Breen highlights case for Cargo Preclearance during the debate on Aviation Pre Clearance Bill

July 1st, 2009 - Pat Breen

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this very important legislation for the mid-west. The late Jim Mitchell, as Minister for Communications, placed the US pre-inspection legislation before this House in June 1986. This was to provide the legislative framework for the establishment of US immigration at Shannon Airport. At that time the aviation industry was in the midst of uncertainty. A series of international aviation terrorist incidents in 1985 and 1986 had put enormous pressure on the aviation sector. Against this backdrop the late Minister said in the Dáil, “This new situation makes it all the more necessary for us to take all possible measures to maximise the attraction of this country and its airport facilities to airlines flying between the US and Europe.”
Some 23 years later the aviation sector is at a similar crossroads. That is why the introduction of this legislation here today and the extension of the US preclearance facility at Shannon Airport is so important in terms of positioning the airport for the future and ensuring it is best placed to challenge for new opportunities when there is an upturn in the fortunes of the aviation sector. While I would have liked to see this legislation come before this House a long ago, I very much welcome it this afternoon. I have always advocated and supported the setting up of the full US preclearance facility at Shannon Airport. I discussed this matter with the previous US ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Thomas Foley, who was very supportive of this development. I also met the previous US Secretary of Homeland Security, Mr. Michael Chertoff, when he was in Dublin and I understand that the Minister met the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Ms Janet Napolitano, in Shannon over the weekend. Her presence there was a very positive move.

Like Deputy Joe Carey I am disappointed however that the Government is persisting with the €10 air travel tax. The Minister should have availed of this legislation to include an addendum to review the tax now. Ryanair has already announced the axing of several routes from its winter schedule and this is not the time to introduce a new travel tax. People are not travelling and this tax is a further disincentive to travel.
As I have said, I am a strong supporter of the introduction of preclearance. This will be the first such facility in Europe and is an unique selling point, especially for Shannon Airport. In the wake of the introduction of EU-US open skies, the skies have fallen in on transatlantic business at Shannon. In 2008 transatlantic passengers through Shannon fell by a whopping 23%, a fall of more than 170,000 people to 570,000 people, while at Dublin Airport transatlantic traffic grew by 14% during 2008 with a record number of 1.8 million passengers. However, by the end of 2008, Dublin’s share of transatlantic business had risen to 75% compared to Shannon at 25%. This decline at Shannon is set to continue with more cutbacks in US services on the way: Delta has pulled off the JFK route and Aer Lingus is dropping its Shannon-Chicago link with the future of its JFK remaining uncertain with the route “under review”.

The future is far from certain at Shannon. The opportunities which will arise when this facility is in place must be exploited. For example, private jet traffic is set to take off in Shannon with anything up to 70 jets a day expected to avail of the facility, approximately 500 jets a week. The feedback from the general aviation sector is positive towards this project. In addition to the private jet traffic, there is an opportunity for low-cost transatlantic carriers operating from Shannon Airport.

