Seanad Éireann - Volume 102 - 14 December, 1983

Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill, 1983: Second Stage.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Mr. Donnellan): The purpose [911] of this Bill is to provide for implementation by Ireland of the Protocol amending the International Convention relating to co-operation for the Safety of Air Navigation, commonly known as “Eurocontrol Convention” together with the new multilateral agreement on route charges.

The Eurocontrol International Convention relating to co-operation for the Safety of Air Navigation was signed on 13 December 1960. The convention was brought into effect in Ireland by the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Act, 1963. The main reasons for the establishment of the Eurocontrol Organisation lay in the new requirements of air traffic control — the growing number of aircraft flying at higher speeds, the pace at which the aeronautical sciences were advancing and the greater inter-dependence of the industrialised countries of western Europe. All pointed to joint action as a means of producing a multinational concept of air traffic control at high altitude — above either 20,000 or 25,000 feet.

The organisation initially consisted of six members — Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom. Ireland became the seventh member in January 1965. Technical or co-operation agreements have been concluded with a number of non-member states including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Austria and the United States.

The organisation has its headquarters in Brussels. The organisation is composed of two bodies; the permanent commission, a deliberative body, and the Air Traffic Services Agency, an executive body. The Permanent Commission formulates common policies on certain matters relating to air traffic control and also exercises the power of general supervision of the agency's activities. Member states are represented on the commission by Ministers. The office of the President of the Permanent Commission is assumed by the representatives of the member states in turn for a period of one year. The Irish Minister has held the office of President of the Permanent Commission for two periods, that is to say from July [912] 1969 to June 1970 and from July 1976 to June 1977. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Jim Mitchell, has been appointed President of the Permanent Commission for the year beginning 1 January 1984.

The agency is administered by a Committee of Management and a director general assisted by an international staff. The director general is at the head of all the agency's services and in conjunction with the Committee of Management is responsible for the general administration of the agency. The present Director General, Mr. Horst Flentje of the Federal Republic of Germany, took up his appointment on 1 July 1983 for a five year period.

The original purpose of the Eurocontrol Convention was to provide a common system of air traffic control in the upper airspace — that is to say above 20,000-25,000 feet — of member states. This was achieved through an air traffic control organisation which had legal responsibility for the provision of air traffic services in the upper airspaces. In Ireland's case new operational facilities were communally financed through Eurocontrol's budget and the Department of Transport provided the staff to operate these facilities under a bilateral agreement with Eurocontrol. Certain other member states — the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands — also operated services through bilateral agreements.

Under the Eurocontrol Convention the facilities that were provided in Ireland under the common financing system were the Shannon Upper Airspace Control Centre and the Mount Gabriel County Cork, and Woodcock Hill, County Clare Secondary Surveillance Radar Stations. We were obliged to provide these facilities by virtue of our membership of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

In 1971 Ireland decided to participate in an international scheme under the aegis of Eurocontrol to collect charges from airlines for the use by them of enroute air navigation services provided by us. The Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Act, 1971 provided for the payment of a single charge by aircraft operators for [913] en-route air navigation facilities, other than aerodrome navigation services. The charges are made payable by the operators in US dollars to Eurocontrol which, by virtue of a bilateral agreement made between Ireland and that organisation has undertaken to refund to this country the amount of the charges collected in respect of the services made available in Irish airspace, less the cost of collection. Similar agreements exist with the other states in the route charges system which are the seven states of Eurocontrol plus Austria, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. In 1982 our route charges receipts amounted to £9.5 million and the receipts in 1983 exceed £11 million.

One of the major differences between the present and the new convention is that all air traffic control facilities and services will be national instead of communal. At the transition date each member state will take control of the direct investments, for example, upper airspace control centres and secondary surveillance radar stations, sited on their territories. It was agreed that the host country would “buy in” the direct investments sited on their territories at their amortised value at the transition date and that the fund thus created would be distributed among all member states in GNP proportions. However, there was sympathetic recognition on the part of all other member states of the need for special treatment for Ireland because of our important location for trans-Atlantic civil aviation and the fact that the Eurocontrol facilities in Ireland are more elaborate than those required for Ireland's own needs. The cost of installing the facilities in Ireland was about £9 million.

