The Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1936 is the main statute governing civil aviation in this country. There were amending Acts in 1942 and 1946. The main purpose of this Bill is to provide for the continuance of the payment of subsidies to the air companies. The remaining objects mainly deal with amendments and clarifications of the existing law which experience has shown to be necessary and which, while not involving any radical changes, have been shown to be of importance to civil aviation.
The objects of this Bill are stated briefly in the Explanatory Memorandum circulated to Deputies and Senators with the text of the Bill on 27th January, 1950. Section 79 of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1936, fixed at £500,000 the aggregate amount which might be paid to the air companies by way of subsidy during a period of five years from 14th August, 1936. The period was extended for five years from 26th May, 1942, by the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act, 1942. The sum of £500,000 was later increased to £750,000 by Section 19 of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1946, and the period in which payments might be made was extended for a further five years from 31st July, 1946. The limit of £750,000 which might be paid by way of subsidy was reached in March, 1948. It is necessary to make provision in the present Bill to continue the payment of subsidies to the air companies.
The Bill enables the payment of subsidies to be continued for a further period of five years from the date of enactment. Because of the difficulty of estimating what moneys would be required over a period of five years it is thought better that the Bill should not specify a limit on the amount to be paid during the period. Any subsidy which has to be paid will be subject to the control of the Dáil in the usual way as provision will be made in the appropriate Vote each year. Aer Lingus showed a loss of £162,000 for the year ended 31st March, 1949. The original estimate for the current year was £125,000 and they expect to do considerably better than that.
Section 3 of the Bill makes clear that the Minister has power to prosecute in respect of breaches of the Air Navigation and Transport Acts, 1936 to 1946, and of this Act. Section 5 of the Bill brings the definition of "State aircraft" into accord with that contained in the Chicago Convention of 1944. The 1936 Act defines State aircraft as military aircraft and every aircraft used exclusively in State services including postal, customs and police services. This follows the definition in the Paris Convention of 1919, which was replaced by the Chicago Convention of 1944. The definition of State aircraft in the Chicago Convention does not include aircraft used in postal services. The intention of the 1939 Act was that the definition of State aircraft should apply to aircraft of all States but the wording of the definition was such that it might be interpreted as applying only to aircraft of this State. As Ireland has ratified the Chicago Convention, it is desired to bring the definition of "State aircraft" into conformity with that convention and also to make clear that the term relates to State aircraft of States other than Ireland.
Sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Bill clarify certain of the powers conferred on the Minister by the 1936 Act relating to the acquisition and disposal of land and the maintenance of water supply, sewage and other works ancillary to aerodromes.
Section 6 of the Bill is intended to clarify the powers of the Minister in relation to the acquisition of land. Section 36 of the Principal Act defines the purposes for which land may be acquired either by agreement or compulsorily as including purposes relating directly to the safety of aircraft. It was the intention of that Act to allow the acquisition of land for all requirements of an aerodrome but the manner in which Section 36 is framed might suggest that land could be acquired only for purposes relating directly to the safety of aircraft. Section 6 of this Bill is intended to make it clear that the Minister may acquire land at or near an aerodrome by agreement or compulsorily for purposes such as the erection of radio beacons to assist the navigation of aircraft or the erection of ancillary buildings.
Section 37 of the 1936 Act provides for the establishment and maintenance of aerodromes and the provision and maintenance in connection therewith of roads, bridges, approaches, apparatus, equipment and buildings and other accommodation. To remove any doubts it is desirable that specific powers should now be taken to provide and maintain water mains, sewers and sewage disposal works, electric lines, lights and signs. This is done in Section 7. The Minister is authorised by Section 8 of the Bill to enter before conveyance or ascertainment of compensation on any lands compulsorily acquired by him. Where agreement cannot be reached on compensation arbitration proceedings tend to be slow. If the Minister wished to use land in order to comply with an international aviation requirement before a specified date, it might be essential to gain possession of the land without undue delay. Up to the present the normal procedure has been followed and the additional powers now proposed would not be used unless in exceptional circumstances which would warrant entry on land before compensation had been fixed.