Transatlantic passengers who have cleared the facility at Shannon will be able to check their baggage all the way to their final destinations in the US. Domestic airports are generally cheaper for airlines to use, are less congested and make flying a much more pleasant experience for the passenger. This will help airlines reduce their costs and with freer access to aircraft stands in these US airports, it will help airlines to reduce the time their aircraft spend on the ground.
I am disappointed with one aspect of the legislation and the Minister might mention it in his reply. The legislation makes no mention of the provision of cargo preclearance at Shannon Airport. The Lynx Group, a global airport cargo facility company, signed a memorandum of understanding with Shannon Airport earlier this year, the result of which has the potential to develop Shannon Airport into a major international logistic hub and business facility for cargo. The way forward for Shannon Airport is joint ventures. Here we have an innovative American company which is willing to invest in the mid-west region.
We need to utilise best international practice and the Lynx Group is one of the world’s best providers of expertise and resources in developing and managing cargo ports. It has its own ports and operates a wide variety of cargo facilities throughout the world. The CEO of the company, Ray Brimble, who is very positive about the future development at Shannon, has expressed the view that the provision of full US cargo preclearance “would be another significant strategic advantage for a major international cargo port at Shannon”. There is no doubt that the possibility of having full US cargo preclearance has attracted a company like the Lynxs Group into Shannon region and we must not let this opportunity pass. We need to invest in cargo infrastructure at Shannon Airport, which is ideally located for companies as an access point between east and west, especially for companies wishing to expand into Europe.
We need to have adequate facilities in the mid-west region so that we are in a position to provide a world class logistics facility and attract new industries to the region. Providing top class cargo facilities would especially help those involved in research and development and also the pharmaceutical industry where time is critical and items may have a short street life but a high value. I ask the Minister to support the expansion of this facility to include cargo preclearance and to initiate negotiations with the US Government with a view to expanding the preclearance facility at Shannon to include cargo at the earliest possible date.
The provision of full US preclearance is another first for Shannon Airport, an airport which has a proud history of firsts. It was the first transatlantic gateway. It had the first duty-free shop. It was where the Irish coffee was first made. I congratulate the management and staff of the airport for having the foresight to see the potential that this project offers and for rigorously pursuing it. In the 1950s and 1960s when Ireland was also in an economic crisis, that great aviation pioneer from County Clare the late Dr. Brendan O’Regan did not just sit back, but went into expansionist mode. He invested in a new runway and the Shannon Industrial Estate was born. He was motivated by the constant threat that Shannon would be over-flown. Little has changed in the intervening 50 years and the threat still remains. We need that same level of expansionist and innovative thinking now more than ever.
The Minister’s task is not completed by just bringing this legislation through the House today. The Government must provide marketing support in the form of a ring-fenced budget to promote this facility. This is the only such facility available in Europe and the reality is that other airports in Europe like Paris-Charles de Gaulle or Frankfurt will be trying to put a similar facility in place at their own airports in coming years. We must capitalise on the window of opportunity we have and must ensure this unique facility is marketed and promoted throughout the world.
This project has the potential to create jobs and attract industry to our region. It cannot be left to fly solo and requires a clear commitment of marketing funds from the Government. We were promised €53 million in the tourism and economic plan when the open skies policy was introduced but that has been whittled down to a €4.5 million regional marketing fund which is being spent on the “Discover Ireland’s Wonderful West” programme overseen by Tourism Ireland.
We need an aggressive marketing campaign led by the Shannon Airport Authority and supported by Shannon Development targeted at both scheduled and general aviation airlines. For this campaign to succeed an investment by the Government of €200,000 for the next three years, which is not an unreasonable amount, would be appropriate. My fear is that without this targeted marketing campaign the true potential of this project will not be realised.
I support this legislation as does my party. I ask the Minister to address the issues which I have raised here. Later I will deal with some of the sections Deputy O’Dowd mentioned earlier. Section 6 outlines what will happen to passengers when they are refused entry into the US and when goods are seized. I hope the Minister will ensure that adequate resources will be made available to the Garda Síochána and Customs officers at Shannon Airport to deal with the additional workload.
Section 14 of deals with cost. Some €20 million has been invested in Shannon Airport. The charge will go from €1.50 to €10.50 per passenger. I ask the Minister to outline what the charge at Dublin Airport will be when this facility is provided there next year. Shannon Airport needs to have a lower rate if it is to compete as otherwise it would be at a major disadvantage. I welcome the legislation and hope it gets a speedy passage through the House tonight.

Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Deputies will be aware that this Bill was initiated in Seanad Éireann on 9 June and was passed there on 16 June. I wish to acknowledge the amendments that were made to the Bill during its passage in that House and I believe the Bill has improved as a result. I propose to bring forward two further amendments on Committee Stage here, the subject matter of which initially arose in the Seanad. I gave an undertaking in at least one case that we would deal with the matter in this House.
The purpose of the Aviation (Preclearance) Bill 2009 is to give legal effect to a landmark intergovernmental agreement reached last November between Ireland and the United States of America on air transport preclearance. Air transport preclearance means that passengers of US bound flights from Ireland can be fully cleared for entry to the US in respect of all necessary US controls and checks, including US immigration, customs, agriculture and security prior to departure. That will allow aircraft to land at any US airport and will facilitate easy onward connectivity to all points within the United States.
Preclearance is a very significant development for Irish aviation. As well as improving the passenger experience for those travelling to the US, preclearance should, over time, contribute significantly to the growth of new business for Irish airports as airlines take advantage of unique opportunities arising from access to a wider range of airports in the US.
Preclearance for commercial aircraft is due to commence at Shannon on 29 July next and for private aircraft there in September. Preclearance is due to be introduced at Dublin airport when terminal 2 opens next year.
Preclearance is the process whereby all inspection and clearance requirements under US laws for travellers arriving into the US are carried out at the departing airport. Such passengers arriving at US airports are then processed without any further official contact. On arrival at the US airport they will have a status similar to that of passengers arriving from another US airport.
For passengers the benefits are that they are processed through all US entry procedures before they travel and knowing that when they arrive at their destination, they will have an uninterrupted passage through the US airport. In addition, passengers will be able to travel onward to other US destinations while remaining airside thereby obviating the need for further security and baggage checks.
For the airport authority the benefit is that they will now be able to market its airport as a hub for US bound flights having these preclearance advantages. This service is not on offer to any other European country.
The recent announcement by Delta and Aer Lingus of the suspension of a number of transatlantic services from Shannon for the winter season is very disappointing news, especially in the context of preclearance commencing there in a matter of weeks. While my initial concerns, on hearing of these decisions, related to the economic impact they would have on business and tourism in the region, I was also concerned that a reduction in transatlantic services could generate a negative response from the US side in regard to the introduction of preclearance. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting the US Secretary for Homeland Security, Ms Janet Napolitano, for discussions on preclearance and had the opportunity of putting that point to her. I was glad to receive her reassurance that the US is committed to preclearance for Ireland and the commitment will not be affected by the suspension of some winter services to the US.
Both Ireland and the US expect the level of transatlantic flights to be precleared at Shannon will increase over time once the advantages that preclearance brings become clear to all airlines. The introduction of preclearance in Shannon Airport this summer is not only a vote of confidence in its current position as a key Irish airport. It is also an investment for the future to position Ireland to take maximum advantage of the aviation opportunities that will arise when the world economy climbs out of the current recession. I am reinforced in that view because I understand the US authorities have no plans to introduce similar facilities elsewhere in Europe. This provides Irish airports with a unique marketing opportunity in attracting airlines and creating new business in the key transatlantic aviation market.
Under this legislation, US preclearance officers in Ireland will be empowered to carry out their duties in dealing with requests for entry into the US. In other words, the only powers to be exercised by preclearance officers at Dublin and Shannon Airports will derive from this legislation and will only be exercisable within clearly defined preclearance areas. Other powers assigned to preclearance officers in the United States are derived from US law but these are not exercisable in Ireland in the performance of preclearance duties.
The preclearance agreement with the United States, on which this legislation is based, was drafted in close co-operation with the Office of the Attorney General to ensure it is consistent with the Irish Constitution. Accordingly, only the laws of Ireland will apply at all times in the preclearance facility and the various preclearance areas. The only powers that can be exercised by a preclearance officer are those created by the Oireachtas under this legislation.
The transatlantic aviation market is of enormous strategic, economic and cultural importance to Ireland. However, the ongoing global recession and high aviation fuel costs are having a seriously negative impact on the industry. Consumer demand for air travel has fallen sharply in recent months and transatlantic traffic is being hit particularly hard this year. The challenge is to ensure Irish aviation is well positioned to take advantage of the economic recovery when that comes. In that context the full potential of preclearance can be realised, including the promotion of Irish airports as hubs for in-transit preclearance.
Several outside expressions of interest in preclearance have been made. British Airways has announced that from the autumn it will be operating a business class only service from London City Airport to the US with a stopover at Shannon, precisely for the purpose of taking advantage of the preclearance services there. Initially this will be a once-daily service which will expand to a twice-daily service in a matter of weeks. Preclearance is also being introduced at Shannon for private US-bound aircraft from September next. Similar to the interest shown by commercial aviation, we can expect an increase in private and business aircraft routing through Shannon to take advantage of preclearance. Each additional aircraft routing through Shannon for preclearance will create a positive commercial impact on the airport and the surrounding regional economy.
Under this legislation, preclearance officers of the US Customs and Border Protection Service will be authorised to carry out certain functions with passengers and aircraft bound for the US at designated preclearance areas of Irish airports that would otherwise be carried out on arrival in the US. The functions of preclearance officers in Ireland shall include the inspection of individuals, their goods and aircraft, the searching of individuals, with the assistance of a member of An Garda Síochána in certain circumstances, and the holding of individuals, where the circumstances warrant it, pending the arrival of a member of An Garda Síochána who would then take charge.
