Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 107)

WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2000

MR DAVID PEARCE, DR ROGER SQUIRES AND MR NEIL EDWARDS

  100. These are regulations imposed on you by?
  (Mr Pearce) British Waterways.

Chairman

  101. You have not made a suggestion about legislation and said that you need new legislation. What are the most important features of that?
  (Mr Edwards) In the 1968 Transport Act, many of the waterways which we use and cruise at the moment are designated as remainder because at that time their future was unclear, 32 years ago. That has long been sorted out and they are part of the integrated network but nonetheless the navigation authority responsible, British Waterways, is constrained in its management by this ancient legislation. That needs sorting out too.

  102. You say that they are constrained by it. In what manner are they constrained?
  (Mr Edwards) They are not allowed to spend proper maintenance money. They are required to manage remainder waterways in a way that is at the absolute minimum cost. We believe that all the waterways used for boating should be managed in a maintenance efficient manner so that they are properly invested in and proper expenditure happens to them all equally.

  103. Under the 1968 Act apparently the remainder waterways can be upgraded.
  (Mr Edwards) They can be upgraded but usually that requires commitment from local authorities or other bodies to fund that maintenance cost.

  104. To be realistic—I do not want to be unkind—most legislation is framed in such a way that it implies that people have a duty to keep things going and maintain them at a particular level. As long as there is provision for them to be improved, that is not exactly an unrealistic provision, is it? I could point you to a large amount of transport legislation which is very constraining.
  (Mr Edwards) It is difficult because when that legislation was framed the future of those waterways was as a remainder. They might have been done away with and the legislation was viewed with that in mind. Whilst the provisions do allow for ministerial orders to upgrade those waterways to the different categories, evidence has shown in recent years that that is extremely difficult to achieve.

  105. You are also saying that that was because people could not find the money; you did not say it was because of legislation.
  (Mr Edwards) It is because it risks imposing a duty on some authorities who just happen to benefit from having one sort of waterway in their area to another. If you wanted to upgrade the very far western end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the local authorities there might have to provide funding to support that upgrading, but local authorities further along the route, because of historical accident, will not have to because they regard it as cruiseway.

Mr Bennett

  106. Have you put a submission into the Department as to what you want changing in the 1968 Act?
  (Mr Edwards) We have not but we could certainly do so if that was felt to be helpful.

  107. I think it would be helpful if we could have a list of all the changes that you want. I would have thought, if it is important enough to tell us that you want it changed, you would have told the Department.
  (Mr Edwards) We have explained to the Department many of the changes we want. We have not set them out at this precise point in time, bearing in mind the recent publication from the government. We will gladly make a submission in the very near future.

  Chairman: I am very grateful to you, gentlemen. Thank you very much.





 
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