In our case it was agreed that the Shannon Upper Airspace Control Centre, together with the Mount Gabriel, County Cork and Woodcock Hill, County Clare, Secondary Surveillance Radar Stations would become the property of Ireland on the entry into force of the amending protocol. As these facilities were financed by the seven member states, transitional financial arrangements have been agreed to the effect that Ireland's route charges receipts will be reduced over a period of four years after 1984 in respect of the [914] amortisation element only of the capital cost of these facilities up to a maximum of £2.5 million. Any costs incurred in the future replacement of these facilities will have to be borne by Ireland but these costs can be recovered in full from airlines under the route charges system.

The principle changes in the role and activities of Eurocontrol proposed in the amending protocol are as follows:

(a) The organisation's responsibilities for the planning of air traffic services will be extended to the whole airspace, not just the upper airspace — above 20,000-25,000 feet — as at present. The primary task of Eurocontrol will thus become the development of the air traffic control system in the member states according to a common basic concept in such a way that the national plans are effectively co-ordinated in the medium and long term.

(b) There will no longer be any obligation on the part of member states to transfer responsibilities for air traffic services to the organisation. This has no relevance for Ireland as we had not handed over executive functions under the old convention.

(c) The current programme for the communal financing of expenditure on operational facilities in the member states will be discontinued. It is considered that the implementation of this communal finance system has proved to be extremely complex and the effort devoted to it has hampered concentration on the organisation's real role in the development of air traffic services.

(d) Eurocontrol will play a key role in the development and operation of a European system of air traffic flow management, in collaboration with the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

(e) The Eurocontrol route charges system will continue on its present lines. The new multilateral agreement on route charges has been signed by the seven member states and the four non-member states now associated [915] with the system, Australia, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain.

During its 20 years of existence, Eurocontrol has established an experimental centre at Bretigny near Paris which undertakes studies, tests and simulations on behalf of Eurocontrol to improve efficiency of ATC. It has also set up an Institute of Air Navigation in Luxembourg which undertakes the training of ATC controllers and assistant controllers and which carries out work in connection with data handling, information, analyses, programming and maintenance. Air traffic control centres and secondary surveillance radar stations have been set up at Brussels, London, Shannon, Maastricht in Holland and Karlsruhe in Germany.

It is the intention of the states concerned that the Maastricht Air Traffic Control Centre, which at present controls the upper airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Hannover area of Northern Germany, will in the next couple of years assume control of total air traffic control above flight level 10,000 feet in the states of Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Northern Germany.

Under the amending protocol, various powers which were vested in Eurocontrol will revert to national control. In our case these powers related to such matters as the provision of land by the Minister for the organisation, the acquisition of land and of water rights by the Minister at the request of the organisation and the obligations on aircraft operators to comply with relevant ATC authorisations.

This Bill effectively removes the supra-national authority vested in Eurocontrol by virtue of the 1960 Convention and the Act of 1963. This supra-national authority was never given full effect in Ireland and the facilities provided and owned by Eurocontrol were operated by the Minister under bilateral agreement. Provision is also made in this Bill to give effect to Articles 18 and 23 of the protocol which relate to the inviolability of persons and documents in the course of their duties connected with Eurocontrol and [916] to Article 22.7 which makes special provisions in relation to the position of the director general of the agency.

Article 36 of the protocol provides that states which accede to the convention shall also become parties to the multilateral agreement on route charges. This Agreement continues in force a system — introduced in a multilateral agreement of 1971 — under which Eurocontrol acts as agent in the collection of route charges for navigational aids.

The new multilateral agreement introduces provisions stating that a legal decision taken in a contracting state against a user of the system who has defaulted in the payment of route charges shall be recognisable and enforceable in other contracting states. Provision is made in the Bill to amend the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Act, 1971 so as to implement Articles 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 which contain the provisions on recognition and enforcement.

The opportunity is also being taken to up-date the level of penalties provided for in the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Act, 1963 and the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Act, 1971. The remaining amendments are editorial in nature. I recommend this Bill strongly to the Seanad.

Mr. Fallon: Very briefly, I would like to take this opportunity of welcoming this Bill. We are in an era of developing air transport and not just on an international level. If we examine the scene in Ireland we see that small airports of varying sizes have been built and there is a possibility that that trend will continue. For that reason anything we can do to improve transport in the sky would be welcome. This Bill seeks co-operation for the safety of air navigation, and we must all welcome it.

