In my statement to the House on marine aids to navigation of 26 July 2010 (Official Report, columns 75 to 76WS), I said that the government believes a solution needs to be found as soon as possible to the imbalance of funding for marine aids to navigation in the Republic of Ireland. I am pleased to inform the House that the Irish Transport Minister and I have now reached an understanding on the reform of the funding of the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
The Commissioners of Irish Lights is the general lighthouse authority which has provided marine aids to navigation for the benefit of mariners visiting and passing the shores of the whole island of Ireland for hundreds of years. The organisation has come to symbolise the close friendship and shared history of our nations.
For many years, the funding of the Commissioners of Irish Lights work has been a joint undertaking, its costs being met primarily from light dues income from commercial shipping raised in both our jurisdictions and paid into the General Lighthouse Fund.
This funding mechanism has been the subject of debate for a number of years and there have been calls to facilitate a more equitable arrangement, whereby the costs of the work of the Commissioners in the Republic of Ireland is funded solely from sources of income there.
The Irish Transport Minister and I have reached an understanding that we will aim to see the Commissioners of Irish Lights self-financing by 2015 to 2016. This understanding will facilitate the long-term sustainable funding of the Commissioners of Irish Lights and ensure the continued co-operation of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland in the provision of marine aids to navigation.