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Light Dues

Volume 205: debated on Tuesday 10 March 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on light dues.

My responsibility for ensuring that the finances of the general lighthouse fund are maintained on a satisfactory basis compels me to increase the level of light dues. Now that the objective of reducing the fund's liquid reserves to a minimum necessary level has been substantially achieved, as the payers of light dues have wanted, it is essential to restore the dues tariff closer to the level required to cover the general lighthouse authorities' operating expenses and depreciation charges. The alternative would be an unacceptably high cash outflow which could be corrected only by exceptionally large dues increases at a later stage.I am accordingly laying regulations today to increase the light dues voyage tariff by 6·5p to 41·5p per tonne with effect from 1 April; I am also increasing the tariff for periodical payments, including those for fishing vessels, from £192 per annum plus £19 a metre (for 10 metres and over) to £205 plus £21 respectively, with consequential increases in related rates.The lower increase for fishing vessels takes account of the continuing special restrictions on the level of the industry's activities. These include the quota management system, the requirement on some vessels to tie up in port for specified periods each year, and the closure of certain fisheries to specific boats to meet conservation requirements.I share the concern expressed by the shipping and ports industries over the periodic need for sharp changes in the light dues tariff and over certain other features of the system. I propose to take a number of steps to improve the position. First, I am inviting the Irish Government to join with the United Kingdom in an approach to the European Commission over the distortion to competition currently caused by the different methods of financing marine navigational aids within the Community. Secondly, I wish to review with the Irish Government the arrangements for financing the lights service in the Republic with the aim of securing a substantially increased contribution to the fund from sources within the Republic. Thirdly, I am asking the general lighthouse authorities to make cuts of about £1.5 million in their planned expenditure for 1992–93. Fourthly, I am asking my Department to consider, with the general lighthouse authorities and the payers of light dues, whether improvements can be made in forecasting light dues income. Fifthly, I am examining the difficult task of light dues for pleasure craft, but on this I am not yet in a position to make any announcement.