§ Mr. McQuarrie
asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for the future of the Racal-Decca navigator system for shipping; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Moore
The Racal-Decca navigator system is an important marine navigational aid in the waters around the British Isles. It provides highly accurate position-fixing signals that can be picked up by purpose-built receivers. For well over 30 years Racal-Decca (and the Decca658W Company before it) recovered the cost of this service from the rentals of receivers. In recent years, however, advances in technology have made it feasible for other manufacturers to sell relatively low-cost receivers, so eroding Racal-Decca's rental revenue. Racal-Decca decided earlier this year that this loss would quite shortly make it impossible for it to continue to provide the service on the previous basis. After extensive discussions with my Department it was agreed in principle that the company would be prepared to continue to run UK transmitters to the same high technical standard as hitherto under the superintendence of the General Lighthouse Authorities and as a charge to the General Lighthouse Fund. The agreement envisaged that this arrangement would last initially for seven years, with an option to extend for a further three years. An important element of the agreement is that the company, as it has already announced, will no longer require that its receivers should be rented: they will be freely sold (as will those of other manufacturers). The detailed terms of the arrangements will be the subject of a contract at present under negotiation between the company and the authorities. A pre-requisite of the authorities entering into such a contract is that their statutory functions should be extended to include superintendence and management of the navigator system. For this purpose I will lay an order early in the new Session which, subject to Affirmative Resolution by both Houses, would enable the new arrangements to take effect from 1 January 1987.
Nothing in these arrangements affects any of the contractual commitments bearing on the navigator system that Racal-Decca has with marine authorities in many other parts of the world.