Could I again refer to the fact, more on a local than an international level, that our skies are overcrowded with planes of one kind or another. Unfortunately, that situation is going to bring about more accidents involving planes of different sizes. There were catastrophes in Spain and other countries recently, all of which highlight the need for more control. Our [917] record has been excellent and it is one we can be proud of. Nonetheless, we must make every effort to become part of an overall international team to keep the safety of air navigation in everybody's mind. The number of small aircraft in this country and the number of licensed pilots have increased massively. In 1973 there were 173 licensed pilots and I have no doubt that number has increased fourfold by now, which would indicate that many people have a great awareness of flying. We hope that the training of pilots will guarantee that they have full knowledge of what they are doing.

As I said, it is not my intention to delay the passage of this Bill but in the knowledge that there are different standards of air control in so many different countries it is important for us to seek to achieve greater interest and greater coordination which must be done on an international level. Obviously it cannot be achieved by us alone.

I welcome the Bill. It is a very important Bill and a very complex Bill and it is one that all of us in this House will recommend.

Mr. FitzGerald: I would like to take this opportunity to welcome this Bill. We are dealing here with a Bill which is intended to be an enabling measure dealing with the Eurocontrol Convention, together with the multilateral agreement on route charges.

This Bill, as I understand it, deals with the upper air space, that is safety control relating to aircraft flying at over 20,000 to 25,000 feet, which is obviously part of the convention relating to seven other states. The secondary surveillance radar stations in this country, as is well known to Members, are situated at the Shannon Upper Airspace Control Centre, at Mount Gabriel, County Cork and at Woodcock Hill, County Clare. I would like to ask the Minister to give us some indication of when the Mount Gabriel Radar Station, County Cork, which was the subject of attention by subversives some years ago, will be brought back into full operation. As I understand it, there is a major building operation required there and I would like to know what this [918] building operation will cost in terms of subvention. Presumably the Eurocontrol Centre in Europe will be funding this project, although I know and appreciate that these stations are now the property of Ireland and that to some extent the Department of Transport may have to pay the cost of what occurred there a number of years ago. In the absence of one of our three radar control centres, which was badly damaged by a bomb attack some years ago, are we offering the facilities we had hoped to offer when we provided the three centres?

Another detail I would like to raise — and an explanation from the Minister would be welcomed — relates to the route charges that apply in various parts of Europe. From reading the Dáil debate I noticed that the route charge applied to the radar station in Shannon has a charge of $142 whereas the appropriate charge in London is of the order of $683. That is a very alarming difference in contributions by international airlines. I could understand if the difference related to airport charges but we are talking of route charges and there is a distinct difference between one and the other. Presumably when facilities are offered by this State through the existing radar installations at Shannon, Mount Gabriel and Woodcock Hill, we should be able to get a greater level of revenue input into this State. Is that something to do with the dollar exchange? Is it because they are paying us in punts and others are paying in other currencies? An explanation would be welcome when the Minister gets an opportunity.

My main contribution today deals with a broadening of the Bill, but relates to aviation. First, I would like to make a strong plea to the Minister on two counts: in the immediate future he should attempt to get a plan for the aviation industry before these Houses and before the country. Because of the continuing existence and the role Aer Lingus plays both nationally and internationally and the arrival of the shorthaul aircraft, which are very familiar features of our airports, with the arrival ten years ago of Aer Arann and Avair in the last three years which provide a carrier service [919] between our cities and towns — it is necessary for us to slot into the transport programme, particularly on the aviation side, a plan for the future and to roll-over in the public mind the kind of thoughts that the Minister and the Department must have, and to get from the Department a response to the demands that have been made now for a number of years for an aviation authority which would be responsible for the licensing of aircraft and the control of aircraft movements in this country. There are similar bodies in Britain, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the United States, the Federal Aviation Authority.

There are anomalies and difficulties in dealing with the Department of Transport. I understand that a British carrier is running a flight from London to Dublin and a series of applications relating to that particular route have been made to the Department over the past year and a response has not been forthcoming. I am wondering why we do not have a more formal procedure.

In consultation with the Civil Service and the Department of Transport, an aviation authority would make recommendations to the Minister. I appeal strongly for a plan for the aviation industry and I am doing so not just because of the arrival of shorthaul aircraft into Dublin, Cork, Shannon and our regional airports, but because of the arrival of our regional airports, and the need to plan for them.

