who is now the Taoiseach as being of relative insignificance, not important to the main purpose of maintaining Shannon Airport in being. I expressed the view then that it was the only hope in the long term of permanently maintaining Shannon as a viable airport.

I still believe that that prospect has never been adequately investigated. It is something on which it would be legitimate to take a formidable gamble. It would be a considerable gamble but at least it would have this quality about it that it would be a once-and-for-all gamble, with a limited cost which you would have to stake in the full knowledge that you might lose it but, if you lost it that would be the end of your loss because if you were going to make Shannon into an effective entrepót port you would have to examine the whole range of merchandise passing into the Continent of Europe from outside at the present time and provide a complete storage capacity for every variety of traffic that is passing through the ports of Hamburg and Rotterdam at the present time.

That would involve very heavy capital cost. Much of that capital cost would be in the provision of refrigeration and obscure forms of storage and accommodation which you would have to realise might never be used but, if you wanted to acquire for the port the kind of reputation that Hamburg and Rotterdam have, that is, that they can handle anything, whatever the complications may be, you would have to start right from the bottom up and provide all that kind of accommodation at Shannon on a scale adequate to cover any possible development of air transport of that character, say, for a period of ten years ahead.

If we did that, we would have something which, as I say, would be a limited risk and which would have some prospect of paying a magnificent dividend if it came off. If it came off, it would have the immense added advantage that it would become a self-supporting enterprise because its surpluses, which are to be measured, remember, by the phenomenal wealth of ports like Rotterdam and Hamburg, could be ploughed back into expanding the facilities and amenities at Shannon.

Let me be clear. I do not want to suggest for a moment that a bulk of goods comparable with that which passes through Hamburg or Rotterdam can ever in our lifetime be anticipated as passing through an airport because the range of goods for which air transport is suitable is very much more restricted than the range of goods being carried by sea to Hamburg and Rotterdam but Hamburg and Rotterdam have grown infinitely great as compared with all other European ports because they are in the entrepót trade and have acquired that reputation.

If you want to go into France a great majority of people will go in through Rotterdam rather than in through Marseilles because the distribution facilities are at Rotterdam. If you want to go into Continental Europe a great majority of people will go in through Hamburg rather than go on to Gdynia or some of the more accessible ports even further east because they have the facilities for redistribution.

There is another matter. They, of course, depend largely on their rail facilities in addition to the extraordinary docks system they have built up. The advantage of air transport is that there are not any rails associated with aeroplanes. They can fly direct to the distribution centre.

I do not deny that there is a risk in that but I believe the burden of that transhipment could be shared with Aer Lingus and might very conceivably provide very profitable occupation for certain surplus equipment that Aer Lingus must carry in order to meet the possibility of momentary breakdowns or servicing of aircraft. While at the present stage servicing equipment may be required to stand part of its time idle, if there were such a development at Shannon it could be mobilised to assist in the distribution of the broken cargoes that would originate from Shannon Airport. I still believe that is a possibility. I admit freely it is something that would have to be examined by experts. I doubt if it has ever got the consideration which is its due.

On this occasion when the Minister for Transport and Power is seeking to raise more capital, which I think is capital not only for Aer Lingus or Aerlínte but for Aer Rianta—and in fact Aer Rianta is, for the purpose of this Bill, the company—I am surprised he did not tell us something about the development of the factories at Shannon.

The reason I did not elaborate on that is that the Estimate will be coming up in about three weeks' time. The question of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company is not really germane to this Bill at all.

Perhaps that goes to the very heart of our difference about this. The important thing is to keep our eyes on the available traffic. I sometimes think the Minister's principal concern is to keep his eyes on the aircraft and the more excitement being created by them, the better pleased he is. I like to see nice aircraft flying about in the sky but I like to ask myself what is in them because of the painful experience we already had on which I elaborated to the House. I should not like to see Aer Lingus which I believe has a great future suffer because of the activities of its more profligate sister. I cannot but feel that in his heart of hearts the Minister has a soft corner for the houri of this company, whereas the respectable dowager and honest-living woman has little or no appeal for him. I have a more conservative approach to this matter. I like the honest woman who is going about her lawful occasions. Although the other may have a more attractive exterior, I should like to know what the cost is. It is time to ask ourselves the question: can we afford to keep her any more?

