HC Deb 22 June 1955 vol 542 cc1301-2
44. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission instructing them to take steps to offer canals for sale to private enterprise undertakings when they are no longer required for use by the Commission instead of allowing them to fall into desuetude.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

No, Sir. I am informed by the British Transport Commission that it is always ready to consider offers for the purchase of waterways no longer required for commercial transport, but that disposals of this kind are complicated by the fact that the Commission's ownership carries with it a wide variety of statutory and other obligations and liabilities.

Mr. Nabarro

In view of the announcement by the Commission that it proposes to withdraw from service several hundreds of miles of inland waterways, would my right hon. Friend initiate a change in procedure, if necessary through this House, in order to prevent a very workable and economic form of inland transport passing out of use altogether?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

As I said in reply to a Question last week, no formal submission on this matter has been made to me by the British Transport Commission. As I have said in the Answer which I have just read out, the Commission is always ready to consider offers for the purchase of the waterways in question.

Mr. Renton

Although it may require legislation to do so, would not the best solution for the uneconomic canals be to pass them to the jurisdiction of the river boards and away from the Transport Commission?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

That suggestion has already been made and is not without its merits, but the financial consequences would require a great deal of exploring.

Mr. J. T. Price

Does the Minister recollect that the canals first began to fall into ruin when they were sold to the railways, which were then part of the private enterprise system of Britain?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I do not know what moral, political or otherwise, the hon. Gentleman seeks to draw from that in connection with a nationalised railway system.