The policy that underlies this legislation is in keeping with the wider package of Government policies designed to strengthen national and regional competitiveness. I want to ensure that the country's principal gateway airports are in a position to provide cost competitive services and appropriate infrastructure to meet the current and future needs of airlines and other aviation companies while operating to a commercial mandate. Our aim is to encourage as wide a range as possible of reliable, regular and competitive commercial air services for Irish tourism, trade and industry.
Specifically, the Government's reasons for restructuring the State airports are laid out in this Bill and they are as follows. The Government wishes the three airports to be structured in a way that best equips them to deal with the new challenges and opportunities of the 21st century which are facing the whole aviation sector. The Government believes that commercially successful airports in Shannon and Cork will better assist in the economic and tourism related development of their catchment areas. The Government takes the view that autonomous regional boards in Cork and Shannon, with the necessary commercial expertise and background, will give strong and visionary regional leadership to the new airport companies so that both airports can adapt more quickly in a rapidly changing aviation environment.
In so far as market dynamics permit, the establishment of Shannon and Cork airports as separate commercially focused entities will place them in a position to promote and expand their range of services, thereby leading to greater competition with Dublin Airport.
As the country's major airport, Dublin will be encouraged to continue to expand to meet Ireland's requirements for tourism and industrial growth. The three State airports, operating as separate successful commercial State companies, have the potential to expand their business and enhance shareholder value. Airports of similar size to Cork and Shannon have been successful elsewhere and we are confident that both independent airports will emulate best practice in comparable airports of a similar scale and size. In essence the reforms that flow from this legislation are about new beginnings, more choices for the consumers and the customers of airports and for the airlines. It is about growth in sustainable jobs, more business, more opportunity to enthusiastically meet the challenges that lie ahead. I am proceeding with this legislation because I believe the new airport authorities will bring fresh impetus and drive to our major airports in the future.
I would like at this early point to clarify a technical issue on the drafting of the Bill which was raised in press reports this morning. Aer Rianta wrote to me concerning section 12(12), querying whether there might be a drafting error in this subsection. I confirm to Seanad Éireann that the references in this section are in order and that there is no drafting issue. I understand this matter is being raised for discussion on Committee Stage tomorrow, where I can give a fuller explanation. However, I am assured by the Attorney General's office and by the legal advisers to the Department of Transport that there is no error and no drafting issues have to be dealt with in this legislation.
My Cabinet colleagues and I feel strongly that the Bill needs to be enacted now, rather than left in abeyance until the autumn. Three times now the Government has affirmed its policy to restructure the State airports: last July, with the original decision, last October with its decision to draft the necessary legislation and last month with its decision to publish the Bill. On each occasion the Government had before it all the relevant facts and information. The Government's consideration of these matters on three occasions does not amount to rushing the legislation. Quite the contrary, it is dealing with it in a considered and thoughtful way.
For the sake of the airports themselves and the staff working in them, it is important that a clear legislative framework for the restructuring is put in place now. I greatly appreciate the co-operation of this House today and tomorrow in that regard. Before I go any further, I want to deal straightforwardly and unambiguously with an important aspect of these proposals that has received considerable media comment in recent days. It received more comment than some of the matters going on in Iraq, in recent days, from some of the newspapers. I am referring to Aer Rianta's current funding arrangements and the position of bond holders and other lenders to the company. The leaking of a letter recently from the company to my Department was, I believe, designed to create an erroneous and dangerous impression of instability in the company's funder relationships. That was a reckless thing to do. There is no such instability and I deplore the leaking of confidential correspondence of that sort.
It is a normal, albeit important aspect of any company restructuring that communications are maintained between it and its lenders so that the latter are briefed appropriately on how the restructuring will proceed and any necessary discussions or negotiations on specific features of loan agreements are held at the appropriate time. Since the outset of the process these matters have been and are being handled by the company and its advisers, in full consultation with my Department and the Department of Finance and our advisers, in a professional and businesslike manner. The company is aware that the Departments are available to participate with it in its communications with funders, and to clarify for funders the process and procedures to bring the reorganisation forward.
Appropriate initial communications were made by the company to its funders as far back as July of last year on the announcement of the Government's decision to restructure Aer Rianta — and more recently publication of the Bill has been accompanied by further communication by the company to its funders.
For the benefit of Seanad Éireann I say clearly and unambiguously there has been no adverse reaction from any of the funders to these communications. There has been no suggestion of any intention on the part of funders to initiate action under "event of default" type clauses of the appropriate loan agreements. Clearly, the company, the two Departments and their respective advisers are fully apprised of the relevant clauses and these, as you would expect, have been the subject of professional scrutiny by both sets of advisers from the outset of this process. The process of communication will continue to be professionally handled. The restructuring process, which this Bill provides will proceed in a measured and orderly manner, will not lead to any destabilisation of the company's funding arrangements. Indeed I reiterate my view that the establishment of Dublin, Cork and Shannon as fully independent and autonomous authorities remaining under State ownership will enhance the business position of each of the new airport authorities as well as that of funders lending to State companies.
The State Airports Bill includes several conditions that require that appropriate processes and procedures are followed as the reorganisation of Aer Rianta is implemented. It will be necessary for detailed business and financial plans to be prepared by the new boards of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airport authorities. It is a condition of the Bill that these plans are approved by the Ministers for Transport and Finance before the reorganisation is implemented.
On the issue of funding which has hit the headlines, the funders contacted the company by letter on one occasion. According to my understanding, this was responded to by the company to everyone's satisfaction. This policy was announced 12 months ago. In that time I have not received a letter, fax, text or telephone message from any bank or funder worried about funds. Those who lend to State companies do not worry a great deal about their funds. As a result of growth plans laid out by the Government, the money is now twice as secure as previously. Money is cheaper today than when these funds were secured. I have received no communication from the banks and no worries have been expressed by them. In the event of any doubt, people should ask the bankers.