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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 323 - 339)




  323. Good morning, gentlemen. I am sorry to have kept you waiting a little while. You are most welcome. Do you want to identify yourselves?
  (Mr Sealey) Good morning. My name is Roger Sealey. I am the researcher in the transport sector of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
  (Mr Milson) Barry Milson. Vice-Chair of the National Docks and Waterways Committee; ex-employee of British Waterways.

  324. Ah; so now we have the inside chap as well, do we. Tell us what your view is of the Government's document `Waterways for Tomorrow'?
  (Mr Sealey) Overall, the view of the Union is that we welcome the document, it is a recognition of the waterways within the overall transport team. We have certain reservations about that, about whether some of the ideas can actually be turned into reality.

  325. Which ones, Mr Sealey?
  (Mr Sealey) Certainly, I think, about the movement of freight transport. As in the comments we made, we think any movement on increases in freight, although maybe large in terms of British Waterways, in the freight that they move at the moment, it could double or maybe treble, but in terms of overall movement of freight within the UK it would be very marginal.

  326. We will come back to that, I think, but can you tell us what the implications are for your members?

  (Mr Milson) As Roger said, we find it a very good document. It covers an awful lot of things, which are a lot of things that T&G have been looking for. The freight side of it, which is one of our main concerns, obviously, within the Docks and Waterways industry, is going to take an awful lot of commitment and a lot of capital investment to bring forward any possible use of water transport. There are pockets within the canal system and other areas where it could be brought back; where it was in the old days, gone, now it could be brought back. They did a survey on the Lee, which I was involved in before I left, actually, which was the removal of the waste, bringing the waste up to Edmonton, disposal, and going back; that is feasible and it could work, but it would take a lot of commitment and a lot of finance to do that.

Mr O'Brien

  327. In the evidence submitted from the T&GWU, you refer to "Partnership with the people". You go on to say: "There is however concern that the introduction of a membership scheme would change the relationship between those providing the front line services and those who would subscribe to the membership scheme and feel that they have certain rights above those of the general public." What do you mean by that?
  (Mr Milson) I believe now that when we did the document for you the membership has drifted away slightly from the intentions. We saw it at that moment in time, the members saw it, you have just talked about the boating, the angling, the walkers, the cyclists, I am talking about the front-line troops that are out on the towpath, they have to deal with all those things. And their interpretation of a membership scheme was, you could end up with, just, say, a million members, a million more bosses, all saying whatever, and it could lead to aggravation, it could lead to operational disruption. And that was one of their main worries.

  328. So what you are saying now then is that that concern that you expressed in your evidence no longer—
  (Mr Milson) It is no longer there.

  329. Can I just go on then to this question of the future of the waterways and the ports, etc., and you do give some views as to the future and the fact that you would see this in the public sector. Having regard to the fact that we do have private ports, associated with British ports, how does T&GWU fit in with that kind of scenario?
  (Mr Milson) We have moved with the times, actually. We have always been a great believer, within BWB, employees and members, and what have you, that it would be better to be a nationalised industry, in the old days, as a public sector body. We do understand, and you have to move with the times, that there has to be private investment, you have got to live with those times, money has to come in; it depends how it comes in and how it affects our members.

  330. And so, from a strategic point of view then, the T&GWU would have no reservations about the fact that some of this area may have to attract private money, and therefore privatisation will be part of the scheme?
  (Mr Milson) We would not like to go down the road of it being privatised.

  331. But if private money is going to be involved with the development then they would have to have a say in the way that their money is operated, surely?
  (Mr Milson) Yes.

  332. So it is a PPP, a public-private partnership; you have no objection to that kind of situation?
  (Mr Milson) We have no real objection, it just depends whether it encroaches on the actual work that our members do; if that answers the question. It is not clear at the moment exactly what that is going to entail, not from our side, anyway.

  333. And so what stage are you at then? Having regard to the fact that the Government has published its White Paper, that there are provisions in there where they are hoping to attract private money, where is the T&GWU at, in that particular situation?
  (Mr Milson) We would definitely support it, if it safeguarded our members' employment and their future and the future of the waterways.

  334. You have got TUPE involved, have you not, somewhere along the line?
  (Mr Milson) Yes.

Dr Ladyman

  335. What would your guess be as to the number of people who are employed in connection with or supporting the inland waterways and the businesses on the inland waterways?
  (Mr Milson) I think, if you work for one industry, one employer, that is it. I have found, over the years, there were too many other people coming in and trying to change things, and so on.


  336. No, I think, Mr Milson, what we are looking for is numbers; perhaps Mr Sealey can help us. Is there a division between lightermen and inland waterways people, and are you able to make that definition?
  (Mr Sealey) We have not got a figure, in terms of if you are talking about the multiplier effect on team; it is probably similar to other service areas, so it would be a one-to-one ratio, one job in inland waterways directly would create one job in a related service sector.

Dr Ladyman

  337. And how many jobs do you think there are in the inland waterways at the moment?
  (Mr Sealey) That is a difficult one, because a lot of those jobs of people working in the inland waterways will be covered by the transport sector, rather than just solely those people employed by British Waterways or allied things; in the sector as a whole, probably 15,000 related.

  338. So we are talking about 15,000 people working directly in the waterways, and another 15,000 in services, servicing them?
  (Mr Sealey) Yes.

  339. Do you see any great potential for expanding employment, if the suggestions in your document that new infrastructure be provided, do you think that that would have a marginal or a large effect on employment in the waterways?
  (Mr Sealey) If what we imply in the document came into force, we would see quite a large increase in employment, because it would be something which is additional to what is there at the moment.

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