I am concerned about the prospects of traffic, whence it is to come. If the Minister had been in a position to tell us today that there was a great pool of traffic generating in the Shannon Free Airport and that that would help Aerlínte in the years that lie ahead, I would have been very much relieved in mind. When one comes to examine the figure and assess how important passenger traffic is to the success or failure of the transatlantic service, one realises that traffic is the thing that matters.

As I understand the position, Aerlínte is carrying relatively little freight from Shannon. I understand it is another company altogether that is serving Shannon Free Airport for the bulk of its freight transport. Which Deputies know what airline carries the freight from Shannon Free Airport? Is there not some airline called Western Seaways or something like that?

Seaboard and Western Airlines.

I understand they are carrying the bulk of the freight. Suppose they stopped in the morning serving Shannon, could Aerlínte take up the load? Are our aircraft designed for the purpose? I do not know. We have three Boeings which carry passengers. I know the passenger liners carry passengers and freight. I do not know whether the Boeing airliners can do so. Perhaps the Minister did not deal with the output of the Shannon Free Airport or with the Shannon trading position because it is not relevant to the affairs of Aerlínte and Aer Lingus but it would have helped us if he had said even that much.

I want to direct the attention of the House to the overall finances of Aerlínte. Secondly, I want to go on record as saying that I cannot agree with Deputy Russell that anybody has felt apprehension about Aer Lingus. Most of us foresaw that Aer Lingus had a bright future, that it was something in which it was wise and essential to invest our money and which most of us have felt has amply justified itself since it was established. I join with Deputy Russell in offering them our congratulations on the silver jubilee of their establishment. I join with him in congratulating them on having retained in their ranks some of the distinguished personnel who have been with them from the very beginning and who have reflected glory on the company which had the privilege of employing them. I congratulate them on their performance and it may gratify them to know that everyone in the House looks upon Aer Lingus as an organisation of which this country may be proud.

I should like to hear from the Minister specifically whether we can meet confidently the challenge of other airlines in providing, travelling both east and west, a direct flight from Shannon to Boston or New York without being forced to make a refuelling stop at any intermediate point. I should like the Minister to say when he comes to conclude what are the figures on which he bases the statement:

The financial accounts of the company for the year ended 31st March, 1961, are not available but I understand that the airlines as a whole—Aer Lingus and Aerlínte —taking both the transatlantic and European sectors together, will have a modest surplus for that year.

If I describe the revenue of Aer Lingus as A and that of Aerlínte as B and their sum as the modest sum to which the Minister referred, would he give us the corresponding amount of the items A and B for the period he mentioned?

I find myself substantially in agreement with the point of view that Deputy Dillon has expounded to the House. We all realise that in modern conditions an air company must expand. It is also necessary for the Irish airlines, if they are to stay in the race today, to modernise their equipment. They have not only to modernise their equipment every four or five years but they have continuously to be able to put modern aircraft on the lines so as to keep themselves in the position they are in already.

Before I go any further I should like to pay a tribute to Aer Lingus. It is not a very powerful or wealthy corporation as compared with other corporations carrying out services throughout Europe but it has given, right from the beginning, a magnificent service. They are noted particularly for their caution. I know myself, having flown by Aer Lingus a good deal, that they never take the slightest risk, even at the expense of holding passengers up in airports which is not a popular thing to do. They always do it if there is the slightest doubt one way or the other. They have also managed to produce a safer service and to have a public record of which every Irish person no matter where he or she may be can be proud.

Therefore, I think it is rather unfortunate that Aer Lingus, in showing a sizable profit for giving such a magnificent service, finds itself in the position of having to support the losing member of the firm. In their continental flights, B.E.A. have recently turned over to the more modern type of jet aircraft. It is indisputable that we shall have to do the same. I feel it would be quite possible for Aer Lingus to do that themselves on the existing capital and on the profits were it not that they have to support the losing member of the firm.