Although we have laid airstrips in other locations — and there is a magnificent one in Knock, County Mayo — we have airports in centres like Sligo, Waterford and Galway which require financing and I know that there is a need for an additional runway in Galway. In Waterford we have a need for increased emphasis on safety in air navigation. Sligo is probably our best developed regional airport which could have the standing of an international airport and thus give much greater scope for air traffic into the west of Ireland. I wonder whether planning of this kind is envisaged for an airport on [920] which there has been major capital expenditure in recent times.

I welcome this Bill. I am sorry the Minister who introduced it today may not be introducing measures of this kind in the foreseeable future. He will be dealing with other areas of public policy. He will always be welcome to this House.

In relation to planning for the aviation industry, planning not only for the increased use of shorthaul aircraft but also for the complexity of our services and the demand for both passenger and freight input into our regional airports, when will we have a plan which will give those of us who are interested some indication of the future for our aircraft, our airports, and our air space? When will such a plan be put on the map in a serious fashion?

Mrs. Robinson: Like other Senators I share the concern for the improvement of the safety of air navigation and for co-operation with other countries to that end. The measure which the Minister of State has introduced today is a highly technical Bill in a very complex and technical area. Like the other Senators who contributed, I should like to focus on the questions raised and hope that in his reply the Minister of State can deal with them and provide some answers to them.

This Bill proposes to implement part of a protocol amending the international convention relating to co-operation for the safety of air navigation and also to implement parts of the multinational agreement on route charges. We do not have the original documents before us, but that is the purpose of the measure. I listened very carefully to what the Minister had to say in introducing the Bill. I have also looked at the debate in the other House, a rather brief debate on this measure, and there are a number of questions to which it would be helpful to have responses.

First of all, why is the Eurocontrol Convention participated in only by rather a small number of European countries? As the Minister pointed out, Ireland was the seventh country to join the six original members. It does not include fellow EEC countries like Denmark and Italy [921] and, significantly, it does not include other countries like Sweden, Switzerland and Austria which have very developed policies in the area of non-alliance of a military kind and policies of neutrality. Why did Ireland decide to become a member in 1963, and have we ever reconsidered that decision? Have we ever reexamined the original decision to participate as a full member of Eurocontrol?

In relation to the facilities established in these countries to which reference has been made, the radar surveillance facilities, apart from the role they play in the safety of civil air navigation, do they play a role in relation to military flights over Irish territory? If so, could the Minister give the House information on this? In the monitoring through the use of these radar surveillance installations, who has access to that? Do we share that with fellow members of Eurocontrol and are there implications in sharing that information for Ireland as a non-member of NATO and as a country with a policy of neutrality?

These issues arise increasingly in the kind of world we live in, a world of inter-dependence, and also a world where there are countries which would like to extend the scope of their military strategy and surveillance, particularly their surveillance. The extent to which, by virtue of our participation in Eurocontrol under the auspices of safety in civil air navigation, we might be drawn into a wider military surveillance circuit, or the extent to which we might inadvertently become part of a broader surveillance certainly concerns me. Clearly this lay behind one incident to which Senator FitzGerald drew attention, the blowing up of the installation in Schull in County Cork in 1982. Obviously I condemn unequivocally any such action, but it is evidence of a growing concern, a concern which perhaps breeds on rumour and lack of specific information.

It would be helpful to have on the record of the House as full an answer to these questions as the Minister feels able to give. Let us know precisely and as fully as possible what the position is, so that we may be better informed and aware of where the lines are drawn and how the [922] Minister is able, if he gives this assurance, to assure the House that there is no danger of undermining our policy of neutrality, of having us drawn into a military strategic monitoring role in relation to our participation in Eurocontrol. These are the issues on which I should be grateful for specific replies from the Minister.

Mr. McDonald: I support the Bill. I welcome the Minister of State. I want to compliment him on his introductory speech which omitted no aspect of the work of Eurocontrol. I join with Senator FitzGerald in saying the Department of Transport will certainly miss the expertise he has acquired in such a short time. I wish him well in his new Department.