Where, during the course of an inspection, a preclearance officer discovers an item the possession of which constitutes an offence under Irish law, the preclearance officer would seek the assistance of an Irish law enforcement officer. If a situation arises where goods need to be seized, they shall be seized by an Irish law enforcement officer. The Bill makes provision for a right of appeal in situations where goods have been seized.
The necessary preclearance facilities will be provided by the airport authority and the costs recovered from the participating airlines through a passenger charge.
When negotiating the agreement, both sides saw the merit in not including in the agreement, the details of operational procedures for the practical implementation of preclearance on the ground. It was decided that these would be negotiated separately between the parties and agreed before implementing preclearance.
Section 1 provides for the interpretation of the Act. Section 2 enables the Minister to make regulations designating preclearance areas at the airports. In such areas US preclearance officers would be able to undertake necessary procedures to grant preclearance to passengers seeking entry to the US and necessary security safeguards would be implemented.
Section 3 outlines the duties and responsibilities of travellers in the preclearance area such as an obligation to provide an accurate written declaration of all goods and to comply with the lawful requirements of an Irish law enforcement officer or a preclearance officer. Failure to adhere to such obligations constitutes an offence. Seanad Éireann adopted an amendment to this section which provides that it shall be a good defence to show that one had reasonable grounds for believing that his or her declaration was duly made in accordance with this section.
Section 4 provides the traveller with a right to withdraw from the preclearance area at any time, subject to certain exceptions relating to threatening or obstructive behaviour by the traveller or where a person is suspected of committing an offence under Irish law.
Section 5 outlines the functions of preclearance officers when processing applications for preclearance, including powers to search a traveller and his goods with his consent and to search a person and his goods in the preclearance area without warrant when suspected of posing an immediate threat. Preclearance officers may also detain a person or private aircraft where an offence is suspected and to forthwith deliver that person or private aircraft into the custody of an Irish law enforcement officer to be dealt with in accordance with Irish law. Subject to section 5(4), preclearance officers may also detain goods, which are not accurately declared by a traveller and forthwith deliver them to an Irish law enforcement officer for the purposes of sections 8 to 10, inclusive, which deal with a special procedure for seizure and detention of goods to be administered by the Revenue Commissioners. Under section 5(5) preclearance officers, as a condition for the grant of preclearance, may require the traveller to pay a sum of money that would be payable by that traveller on postclearance in respect of any particular goods or to surrender the goods.
Section 6 sets out the functions of Irish law enforcement officers in the preclearance area where a person is suspected of making a false declaration of goods, or is in possession of goods that is controlled or prohibited in the State, or if the person is suspected of otherwise posing a threat to persons in the preclearance area. An Irish law enforcement officer may search the person without warrant and detain the person for such time as is reasonably necessary for carrying out the search subject to certain provisions. An Irish law enforcement officer may examine, seize or detain anything found in the course of the search that might be required as evidence in a prosecution. Section 6(6) provides the powers granted under section 6 shall not prejudice other powers exercised by Irish law enforcement officers to search or to seize or detain goods. Section 7 restricts entry into the preclearance area to preclearance officers, travellers and other authorised personnel. It also sets out the powers enjoyed by preclearance officers and Irish law enforcement officers in the interests of security and the proper functioning of the preclearance area. It empowers such officers to ask a person to leave the preclearance area in certain circumstances. A person who contravenes this provision shall be guilty of an offence. Sections 8 to 10 provide for the seizure of goods not declared or falsely declared, the procedures for making a claim to the Revenue Commissioners in respect of goods seized and the procedures to be followed by the Revenue Commissioners in the event of the seizure of goods and the processing of claims by the Revenue Commissioners.
Section 11 provides that the responsibility for costs incurred in respect of transit passengers who are refused preclearance are to be borne by the air carrier. The air carrier may recoup the costs from the traveller. Section 12 clarifies the status of in-transit preclearance travellers under the Aliens Act 1935 and the Immigration Act 2004. Section 13 provides for privileges and immunities to be enjoyed by citizens of the United States who are assigned to carry out preclearance functions in the State under this Act. In line with Article IV(4) of the relevant agreement, section 13(6) enables any person who would be precluded from suing the US authorities because of immunity granted under this section, to sue the Minister.
Section 14 empowers an airport authority to charge fees to air carriers availing of preclearance. Section 15 is a standard provision relating to the power of the Minister to incur expenses in the administration of the Act. Section 16 gives the Minister the power to make general regulations as necessary to give effect to the Act and agreement and to make regulations to ensure the integrity, security and proper functioning of preclearance areas. Sections 17 and 18 provide for the offences and penalties to be applied under the Act. Section 17 was amended in the Seanad to ensure that the penalty for assaulting a member of the Garda Síochána is no less than the penalty already provided for in the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994. Sections 19 to 21 provide for the repeal of the Air Navigation and Transport (Preinspection) Act 1986, a minor amendment to the Third Schedule to the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and for the Short Title and commencement of the Act.
I have given a general overview of the Bill before the House, which does not have significant financial or staffing implications for the Exchequer. The potential of the legislation, in so far as job creation and the long-term economic benefits for Ireland are concerned, is obvious. Preclearance will give the aviation industry an opportunity to develop business in this country’s key international gateways. While the immediate challenge will be to weather the current recession, I firmly believe all international airlines will fully embrace this unique opportunity to increase their business over the long term. This is an important development for our State airports, particularly Shannon Airport where preclearance will be introduced a full year ahead of Dublin Airport. I urge the airport authorities to fully utilise the unique marketing advantage they will have. Good international air access is a key factor in mitigating the impact of Ireland’s peripheral location. I refer in particular to that of the west of Ireland. This is even more important in these recessionary times. Growth in air transport links has played a significant part in our economic success since the mid-1990s. This initiative will help to ensure that air transport plays an even greater role in our economic recovery. I commend the Bill to the House.

