Dáil Éireann - Volume 300 - 19 October, 1977

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Helicopter Licences.

9. Mr. O'Donnell asked the Minister for Tourism and Transport whether he has made or proposes to make any new regulations governing the granting of operation licences to helicopter companies; and if he will make a statement outlining the Government's policy in this area.

Mr. Faulkner: I have no present proposals to amend the regulations or the policy governing helicopter operations. I am satisfied that the foreseeable demand for helicopter services can be met adequately by the company at present authorised. My Department will continue to keep the position under review in the light of developments, particularly in the off-shore oil drilling market, but I would be prepared to consider an application from a second helicopter operator only on the basis of a clear and identifiable need.

Mr. O'Donnell: Has the Minister received an application recently for a licence from another helicopter company?

Mr. Faulkner: Yes.

Mr. O'Donnell: Have this company been refused a licence?

Mr. Faulkner: Yes, because I considered there was not sufficient business to justify granting a licence to a second company.

Mr. O'Donnell: May we take it that there has been no change in the attitude of the Department since the Minister assumed office?

Mr. Faulkner: There has been no change in regard to the matter we are discussing.

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Has the Minister granted any new helicopter licence since assuming office?

[754] Mr. Faulkner: No.

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): I am sure the Minister will agree that the company on behalf of whom a deputation was received by the then Opposition spokesman on transport and power before the general election and to whom an undertaking in writing was given that in the event of a change of Government a licence would be granted to them, must be sadly disappointed.

Mr. Faulkner: I have indicated clearly that should I identify a need for a second helicopter operator I would be prepared to grant the necessary licence but in the present circumstances I am satisfied that there is not sufficient business for more than one operator. Consequently, I do not propose to issue another licence.

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Is the Minister aware that his party's spokesman on transport and power in Opposition received a delegation before the general election in regard to the issuing of a helicopter licence and that, subsequently, he wrote to them saying that the matter had been considered by the Front Bench in Fianna Fáil and that in the event of a change of Government the company concerned would be granted a licence notwithstanding the fact that the whole weight of advice of the Department was against the granting of a further licence?

Mr. Faulkner: The Deputy can be assured that, as I have mentioned already, I would be prepared to grant a licence where I thought such was necessary.

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Will the Minister agree that the letter I am speaking of was sent to a company who had applied for a licence and that it was stated, under the signature of the then Opposition's spokesman on transport and power, that the matter had been considered by that party's front bench and that in the event of a change of Government the licence would be granted to that company in the west?

[755] Mr. Faulkner: I have indicated clearly my policy in regard to helicopter transport.

Dr. Fitzgerald: The Minister has not answered the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: The question bears no relationship to the question on the Order Paper.

Mr. E. Collins: Alice in Wonderland.

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Is the Minister denying that a written undertaking such as I have described was given?

Mr. P. Barry: Can the Minister say whether at this moment it is his intention to issue a licence to the company concerned?

Mr. Faulkner: I have replied already to that question. If the Deputy reads the reply he will be aware of the situation.

Mr. P. Barry: Are we to take it, then, that it is not the intention of the Minister to issue a licence to this company?

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Here is one Deputy who read the pre-election undertaking in this regard.

Mr. P. Barry: The Minister refers me to his reply but I have no copy of it. Will he answer my question as to whether it is his intention to issue a licence to this company in Mayo?

Mr. Faulkner: Perhaps I should repeat that part of my reply which says that:

... I would be prepared to consider an application from a second helicopter operator only on the basis of a clear and identifiable need.

Mr. T. J. Fitzpatrick (Cavan-Monaghan): Is the Minister denying that prior to the election the company concerned were given an undertaking in writing that in the event of a change of Government a licence would be granted to them without question?

Mr. Faulkner: I have replied to the Deputy. What more can he require?

[756] Mr. Bruton: Has the Minister departed from the decision reached by his front bench in regard to this matter?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister has no responsibility for the matters being pursued by Deputies.

Mr. Harte: With respect, he had and so had you.

Mr. P. Barry: At least I am glad to have confirmation of something I always suspected—that Fianna Fáil accept no responsibility for their actions.

Mr. Faulkner: I have made a clear statement in regard to the situation.

Mr. Harte: Their “guessometer” will go wrong again.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Order. I am calling the next question.