I support this Bill because there is a great need to have adequate and top class air navigation controls and safety measures in operation at all times. We in this country must surely subscribe to that ideal. This was the first of these European organisations with which we got deeply involved. During the mid-seventies when I was President of the Transport Commission in Europe, on a number of occasions the Director General of Eurocontrol mentioned the fact that the civil servants who represent us on Eurocontrol made a tremendous contribution to the work, the evolvement, the expansion and the upgrading of the services this organisation provides. It is very important that we should be part of this organisation since most of the busy air routes across the Atlantic come within our air space.

One aspect of this Bill that I welcome especially is the fact that, as far as the Irish operation is concerned, it becomes more national. We had a problem here some years ago when a very small number of persons in the service of Eurocontrol had European type salaries in our rural areas where these installations are sited. This caused a problem with those operatives' superiors in the Department of Transport. So, while I hope there will be an easy way of readjusting to national standards, at least we will not have the problems these small matters are sometimes inclined to create.

I hope the Government will press [923] ahead to replace the facilities which were damaged in Mount Gabriel if that work has not already been carried out successfully. The organisation who sabotaged this installation at Mount Gabriel also take it on themselves to slaughter ordinary people at worship. The areas in the world where all these freedoms are not available are confined to specific regions. We do not need to apologise to anyone for playing our part in providing the safest possible facilities for the large numbers of people who now use air transport. The fact that flights pass over our territory means that we have an obligation to ensure that the safest possible facilities are available. We are reimbursed for supplying that service. The population should be happy that we can be of assistance to people who wish to use the air navigation aids the Irish Government have supplied since 1965. The standard of efficiency and the excellence of the work of all concerned with Eurocontrol in the Irish context are highly regarded in air navigation services.

I want to compliment the Minister on the very full explanation he gave the House and I support the passage of the Bill.

Mr. Ferris: I agree with the principle of the Bill and realise that it allows us to implement a protocol. I want to reiterate the point made by Senator Robinson. The first thing that occurred to me while I was listening to the Minister was that we should avail of every opportunity to ensure that in an area such as this — an area of radar control and radar facilities — our neutrality is stated over and over again. We should never allow any doubt to arise, in people's minds, whether they are members of this group or indeed any other group, that our neutrality is very precious to us. Any facilities we have are used for the purpose for which they were designed.

The Mount Gabriel installation was sabotaged — and nobody condones that — because for propaganda purposes people purported to believe these services somehow had a hidden purpose. We should lose no opportunity to redefine [924] our neutrality and restate the fact that we are not part of NATO. In our International Affairs Committee the Labour Party always emphasise this throughout the world. We have a very special pride in our neutrality. Because of our standing in the world as a neutral nation our voice is respected in the United Nations. Every opportunity should be grasped to restate our neutrality and the fact that we have nothing to do with NATO. Any facilities we have by way of radar stations located at Shannon, Cork or Clare are used specifically and only for the purposes for which they were designed.

I hope that when the Minister is replying he will spell that out for the doubting Thomases. There are still people who have doubts about where we stand, particularly after the recent debacle in the European Parliament on the question of the deployment of missiles and so on. People voted with groups because they felt it did not involve our neutrality. This is an opportunity for the Minister of State to restate those points which are fundamental. I am glad Senator Robinson raised the point. It was my intention to do so. It is very important to spell out what these facilities are for and who has access to them.

Mr. O'Leary: I do not intend to delay the House very long on this Bill which I do not understand.

Mr. Ferris: The Senator is not alone in that.

Mr. O'Leary: It is as well that my position would be made clear anyway. Because I do not understand the Bill, I do not think it should be before the House as it is now. I am sorry to have to hold the Minister responsible for the delay which has attended the bringing in of this legislation and the apparent urgency of getting it passed. I am blaming the Minister because the rules of the House do not permit me to place the blame anywhere else. If the rules of the House permitted me to place the blame elsewhere, I might do so, but as they do not I will not.

[925] This is a very technical measure pursuant on two agreements entered into on 12 February 1981, and this is towards the end of 1983. It is my understanding that this is to come into operation in 1984 and, consequently, its early passage through this House is essential. I do not deny the accuracy of that, but I do not see why we should have to wait until 15 November 1983 to have a measure like this placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

This is typical of the kind of legislation which should go to a specialist committee of the House. It is unreasonable to expect Members who are not properly briefed on matters like this to make sensible contributions, whether it be on the Second Stage or Committee Stage of this important Bill. Of course there are those who might say we should have the consideration of these matters to our betters, but they would be wrong in that because that is what we are being paid for — to examine the detail of this legislation and to see whether the detail conforms with the general principles as laid down.

