Twenty odd years ago, when I was working for the British Ports Federation, I was unsuccessful in a campaign to persuade the government to abolish so-called "Light Dues". It was a campaign supported by the port authorities and ship owners. These were the dues paid to Trinity House to pay for lighthouses. Astonishingly, then as now the British Government also sends Ireland a huge wad of public money (currently between £6-8m) to subsidise Irish lighthouses. No-one can really see any reason why this subsidy should be given to the Irish, and in light of current events it seems even more absurd.
• ‘Light dues’ are charges made to shipping companies trading with the UK for use of lighthouses, buoyancy aids etc as they navigate British waters
• Under the previous Government, light dues rose substantially, decreasing our national competitiveness (the charges were far higher than in many other countries)
• Had the previous Government scrapped the Irish subsidy, no increases to light dues would have been necessary – but they refused to scrap it still.
Mike Penning, the shipping Minister, has promised to scrap the Irish arrangement (and has told his Irish counterpart so) and is beginning to formalise arrangements this week. This is a fantastic step from someone who is turning out to be an excellent Minister.
What the government giveth...