Minister for Transport (Deputy Noel Dempsey): I thank Deputies for their positive contributions to the debate on this legislation. Without exception, there was praise for these measures and for the agreement we have made. To the Deputies who queried why it took so long to reach agreement, I remind them that a similar deal with Canada took seven years to negotiate. I spoke to various members of Congress in the United States and people who were involved in various lobbying campaigns, and they were all amazed that the agreement was concluded so quickly. The reason for this was the commitment of both sides and the relationship that exists between our two countries, including our affinity in terms of aviation policy generally, as referred to by so many Deputies. In particular, the link between Shannon and the United States was often mentioned to me during the negotiations.
Deputies O’Dowd, Kitt, Broughan and others asked about the cost of these measures. The capital cost of providing pre-clearance facilities at Shannon Airport will be approximately €20 million. Deputies from that region will be aware of the work that is ongoing in this regard and which will be completed in July. The best estimate we have for Dublin Airport, where the facilities will be provided as part of the T2 project, is that it will cost approximately €30 million. In regard to operational costs, the various agencies that are involved, including the Garda, Customs and Excise, airport authorities, Revenue and so on, are being asked to work within existing resources. The cost of retaining customs and border patrol personnel is a matter for the United States authorities and involves no cost to the Exchequer.
Deputy O’Dowd asked why a regulatory impact assessment was not undertaken. It was not considered necessary in this case because the legislation does not require an addition to regulation. Deputies Breen and Broughan asked about the charges to passengers. The charge at Shannon Airport will be €10.50 per passenger but the charge at Dublin is not yet known. This cost is based at Shannon, as it will be at Dublin, on the economic costs of providing the necessary services. The decision in regard to the level of costs is one for the airport authorities themselves rather than for the customs and border patrol, the airlines or the Minister for Transport.
Almost every Deputy who spoke pointed out that this measure represents a wonderful opportunity for the Shannon region and the mid-west in general. I agree it is vital that all of this should be marketed. It is the Government’s job to provide the best possible conditions in which businesses must operate. We did this by providing the new preclearance facility in the mid-west. As many Deputies on all sides have freely acknowledged, this has provided Shannon Airport with a competitive advantage. Rather than looking elsewhere for salvation, the airport should continue to pursue the approach I have observed in various visits to the facility in the past 12 to 15 months. This is exemplified by the establishment of Atlantic Way and the coming together of many organisations in the mid-west region to help themselves.
The Government has provided a preclearance facility which gives the region competitive advantage. It is now up to the region to make use of and capitalise on this facility because the competitive advantage it offers will not last forever. In this regard, Deputy Broughan asked when a preclearance facility at Dublin Airport will come on stream. This is due by the end of next year with the opening of T2. Shannon Airport’s advantage over Dublin Airport in terms of preclearance facilities will last for 12 to 15 months and both airports will have a considerable time advantage over all other airports in Europe because they will have the only preclearance facilities in Europe for some time.
While I concur with Deputies opposite on the need for marketing, this is a task for the mid-west region. It is being done by Tourism Ireland and Shannon Airport. Shannon Airport Authority, for instance, is actively promoting the customs and border patrol, not only for commercial flights but also for the private jets to which many Deputies referred. It is a question of getting up and going.
A number of Deputies referred to a promise to provide €53 million for marketing Shannon Airport and the mid-west region. No such promise was made.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: The Government commissioned the report.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: A report was commissioned on marketing and other matters.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: It was a good report.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: The report sought €53 million for the marketing of the mid-west region. As this sum exceeds the entire annual budget of Tourism Ireland, it was not realistic and was never promised. The former Minister for Transport, the late Séamus Brennan, and I succeeded in securing special earmark funding of €4.5 million for the region as an exceptional measure. This funding is being spent at present. The Shannon and mid-west region is the only region with a specific, targeted tourism campaign, known as Discover Ireland’s Wonderful West. I launched the campaign on a visit to the United States last year and, as some of the Deputies opposite noted, it is working well.
A number of Deputies raised the issue of cargo preclearance. The agreement does not provide for this form of preclearance. The United States authorities were anxious to proceed with preclearance for passengers and private jets. In our discussions with the US authorities, my officials and I raised the possibility of introducing a cargo preclearance facility at every available opportunity. For example, I raised it at my meeting yesterday and at the meeting I had with Secretary Chertoff when we signed the deal. The United States authorities have not by any means rejected the cargo preclearance proposal. Yesterday, we received further confirmation that they first wish to see how the new preclearance facility works. Once that has bedded down, we will be able to raise the issue of cargo preclearance.
While I intend to continue to pursue the issue of cargo preclearance and concur with Deputies opposite that such a facility could offer significant opportunities to establish a logistics hub at Shannon Airport, having raised the possibility with the United States authorities on a number of occasions, I believe the best course of action is to ensure the preclearance facility works and the reopening of the market in September is successful. If everything runs smoothly, it will create confidence and we will, I hope, be in a position to push an open door on the issue of cargo preclearance.
While I do not wish to add a note of acrimony to what has been a constructive debate, a number of political points were made on the famous departure tax of €10. According to some Deputies, the tax is causing devastation across Europe, the United States and the world.

