This comprehensive Bill which contains 64 sections is worthwhile and can be recommended to the House. Section 17 provides that Aer Rianta may acquire land by agreement, or subject to certain conditions, compulsorily. It also provides that land may be acquired by the company, where the land is not required for immediate use but where the Minister holds that there is a reasonable expectation that the land will be required in the future, for one of the purposes specified in section 18.
I am not happy with this lukewarm section. Perhaps it will give the company the opportunity to acquire land which will not be utilised in years to come. It would be proper planning for Aer Rianta to undertake feasibility studies around all its airports to find out what land is required. Buying huge tracts of land which lie dormant for years is not wise. I hope the Minister will initiate proper planning by Aer Rianta to ensure it acquires sufficient land to meet its requirements in the next decade or two, and thereby ensure it will not invest in property which may not be of paramount importance.
Section 16 assigns to the company the functions previously undertaken by the Minister in relation to the management and development of the three State airports. The company must also ensure that necessary services and facilities are provided at these airports. In addition the company may, subject to certain conditions, establish new airports or become the owner or manager of existing airports.
The logic of Aer Rianta acquiring airports outside the State is dubious. Before this debate was adjourned, I called on Aer Rianta, in the establishment of new airports, to consider areas which have little access to airports. Some parts of my constituency of Cork South-west are 120 miles away from an airport. Bantry Bay is the mariculture capital of Ireland. Mariculture exports need prompt shipment to the continental market to ensure they arrive in first class condition. It is of paramount importance to the development of the mariculture and aquaculture industry along the south-western seaboard that a direct air flight be made available through the construction of a new airport in Bantry. There is a huge demand for this service. There is vast mariculture and aquaculture development in the seashore around Castletownbere, Bantry and Carbery Hundred Isles. If this facility was provided by Aer Rianta, it would help the industry to develop because Bantry is the centre of aquaculture and mariculture development in that area.
We are told mariculture and aquaculture will be the greatest money spinners for this economy in the next decade. If that is true, perhaps somebody will argue in ten or 15 years' time, when I no longer have a seat in this House, for the establishment of an airport in Bantry, like those in Sligo, Waterford or Farranfore. I urge the Minister to ask Aer Rianta to carry out a feasibility study so that a new airport can be built in that area which deserves recognition. I hope the study shows that my proposal is viable.
This is also important from a tourism point of view because the sunny south-west is an important region. There is no train service from Cork city to any part of west Cork. That was taken away in the 1950s and no alternative transport service by sea or air was provided. There is no reason an airport could not be established in Bantry, like that built in Knock by Canon Horan.
Section 27 provides that the appointment, terms and conditions, and removal of the chairperson of the board of directors will be as determined by the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. I am pleased the Minister for Finance will hold the upper hand in this respect because it is necessary that he should have a say in the appointment and activities of the chairman of the company. Section 25 provides that the Minister may, by order, confer additional functions on the company, subject to conditions which may be specified in the order.
Section 41 provides that the Minister may give a direction in writing to the company requiring it to comply with policy decisions of a general kind related to the functions assigned to the company, or to do or refrain from doing anything to which a function of the company relates, which is necessary or expedient in the interests of the State. The company must comply with such a direction from the Minister. Perhaps this is a little high handed. Will it interfere with the natural running of the company? Will the company be tied to the Minister's coat tails so that it is not able to expand as it would like? Is the Minister wise to include this section in the Bill? Do we need it in the Bill?
I would be slow to support a section which would interfere with progress in any company. Perhaps the section could be reworded in such a way that the company would have to seek the Minister's views on such expansion. It might not benefit a company to tie its hands with too many ministerial regulations.
Air transport accounts for 65 per cent of all passenger traffic in and out of Ireland, which is a huge percentage. I can envisage the day when that figure will increase to 75 per cent and over. The emphasis today is on getting from A to B in the shortest possible time. Time will be very valuable in the years ahead. It was not so valuable when we were growing up because it was not possible for us to travel around the globe as quickly as nowadays. Aer Rianta must focus its attention on how it will handle the escalation in passenger traffic in the next decade.
Air transport is an increasing source of polluting emissions, particularly carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. I am pleased to note Ireland is supporting the initiation of action by the European Union to address the problem in the wider international context and with due regard to its effect on national competitiveness. This is a very important matter because polluting emissions must be combated if we are to protect the life of future generations. It is important for Aer Rianta and Irish airlines to meet those requirements.
Aircraft noise poses particular problems in the immediate environs of airports. Ireland is already implementing standards of noise certification and limitation which have been agreed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation through the European Union Civil Aviation Conference. In addition, development planning in the vicinity of airports is monitored and controlled to minimise the impact of aircraft noise. This is a very good attempt by our airlines to minimise such noise. Despite the increase in traffic through our major airports, the EPA reported in 1996 that noise reduction had been achieved by a combination of improvements in aircraft technology and greater attention to operational matters, including noise abatement procedures and the selection of takeoff and landing route orientations to minimise the impact of noise.
I ask the Minister to do everything in his power to retain the duty free service at our airports. From where else will the money come to make our airlines viable? A huge number of jobs will be lost if that service is ended. I ask the Minister to get his European counterparts to support him in this regard and to make a strong case for the retention of the duty free service at our airports.