I remember when the Taoiseach, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, was responsible for introducing the Bill. One of his main arguments was that unless we produce our own line from Shannon Airport we would lose the trade that was in existence there and that we might even lose Shannon Airport altogether as it was going to be over-flown by jet aircraft. Again, I find myself substantially in agreement with previous speakers that there was never any question of the great airlines of the world permitting Shannon Airport to go. Shannon Airport is perhaps one of the greatest safeguards that the transatlantic alliance have at present. Never more than a month or so goes by that one does not open a paper and find that some lame duck has limped into Shannon Airport on maybe two or three engines. The existence of Shannon Airport is a safeguard to these flights.

Were it ever necessary, as it never will be, to consider the closing down of Shannon Airport, the other airlines would come forward and if necessary subsidise it to keep it in existence. Therefore, I do not think it was a reasonable argument for the present Taoiseach, when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce, to make in favour of opening this line.

No matter how the Minister glosses over it as he did rather quickly and rather astutely in his speech, the fact is that Aer Lingus, with all its efficiency and all it has done to build up its high prestige, is carrying the other airline on its back. It looks to me as if it will have to do so for the next few years. Nobody will dispute that any State-controlled or State supported company such as Aer Rianta must, in order to keep in competition with the trend of events in the modern world of today, come to this House to look for money. However, I should like to feel satisfied that this Dáil will not vote money to embark on tremendous expenditure to procure a lot more aircraft in order to expand the existing transatlantic line. It may be desirable to keep that line in existence but I should like to feel that the greater portion of that money will be spent in maintaining Aer Lingus in the high position which it holds in the air services today.

A sum of £3,000,000 approximately is the amount the Minister is looking for. I think he has been singularly lacking in information to this House as to what the actual expenditure will be. The only real information we have had from him is that the air company proposes to go into a hotel venture. I cannot help feeling that the best motto is "Everyone for his own job". An air company knows nothing about hotels. It is true that some of the other wealthier corporations have started hotels in different places. There does not seem to be any particular indication in the wide earthly world why a State company should expand its capital, one of the reasons being to provide a hotel service. At one time we had a hotel service in this country by a State or semi-State sponsored body —Bord Fáilte—which should know a certain amount about that type of project. It proved a dismal failure. The hotels were sold, many of them at a loss.

Probably some of our colleagues on the other side will say that this side of the House was responsible for that venture. That may be. However, all things on that side are not always successful either. I am drawing the parallel to show that the Minister by this scheme is walking the company into something which they are not competent to carry out. They have not the authority or the facility or the knowledge to do so nor do I think it is wise or sensible for them to enter into that project. There might be an argument in favour of having some form of hotel, if private enterprise were not prepared to produce it, in the region or vicinity of Shannon Airport but the idea of the Air Company putting up hotels in Cork and Dublin seems nothing short of ludicrous. I suggest the Minister should abandon that project altogether.

I spoke of my appreciation of Aer Lingus. There is one criticism I should like to make and it is a criticism I make from personal experience. Up to some months ago, the Aer Lingus terminus in Dublin was in Cathal Brugha Street which lies adjacent to the main bus routes. It lies adjacent to several taxi ranks where it is possible for incoming passengers to procure transport. Quite a lot of people who come into Dublin have never been in this country before and know nothing whatsoever of the city. They have no idea how to get anywhere or to go to any place. The position that obtains at present is that they are brought to the bus terminus at the Busarus which is away from the central bus routes of the city. There is no taxi rank whatsoever there. I have had personal experience of this on two occasions.

I happened to come into Dublin on a Sunday evening by Aer Lingus and to be dumped at the Busarus. With me was a load of foreigners. I think I was the only Irish citizen in the group. We stood there in the cold evening while an official blew a whistle for a taxi. There was no bus to take anybody anywhere unless they wanted to travel to the remote parts of rural Ireland. This went on for quite a time. About every ten minutes or so, a taxi turned up. Eventually, when I got out of the cold into a taxi, I shared it with a German because he could not get one. He was going to one part of the city and I was going to another.

I facilitated him because he was a non-national. I asked the taxi-driver why we could not have a taxi outside so that we could walk over to it as in any other city. He told me they were not allowed to stay there, that that was one of the regulations. If that is one of the regulations, I suggest to the Minister he transfer the terminus from the Bus Station to some other place where incoming visitors will be facilitated. If the Minister looks at it from an unbiased point of view, he will see that one of the worst impressions that can be created on people coming to Ireland for the first time is to find they have to stand with their luggage on the side of the street for approximately a quarter of an hour. That is what has happened in two instances.