I do not think there is any disagreement in this House on the general need to have control of European air space of the type envisaged. That is not the problem. Genuine fears have been expressed concerning the effect or possible effect this might have on the neutrality of Ireland. These are serious matters which should have been considered by a committee of this House, or a Joint Committee of the Dáil and Seanad.

Similarly, there are extremely complicated sections of this Bill which give the most extraordinary privileges to various members of the organisation in question, including the privilege that the director general of the agency is to enjoy immunity from jurisdiction in respect of all his acts, apparently, other than road traffic offences. That is the most extraordinary immunity to give to anybody. There might be a very good reason for it, but Members of this and the other House are entitled to the kind of explanation which you can only get in committee. I am not talking about a committee of the whole House. I am talking about a specialist committee. I wonder why the persons employed by this organisation should [926] enjoy, in respect of their official papers and documents, what is described as inviolability.

I do not expect the Minister to answer these points on Second Stage. The purpose of my contribution is to bring them to the attention of those whose duty it might be to listen. As a Member of this House I am not satisfied with the way the House is being treated in this regard. This is not a Bill to be dealt with in the ordinary way in this House. It is not a Bill which should be brought in at the end of a legislative session to be rushed in a day or two through both Houses of the Oireachtas. I object in the strongest possible fashion to this approach to this kind of technical legislation.

There are other proposals on the Order Paper today concerning the increase in the amount of money for various organisations. Those Bills are suitable to be dealt with at short notice by the House at the end of a session. When you bear in mind that these agreements were entered into on 12 February 1981 and the relevant legislation was not laid before either House of the Oireachtas until 15 November 1983, that is not acceptable as far as I am concerned. We should not be expected to dance like monkeys at the end of the year so that we can pass the relevant legislation. That is just not good enough.

With regard to the question of the actual detail of what is included in the Bill, obviously from what the Minister said there is a need for the Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) Bill to be amended to take into account the provisions of the protocol amending the previous convention. I hope — but I have no evidence to prove it — that what we are asked to approve today will achieve that purpose. I hoped that we could have considered in greater detail the possible effect this legislation might have on our neutrality. In fact, from my limited understanding — and it is very limited — I do not think it will have any effect. It is not good enough that I should have that general feeling. We are entitled to go into the problems of the possible military uses to which this kind of service could be put, and the alternative to our participation in anything [927] of that nature. It should be possible for us to look into that in detail in a committee such as the Committee on Legislation.

Mr. McDonald: Duplication.

Mr. O'Leary: Duplication of what?

Mr. McDonald: Of the services.

Mr. O'Leary: Of which services? I do not think that there would be any duplication in asking the Committee on Legislation to review the operation of the details of this legislation. That is the purpose of the Committee on Legislation. They should meet to examine the details of Bills like this. I know it is boring work, but those of us who were given the responsibility of being on that committee should expect to do that kind of work. If a few people on that committee were given the task they would very quickly become specialists in that area. We would then have legislation passed which would have the confidence and active support of Members on all sides of this House, rather than the acquiescence of Members of the House, which is all this Bill will have.

Mr. Lanigan: I should like to raise a couple of points. One of them relates to Mount Gabriel. The Minister mentioned that the cost of providing the services for the control of aircraft was about £9 million and that, under the new arrangement, where Eurocontrol will revert to national Governments rather than be controlled in a general way, it is suggested that from 1984 we will have only to pay up to £2½ million by way of buying out the buildings already there. The question was raised as to whether or not Mount Gabriel has been rebuilt. I do not know whether it has, but it seems to me that the facilities there would cost much more than £2½ million to replace. Will we have to pay for the building of a new station at Mount Gabriel and find that it could cost up to £8½ million even though, from the time of the take-over, it is suggested that it will cost us £2½ million only? [928] There seems to be some difference here. Perhaps the station has been rebuilt.

I am at a total loss as to why, at this stage, when we have had a co-ordinated approach to air controls throughout Europe, we are now reverting to national control. I cannot see the rationale for that. Basically Ireland takes the brunt of the traffic that comes from the west. We have to pass that traffic through to somebody else, wherever it is going in Europe. I cannot see the point in breaking up what was a very good system and reverting back to a national Government system.

