HC Deb 06 March 1991 vol 187 c147W
Sir David Price

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what decisions he has taken about light dues in 1991–92; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Rifkind

After three successive years in which light dues have been reduced, I regret that increases in costs over that period make a 6.7 per cent. increase in the light dues tariff unavoidable this year. This is not unexpected and was anticipated in the light dues statement of my predecessor a year ago. Even with this increase, which is below the rate of inflation, light dues are still below their 1987 level and are at the same cash level as in 1981. In real terms the burden has been reduced by about half in a decade.

Coupled with the tariff change there are two measures which will particularly benefit the regular payers of light dues. First, I am satisfied that there is room for a second year of the "bargain break" introduced in 1990–91 whereby the maximum number of chargeable voyages in the cargo sector will be reduced from seven to six. This will benefit shipping which has contributed in the past to the strength of the liquid funds of the general lighthouse fund. For individual ships the "bargain break" represents a 14 per cent. reduction in their annual liability.

Secondly, in response to representations from the shipping industry, I am revising the dues liability for ships paying on a per voyage basis. From April such ships will be required to pay dues on no more than one voyage per month; and "month" for this purpose will be a rolling, rather than calendar, month. This replaces the present rule under which ships of less than 25,000 net tonnage have been liable to dues on two voyages per calendar month (up to the exemption limit) and ships of 25,000 net tonnage and over have been liable to dues on one such voyage. This will have significant cash flow benefits for most cargo shipping, and for some ships the total liability in the year will also be reduced.

The necessary order to give effect to these changes will be laid shortly.

I have not yet reached a conclusion on the recommendations in the British Ports Federation report about the extension of light dues to pleasure craft, but this matter is being actively considered. Any change here would almost certainly require primary legislation.