To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to announce a national policy for United Kingdom radio beacons; what representations he has made in north-west European discussions on the future of Decca and Loran; which countries are involved in the discussions; when he expects to conclude these discussions; when he expects to make an announcement; if he will list the comparative advantages and disadvantages between Decca and Loran; and if he will detail the total estimated cost of each system.
The Decca navigator system currently provides the main electronic position-fixed system in United Kingdom waters. The system is operated under a contract between the general lighthouse authorities and Racal Decca Marine Navigation Ltd. The contract runs to 1994 and is extendable to 1997.My right hon. Friend is not yet able to make a statement about the international discussions on the possible adoption of Loran C as a standard civil electronic aid in north-west Europe. Informal feasibility discussions are proceeding between the United Kingdom, Norway, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands, but none of the states concerned is yet committed to any change. Examination of the technical and cost aspects of an international co-operative development of Loran C has yet to be completed. If firm proposals for a change emerge from these discussions, my right hon. Friend expects to seek the views of interested parties before reaching a decision. Full account would be taken of user interests and of the relative costs, accuracy and technical suitability of the respective systems.