There is one other criticism I want to make. It does not entirely concern Aer Lingus. I ask the Minister as the Minister in charge to make representations on this matter to his colleague or to whoever may be responsible for it. I have noticed in travelling abroad that in numerous airports there is practically no customs control whatever. I know the Minister does not make the customs control but I am asking him to make this representation to his colleague. Many people come to this country, again for the first time. They have travelled through Paris Airport and London Airport and they get through in quick time.

Many Americans come here with quite a considerable amount of luggage, having travelled extensively throughout the world on these tours. I have heard them complain of being held up for an unreasonable length of time and having every case opened. I know the Minister and his Department are not responsible for it. On several occasions, I and other Deputies have brought up this subject in the House and we have had no satisfaction. If we Deputies cannot get satisfaction, perhaps if the Minister takes it up with his colleague, he will see that this unhappy state of affairs does not persist. I feel it is detrimental to air traffic coming into Ireland.

In the last Air Navigation Bill we had in 1959, the share capital of Aer Rianta was increased from £2,000,000 to £8,000,000. The bulk of that increase was to facilitate the purchase of the three jet aircraft for the Atlantic route. On that occasion, we had a Second Reading speech from the Taoiseach, speaking, I assume, on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I trust the Minister will not consider what I am now about to say as a reflection on himself, because it is not intended as such, but in that speech we had much more information on Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta than is contained in the four-page speech of the Minister today. It is due to the House that we should have much more information than is contained in that speech. We have had various measures containing proposals to spend sums ranging from £100,000 to £1,000,000 and there have been more detailed explanations of them than we have had on this.

I agree that if the share capital of Aer Rianta is to be increased by £3,000,000, it does not necessarily mean that the Minister for Finance has to increase taxation to the extent of £3,000,000. The important thing is that we are going to allow the further expenditure of £3,000,000 by a holding company called Aer Rianta. I do not think it is sufficient for the Minister to give us, in a little over a page, a report on the workings of Aer Lingus and Aerlínte over the past four years. Perhaps the Minister in his reply will give us much more information in justification of the proposal contained in the Bill.

In the course of the debate on the 1959 Bill, replying to objections raised from various parts of the House, the Taoiseach said Aerlínte should be "out of the red" by 1960. I think I have the actual quotation here. At column 1311 of Volume 176 of the Dáil Debates, he had this to say:

If it is likely that 87,500 people will want to fly to Ireland or from Ireland across the Atlantic in that year, how many can Aerlínte get, operating these propeller driven Super-Constellation aircraft? If the original Aerlínte estimate that they can get the transportation of that number proves correct, there is no question that Aerlínte will break level on its accounts in that year, and, indeed, I think it will be able to show a not inconsiderable revenue surplus.

I agree that is a forecast by the Taoiseach, and no one would tie him to a forecast he made in 1959 in respect of 1960. But surely what the Minister has said in his speech cannot be represented as what the Taoiseach then described as "a not inconsiderable revenue surplus"?

The figures given by the Minister do not seem to justify the prophecy the Taoiseach made on that occasion. I was one of many people doubtful about the success of a transatlantic air service. Many of us who expressed doubts at that time were told we were unpatriotic. However, I still have doubt at that time were told we were unpatriotic. However, I still have doubts about the transatlantic air service, but, like other people, I find myself in this position: that the House, by a majority, decided to go ahead with this project and now it is nearly too late to turn back. Much money has been expended on this venture.

The Minister is proposing today that the capital of Aerlínte be further expanded by £3,000,000. I do not know why we have decided to go into one of the most highly competitive businesses in the world. We have no particular talent for running a transatlantic air service in which we are competing with countries with far greater resources than ours. Here we are competing with countries that have been pioneers in flight and we expect to make a success of it. If we do, well and good, but I am pretty doubtful that we will.