Section 10 of the Bill deals with the vesting of lands at Dublin Airport in the Minister. Some of these lands were acquired as long ago as 1918 by the British Government for use as a military aerodrome and are subject to the provisions of the State Lands Act, 1924. The Minister is hampered in making agreements and leases with airlines and others because the procedure laid down in that Act is not quite appropriate as a result of the developments which have taken place since the airport was built. Section 10 is designed to remove these difficulties. Other portions of the lands were acquired by the Minister for Defence and it is now proposed to vest these also in the Minister for Industry and Commerce for convenience of administration.
Section 11 provides that these lands, as well as some other lands acquired at Shannon Airport under Emergency Powers Order, will be treated as if they had been acquired under the 1936 Act. This is being done to ensure that the provisions of the 1936 Act relating to the development of aerodromes will apply to these lands.
Section 42 of the 1936 Act empowers the Minister to dispose of land no longer required by him for the performance of his duties or the exercise of his functions under that Act. His right to lease sites, buildings, space or rooms at State aerodromes or to dispose of land other than land acquired by him under the 1936 Act is not expressly provided for. Section 12 of the Bill puts the position beyond doubt.
The presence of unlighted obstruction such as high buildings in the vicinity of aerodromes may be a hazard to aircraft. It is essential that such obstructions should be marked particularly where there are night operations. It is important that the Minister should have powers where necessary to affix lights or signs to obstructions and that his officers should have access to these lights or signs for maintenance purposes. Section 13 of the Bill proposes to give the Minister such powers. It also provides for the payment of compensation where any person proves that his estate or interest is injuriously affected in consequence of the exercise of these powers.
Recommendations have been made by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, of which Ireland is a member, about controlling the height of obstructions in the vicinity of aerodromes particularly in the areas extending directly from the ends of runways. Up to the present, the Minister has not had power to regulate the height of buildings or other structures in the vicinity of aerodromes, which would constitute a hazard to aircraft. It is now proposed in Section 14 that the Minister will have power to regulate the height of buildings in the vicinity of aerodromes. The Minister may by Order declare a particular area to be a protected area and within that area no buildings may exceed a height fixed by the Minister. Provision is made in Section 14 for the giving of notice to interested parties of the making of a protected area Order and for ensuring that any permit granted by the Minister in connection with a protected area Order shall not operate to release the holder from any restrictions imposed under the Town and Regional Planning Acts, 1934 and 1939. Provision is made for the payment of compensation where any person proves that his estate or interest is injuriously affected in consequence of the making of a protected area Order.
Provision is made for the laying on the Table of each House of the Oireachtas, of every protected area Order as soon as it is made. Either House may pass a resolution annulling such Order within the next subsequent 21 days after it sits.
Section 16 of the Bill enables the Minister to make bye-laws for the maintenance of order and the control of traffic at State aerodromes and lays down penalties for the violation of the bye-laws. The Bill also enables the Minister to make bye-laws for the custody and disposal of lost property found at State aerodromes.
Officers authorised by the Minister will have power to prohibit and restrict the entry of, and to remove, persons, animals and vehicles; to control traffic and enforce speed limits and parking regulations; and to enforce the bye-laws.
Section 22 of the Bill provides that a State aerodrome is a public place for the purpose of any enactment. The provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1933, and of the Licensing Act, 1872, refer to public places and the section is intended to make it clear that the provisions of these Acts apply to State aerodromes. Part X of the Road Traffic Act, 1933, deals with the lighting of vehicles on roads and it is intended that that Act should apply to roads in a State aerodrome.
Section 23 of the Bill provides that for the purpose of the management of Dublin Airport, Aer Rianta may act as agents of the Minister unless and until he otherwise directs. Aer Rianta have been managing the airport since 1940 and no change is contemplated. It is desirable that there should be statutory recognition of this arrangement because of the increasing activity at the airport.
Section 24 of the Bill modifies the Water Works Clauses Acts, 1847 and 1863 so that the Minister may, with the permission of the sanitary authority concerned, sell water to any person from the supply at a State aerodrome. I would be glad if the Seanad would facilitate me in giving me all the stages of this Bill, as it has to become law before the 31st March, since it will be necessary to make certain provisions in regard to subsidies.