I should like to follow up the points made by Senator Robinson and Senator Ferris in relation to the control of these stations and the information which can be disseminated from them. Can the Minister tell me that every piece of information which goes into a station such as Mount Gabriel cannot be taken by the very high technological innovations over the past number of years and used by receiving stations which could possibly be 1,000 miles away? The degree of sophistication in the communications area would lead me to believe that you cannot have a fail safe system of control. We have seen the changes that have taken place in areas such as the Middle East. In Israel they can pinpoint conversations taking place ten miles from their base. I cannot see how this control will be maintained. I have fears that the type of information going in there could be used for military purposes.

My first query is on the cost to this country. Will it be £2½ million or will it be a lot more? Secondly, it is suggested that the collection of fees will be carried out by a European organisation and will then revert back to the national Governments. Surely that is duplication. Why do the national Governments not collect the fees? Thirdly, can we be assured that the stations to be used, which will now be under the aegis of the national Government, are safe?

Minister of State at the Department of Transport (Mr. Donnellan): I wish to thank all those who took part in the debate. I will try to deal as clearly as I [929] can with the points which have been mentioned. Senator Fallon talked about private pilots. As the regulatory authority the Department exercise strict control over the issue of licences to private pilots. It will be of interest to the House that there are now about 1,000 licensed pilots in the State.

Senator FitzGerald raised a number of points, including the matter of Mount Gabriel. Mount Gabriel is essentially a stand-by facility for the Woodcock Hill station near Shannon and we hope it will be restored to full operational service early in 1984. He also talked about charges. The charge is based on the cost, both current and capital, to each state of providing navigational facilities and it includes the cost of staff concerned. These costs, which vary from state to state, are then divided by the estimated level of traffic to give a flat rate. The rate in turn is adjusted to take account of the weight of a particular aircraft as well as the distance flown. The charging system is therefore based on the distance flown by a particular aircraft in a given air space. The charges referred to by Senator FitzGerald relate to tariffs levied on aircraft flying trans-Atlantic routes only. They do not relate to charges levied at particular aerodromes but rather to route charges incurred when flying to or from these aerodromes from points within specified zones over the Atlantic and along particular routes.

Senator FitzGerald also talked about the Irish Aviation Authority. The Department act as the Irish Aviation Authority. His remarks about the desirability of an aviation authority, which does not come under this Bill, will be conveyed to the Minister, Deputy Mitchell.

While the planning and development of regional airports are not directly relevant to the Bill, the House will be glad to know that the Minister is at present considering the report of an inter-departmental committee dealing with the matter. A number of airports were mentioned and I was particularly interested in the airport at Galway, but I see from the Estimates that there is no allocation of money to Galway. Indeed, the [930] entire allocation for regional airport development in next year's Estimate is £700,000, of which £600,000 will have to go to Knock for some contractual obligation there. The remainder goes to Farranfore in Kerry and Abbeyshrule is also to get some money.

Senator Robinson mentioned a number of points. We decided to join Eurocontrol in 1963 because of the growing complexity of modern aviation which necessitated complex and expensive control equipment. Mount Gabriel relays radar data to both Shannon and London. This data is based on the electronic interrogation of transponder-equipped aircraft when the transponder is switched on. Aircraft not transponder-equipped cannot be seen by a secondary surveillance radar system.

The remarks of a number of Senators have been concerned with the connection with military aircraft. There is no connection whatsoever because the radar that we have available at these particular places could not detect military aircraft and could not detect any aircraft if there were not a transponder in the aircraft. If you do not have a transponder you do not know exactly who is up there. That is the position. There is no military contact at all.

Mr. Ferris: It happened in the case of the Korean aircraft, obviously.

Mr. Donnellan: Ireland's participation in Eurocontrol does not involve the country in any form of military alliance, either explicit or implied. The upper air facilities near Shannon and in County Cork have no connection whatever with NATO or any other military grouping or agency. I would refer Senators to two articles which appeared in the “Saturday Column” of The Irish Times on 3 December 1983 and 10 December 1983. In the first of them, on 3 December 1983, they talked about a Bill going quietly through the Dáil, as if somebody was trying to put something through the Dáil in a quiet manner to try to hoodwink the public in some way. This is not a fact. They came back on 10 December with an article headed “Eurocontrol is Innocent.” [931] Eurocontrol are innocent and I can guarantee we have no connections of the kind alleged.