All the evidence seems to point to the fact that while Aer Lingus has been successful, Aerlínte has not been particularly successful. How far we are prepared to go is anybody's guess. This project has been encouraged by the present Government mainly for the sake of the tourist trade. That is what the Taoiseach said in 1959 and the present Minister for Transport and Power stressed the importance of the American tourist in his speech today. I wonder do we overestimate the importance of the American tourist? Do we under-estimate the importance and value of the British tourist? When I say British tourist, I include, naturally, the tens of thousands of Irish people, particularly those from Britain, who visit this country every year. Do we under-estimate the value of the tens of thousands of Irish people now in Britain who would dearly love to visit this country each year if cheaper facilities were provided for them?

Perhaps the Minister could tell us what proportion of tourists from the United States come through Shannon. I could not put a figure on it or attempt to do so but I know that many of the United States tourists—one could say American tourists because they also come from Canada—come through other ports, seaports, and through Dublin airport. Many of the 35,000 people who go from Shannon to Boston and New York are also Irish citizens and the 35,000 who land at Shannon must contain a big proportion of people who go from this country to Boston and New York on ordinary business. If this service is being retained merely to maintain in turn the American tourist industry I wonder if it is worth while? If these people are going to visit Ireland they will do so whether they land in France, Belgium, Britain or any other European country. The fact that we have a service to this country does not necessarily mean that we will get any more tourists than we would get in the ordinary course of events, that is, if they landed at some British or continental airport.

The Taoiseach, to give him his due, made a very accurate forecast in 1959 when he said it was expected that about 87,500 people would travel from the United States of America across the Atlantic in 1960 and that it would be reasonable to assume that we would capture 40 per cent. of that trade. I think 35,000 represents 40 per cent. of that figure but the Taoiseach was not entirely accurate when he attempted to forecast what they would mean in terms of cash because the loss, as stated in the Minister's speech, for the 12 months ended 31st March, 1960, was £589,080. That does not coincide with the Taoiseach's forecast in July, 1959, when he said that the Aerlínte service should show a "not inconsiderable revenue surplus."

With small experience of Aer Lingus, I also pay tribute to that particular company for its efficiency and for the efficiency and service of its officials. I do not think the criticism that was brought to the attention of the Minister for Transport and Power by Deputy Esmonde was quite justified. It is a small point and not necessarily a blemish on the record of Aer Lingus. It would indeed add to the prestige and general efficiency of Aer Lingus if small things like that were rectified so that those who travel by Aer Lingus, when they arrive in the country, would maintain the high opinion they have of Aer Lingus and be impressed by the facilities that are available to them from the airport.

I spoke about the British tourist potential. I do not say that the Minister under-estimates it but I think it could be more fully exploited. At present we have an airport in Dublin and at Shannon but for continental and cross-Channel travel the one most used is Dublin airport. Very shortly, I assume, Cork airport will be open for traffic but from what parts of Britain and the Continent I do not know. Has the Minister ever considered the establishment of two or three other airports in other parts of the country such as Galway, Sligo, Tralee or Wexford? Such a move in my opinion would do a tremendous amount for the tourist industry. Those in Great Britain who want to travel to Ireland want to do so with the minimum trouble. As it is, a traveller from London who wants to visit Mayo, for perhaps a week, does not think it worth while because he travels, possibly, by air to Dublin and then has to endure a very long journey across the midlands to Mayo or possibly down to the southern portion of the country.

We could, I think, attract many more people as visitors if we had better air facilities for the benefit of places like Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon and Galway. People in various parts of Britain would certainly be attracted in their thousands to visit their homes or friends in this country for short periods if they knew they could get to these places within a reasonable period of say, four or five hours as against the time they now have to spend travelling, of anything between 30 and 48 hours.

I do not know the details of the financial tie-up between Aer Lingus and Aerlínte but I think an effort should be made to have the two companies run on their own, so to speak. Aer Lingus is a company which is earning general praise from the people of this country and from people abroad who have had occasion to use its services. Aerlínte is another matter. Aerlínte is a company that has been described as being entirely dependent on Aer Lingus. The House should therefore be informed as to the exact position of Aer Lingus and of Aerlínte. I do not want to oppose the proposals in the measure now before the House but the House would be much more satisfied if the Minister in his reply answered the different questions put to him and gave us a little more information as to the details of expenditure in the general running of Aerlínte and the subsidiary companies.

Like other Deputies who have spoken, I want to pay a tribute to Aerlínte on the magnificent progress it has made since its inception.

