§ MR. DONKIN (Tynemouth)
asked the Secretary to the Board of Trade, If he will give the House any information as to the present financial position of the Mercantile Marine Fund?
§ THE SECRETARY (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
The statutory light dues leviable on ships had, since the passing of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, been reduced to the extent of 60 per cent, irrespective of some minor exemptions granted to certain over-sea traders. In addition, certain fees payable on the engagement and discharge of seamen, and borne in part by owners and in part by seamen, amounting to £70,000 per annum, had also been remitted. On April 1, 1884, a balance of more than £400,000 had been accumulated, and the surplus was still growing. The light dues at that time receivable amounted to £470,000 per annum, and a further reduction was made of 10 per cent, equal to an estimated decrease of revenue of one-fourth of the light dues leviable, or about £120,000. The result of this reduction, together with the non-revival of trade and the necessary expenditure on new works for lighthouses, has been to reduce the available balance to about £30,000. In the present state of trade the Board of Trade are unwilling to increase light dues, and they have made arrangements with the Admiralty for a loan from Greenwich Hospital moneys of £250,000. They have also agreed to consider at an early date the condition of the Mercantile Marine Fund, with a view to placing its income on a more satisfactory footing.