In regard to the air space, certain types of military flights operate regularly through international air space, all or part of which are associated with civil aviation environment of controlled air space. Such flights include military aircraft transporting military personnel and their families, as well as cargo and equipment handing, in relation to peace-keeping missions, also military aircraft carrying VIPs, top Government officials and so on engaged in official business. Our own Government's small jet is basically a military aircraft. Is anybody going to suggest that it is involved in something other than transporting Ministers to and from Europe? When military aircraft operate in a civil environment there is a transponder on the aircraft and there is a flight plan, just as in the case of any other civil aircraft. Diplomatic clearance of such flights is provided. When operating in the civil aviation environment, the flights comply with the civil aviation rules and regulations.

Mount Gabriel radar station near Schull, County Cork monitored civil aircraft in the upper air space within a radius of 240 miles. The facility consisted of two radar heads, one duty and one stand-by. The station was damaged by an explosion on 20 September 1982. As a priority, Eurocontrol decided to restore one head to operational service. The facility in Cork is basically a stand-by for the one in Shannon. Installation of the replacement equipment is now almost complete and operational evaluation of the facility is scheduled to commence early in January. A preliminary estimate of the cost of restoring Mount Gabriel to its pre-1982 state is approximately £2.5 million, not the type of sum suggested by Senator Lanigan. Malicious injuries claims were lodged with Cork County Council both by Eurocontrol and by my Department. Both claims are due to be heard in the Circuit Court in Skibbereen in January 1984.

Mr. Ferris: What an appropriate place.

[932] Mr. Lanigan: I suppose we have to wait to ask a question about the £2.5 million.

Mr. Donnellan: I presume the Senator can ask anything he likes.

Mr. Lanigan: On this £2.5 million——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Would you not let the Minister conclude and ask it on Committee Stage?

Mr. Donnellan: Because we did not allow Eurocontrol staff into Shannon we do not have the high salary problem vis-à-vis our own staff.

Senator O'Leary complained about a number of things. He complained particularly about the lack of opportunity for himself and other Senators to have a more detailed explanation of this Bill. I must admit that I am not the best one in the world to give a detailed account of it. As junior Minister at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs I had very little to do with transport. Then it became my job to deal with this Bill and in the time available to get the best knowledge possible. If there are any points I am not answering adequately please re-iterate them.

Senator O'Leary asked why there should be any hurry. The ratification procedure has been completed in France, Luxembourg and Portugal and we hope all the states will complete their procedures by mid-1984. The main purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the amending protocol and multilateral agreement. The main provisions cover the recognition and enforcement of judgments of foreign courts against airlines which default in payment of on route charges.

Senator Lanigan and Senator Ferris referred to aircraft fitted with transponders. If you do not have a transponder in an aircraft, or if the transponder is not switched on, the secondary type of radar that is available from the station we are talking about in Ireland does not have any record of it. One cannot pass on any secrets to anybody in relation to any of [933] these things unless the aircraft have the transponders switched on.

Eurocontrol collect the route charges because they can do so more efficiently than a national collecting agency. It makes more sense to have one central collection point rather than have a variety of collection points right around all the member states. There is another reason for it which I mentioned in my speech. Let us say an airline owed us a certain amount of money because of the number of times they used our air space and there were no properties here belonging to the airline. In some of the other contracting states they would have collateral. As a result of that we could follow them for the amount of money they owed through Eurocontrol. Not alone that, if they did not have property within any of the member states it would be than taken up internationally against the particular carrier. As a result we would get a refund whenever there would be judgment given, provided that they had any funds.

Senator Lanigan mentioned reverting to a national system. We are not reverting to a national system. The supra-national concept was never given full effect in Ireland, nor for that matter in the UK, France or the Netherlands. The amending protocol recognises this fact. However, co-operation between Eurocontrol member states remains the major goal and purpose of the organisation. Eurocontrol will remain the body within which air traffic control systems will be developed according to a common basic concept.

I thank all those who contributed. I have answered questions in as efficient a way as I can.

Question put and agreed to.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.