It is a matter of pride to all Irish people to find that our first transatlantic airline should prove so successful in such a relatively short time. It is in this frame of mind that the House is agreeable to the Minister asking it to vote what, by comparison with other State financial provisions, is a pretty formidable sum, but we are confident there is a future for our Irish airlines and, in particular, the first line that was established, Aer Lingus. However, I do wish to say to the Minister that his request to the Irish taxpayer and the Irish investor to expand the investment in air traffic would meet with much more enthusiasm if he had met the ordinary people in relation to their proposals regarding surface transport with a little more understanding, and if he had provided those of our people who do not avail of air transport with the facilities they require, particularly in those parts of the country where he has eliminated the railways and where——

If the Deputy is going to proceed on these lines, I do not mind repeating all that I said on the debate, which lasted for a week, on the closing of the West Cork railway.

I take it the Deputy is making a passing reference.

In view of the remarks just passed, the Minister has not by any means heard the last on the closure of the West Cork railway——

Acting Chairman

But for this evening, possibly he has.

There will be another occasion on which to discuss it. The Minister will appreciate how tempting it is, when he asks the House with such confidence to vote £3,000,000 for an airline and disturbs the whole economy of the people in this area——

I have not disturbed it. There were virtually no complaints.

The Minister should go in his State car.

If we are to have the entire debate over again, I will be quite prepared to——

Acting Chairman

When the Chair stands up, it is customary for members to resume their seats. The Deputy will please come to the Air Navigation Bill.

Certainly, Sir. May I repeat that the House is agreeable to providing this huge sum of money to the Minister. We are in quite a co-operative frame of mind. This Bill provides us with the opportunity of making a few comments in regard to this aspect of transport, the question of the expansion of our Irish airlines.

There are only a few remarks I wish to make. I wish to repeat the question Deputy Esmonde put when he asked who was responsible for the transfer of the city terminal from Cathal Brugha Street to Busarus and why was it done. The experience which Deputy Esmonde had was one which I also had in relation to being dumped out at Busarus in the dark and having to go as far as Amiens St. Railway Station to secure a taxi for people who had no transport to take them from Busarus.

My criticism is more for having introduced people to Ireland by means of the worst slums in Dublin in the approach to Busarus. Why the bus could not, if it had to go to Busarus, come down Parnell Square and O'Connell Street when approaching the city, in view of the few buses which operate between the Airport and the city terminus, I cannot understand. We know that in every capital where there is an airport, they go out of their way to provide a proper access to the city from the airport. The approach we had to Cathal Brugha Street in the earlier days was infinitely more favourable than the present approach through Marlborough Street. I would ask the Minister to look into this matter which was first voiced today by Deputy Esmonde.

Another matter is that many visitors have expressed their surprise to me that we had not indicated to them, on the flight over the Atlantic, what facilities were available in the shops at Shannon and that quite often it was only on their return journey, when possibly their exchequer was somewhat depleted, that they saw the opportunities there were for purchasing suitable souvenirs and very valuable gifts to bring back to America. The opportunity should be availed of to see that proper notice is provided on the Aerlínte planes to indicate to the passengers the facilities available in the shops at Shannon. Also, in regard to Aer Lingus—and this is a very small grouse—in order to keep some people's blood pressure down, it might be well if more than one of our national newspapers were provided on the planes.

I should also like to express the concern there is in Cork city and county about the repeated delays in opening Cork Airport. We know that on the last occasion it would appear at first glance there was a legitimate delay caused by the cement strike, but it is also true that Cork County Council are ahead of schedule in their part of the undertaking, the provision of proper access roads to the airport site. This further delay has created much concern in the minds of those people in Cork city and county who have been awaiting the provision of an airport for so long. I trust the Minister will ensure that there will be no further delays and that this airport in the southern capital will be provided in the very near future.

I have very little time in which to reply.

Acting Chairman

Would the Minister like to move the adjournment?

I will start by saying that the reason I did not give so much detailed information was that the Estimate for my Department will be coming before the House soon. I thought I had given sufficient information to indicate the need for capital. I shall reply to virtually all the questions asked during the course of the debate and with this in view, I should like to move the adjournment.

Debate adjourned.