HC Deb 21 November 1962 vol 667 cc1213-4
33. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the fact that British canals often fall into weed-choked disrepair and force cargo boats and pleasure seekers away, if he will give a general direction to the British Waterways Board to rehabilitate its canals.

Mr. Marples

In the Transport Act, 1962, Parliament has placed specific duties on the British Waterways Board in relation to its inland waterways, including a financial duty to keep its deficits at the lowest possible level. I do not, therefore, propose to give a direction such as the hon. Member suggests.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these canals are not only useless but are an eyesore and that if they were dredged and made navigable, we could thereby relieve some of the traffic congestion on our roads? If they are not to be used in future, will the Minister have them filled in and make new roads out of them?

Mr. Marples

That is a very wide supplementary question and it depends on where the canals are, where they come from, where they go to and whether the condition of them is such that they can be made usable for traffic. There are a whole series of considerations and the matter is not as simple as the hon. Member suggests.

Sir G. Nicholson

My right hon. Friend has successfully dodged the question. Is he not aware that many of these canals are in a semi-derelict condition and that it is no use his saying that there are certain duties placed on the Commission unless those duties are carried out, particularly in regard to the Kennet and Avon Canal?

Mr. Marples

I did not say that duties were placed on the Commission but on the new British Waterways Board which starts on 1st January next. It will be a new Board, divorced from the Commission, with an Exchequer subsidy for its deficits for five years, a specific capital sum for five years and a duty to say what shall be done for the canals. I do not think that that is wrong.

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