IWA welcomed the parliamentary debate on Tuesday 22nd November, which saw more than a dozen MPs speak passionately and knowledgeably about the importance of public funding for inland waterways, but was disappointed by the response from the Waterway Minister. IWA considers that Government has missed an opportunity to reassure the public that 2000 miles of waterways in England and Wales will receive sufficient funding in the future to keep them safe for the people who live, work and spend time on or near them, and to protect this important infrastructure network for future generations.
The Westminster Hall debate was opened by Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways. Michael outlined the importance of waterways to local people, the environment and the economy. He noted that with waterways more popular than ever “we are seeing their benefits realised on a grand scale, re-purposed for leisure and recreation, for health and wellbeing, for homes – and still playing a vital economic role for freight and other commercial uses, attracting visitors from across the globe whilst also enriching the lives of so many local communities.”
The 90-minute debate heard about waterway projects in constituencies across the country, with many MPs mentioning the importance of the Canal & River Trust’s 2000 miles of waterways. Waterways managed by other navigation authorities were also discussed, with MPs from Norfolk, Scotland and Northern Ireland also taking part.
Issues raised during the debate included the potential for more water transfer projects, the impact of climate change on historic infrastructure, waterway restoration projects and the hard work put in by volunteers, as well as the most important issue of continued support for the waterways funded by Government.
The outcome of the review by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) of its funding for Canal & River Trust’s waterways, originally due to conclude in July and then postponed until ‘the autumn’, will be critical for the Trust’s long-term financial position, with the current grant funding contract only in place until 2027.
Rebecca Pow MP, recently re-appointed as the Defra Minister with responsibility for waterways in England and Wales, responded to the debate, but was unable to confirm any timescale for the announcement of Defra’s review into Canal & River Trust’s funding, saying only that, “… the outcomes… will be announced forthwith.”
IWA is disappointed that the Minister was unable to give a more positive response to the debate, and in particular to the question of timing for the Defra announcement. As mentioned by many of the MPs during the debate, IWA considers that it is essential for Canal & River Trust to have the certainty of knowing that it will receive sufficient funding to meet the increasing challenges of climate change and inflation, so that it can plan for the proper maintenance of its waterways and associated historic structures.
Photo attached: “Some of the MPs who took part in the Parliamentary Debate on 22nd November, with representatives of Canal & River Trust and IWA. (l-r: Maggie Throup MP for Erewash, Richard Parry, Chief Executive of Canal & River Trust, Michael Fabricant MP for Lichfield, Sue O’Hare, Deputy Chair of The Inland Waterways Association, Wendy Morton MP for Aldridge & Brownhills).” Photo by Paul Rodgers. High resolution version available on request.
MPs taking part in the debate were:
- Michael Fabricant MP, Lichfield (opening the debate)
- Siobhan Baillie MP, Stroud
- Duncan Baker MP, North Norfolk
- Steven Bonnar MP, Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill
- Sir William Cash MP, Stone
- Philip Dunne MP, Ludlow
- James Gray MP, North Wiltshire
- Philip Hollobone MP, Kettering
- Ruth Jones MP, Newport West
- James Morris MP, Halesowen & Rowley Regis
- Wendy Morton MP, Aldridge & Brownhills
- Jim Shannon MP, Strangford
- Maggie Throup MP, Erewash
The debate is available to watch on Parliamentary TV:
The Hansard transcript can be found here:
For further information please contact Alison Smedley, Public Affairs Manager, The Inland Waterways Association, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 01494 783453 ext 619.
Notes for Editors
The Inland Waterways Association is the only independent, national charity dedicated to supporting and regenerating Britain’s navigable rivers and canals as places for leisure, living and business.
IWA has a network of volunteers and branches who deploy their expertise and knowledge to work constructively with navigation authorities, national and local government and a wide range of voluntary, private and public sector organisations for the benefit of the waterways and their users. The Association provides practical and technical support to restoration projects through its Restoration Hub. It also acts as navigation authority for the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation through its subsidiary, Essex Waterways Limited. IWA’s Waterway Recovery Group provides practical and technical support to waterways restoration projects across the country as well as providing skills training for volunteers.