§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about the negotiations with the Irish Government on financing the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
§ Mr. Ridley
Under the Merchant Shipping (Mercantile Marine Fund) Act 1898 the commissioners' expenditure is met from the general lighthouse fund, for which I am responsible. The fund is not Exchequer money: it is derived from light dues paid by ships using ports in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The fund's accounts, which are laid before Parliament, do not identify the costs incurred by the commissioners in the Republic of Ireland, but for the purposes of the agreement, it has been accepted that 70 per cent. of the commissioners' total expenditure is incurred in the Republic. In future an increasing proportion of this expenditure will be met from sources within the Republic. These will consist of light dues collected in the Republic (set at levels determined by the Irish Government) supplemented, when necessary, by a contribution from the Irish Government. The first supplement will be paid by the Irish Government on 1 January 1987, and will be at a level which, when added to the light dues collected in the Republic in 1985–86, will meet 30 per cent. of the commissioners' expenditure incurred in the Republic in that year. In the subsequent 559W years the percentage will rise to 35 per cent. in 1986–87; 40 per cent. in 1987–88; 45 per cent. in 1988–89 and 50 per cent. thereafter.
In pursuing these negotiations it has been common ground that the commissioners should continue as a body dealing with the island of Ireland. Further discussions will be opened shortly on the need for changes in the Commissioners' constitution and the statutory relationships that Ministers in the two Governments have with the commissioners.