Deputy Pat Breen: It was implemented at the wrong time.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: I fail to understand how a departure tax in Ireland could have resulted in reductions in the number of passengers using airports across Europe. Some of the Deputies opposite noted that Belgium and the Netherlands decided to abandon similar taxes. However, the figures show that the rate of decline in passenger numbers in Belgium and the Netherlands is greater than in Ireland.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: That is because Irish people have no other means of travel.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: We are an island nation.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: If Deputies wish to make statements on the issue, they should at least consult the relevant figures. Data from the International Air Transport Association on passenger numbers show that the decline is a result of the global recession.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Minister is under the thumb of the Department of Finance.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: Ireland did not impose a departure tax across the world.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: He should stand up for his Department.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: We have heard nonsense, plain and simple, about this issue.

Deputy Pat Breen: Why impose a departure tax when passenger numbers are falling?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: If we were to abandon the departure tax, as proposed by Fine Gael and the Labour Party, it would result in a loss of income or increased charges of approximately €200 million. Will the Deputies opposite tell me where we would generate such a sum in the event that we chose to forego revenue from the departure tax? It is easy to call on me to abolish it and I would be more than willing to do so if the tax could be avoided.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Minister should publish a cost-benefit analysis of the measure.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: None of the Deputies opposite has proposed cuts to compensate for abolishing the departure tax. They cannot have it both ways.

Deputy Pat Breen: The Minister would not accept any suggestion made on this side.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: This is the cutback Government.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: The problem with the Deputy is he does not want to cut anything. He wants to create the impression that measures can be set aside and refuses to face up to reality.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: The Government will be cut back at the next general election.

Deputy Noel Dempsey: I would like to be constructive. Deputy Broughan asked whether it is possible to change the designation of space. This can be done formally. The diplomatic notes are standard notes which must be exchanged when an international agreement is made. There is no delay in this regard.
The State Airports Act was suspended following requests from the airports concerned arising from the current financial circumstances.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Will the Minister bring back Aer Rianta?

Deputy Noel Dempsey: The agreement allows either party to request a review at any time. Redress is provided for in Irish law but that does not preclude passengers from also pursuing actions in the US. Deputies raised other issues which we may address on Committee Stage.