HC Deb 03 March 1965 vol 707 cc1317-8
21. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will now make a decision on the policy to be pursued concerning British Inland Waterways; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Tom Fraser

Not yet. Policy for the future of the inland waterways must be worked out in the light of the progress which the British Waterways Board has already made and is making, and in the context of current national and regional planning.

Mr. Bellenger

While appreciating the many subjects with which my right hon. Friend must deal, may I ask him to bear in mind the fact that this is one of major importance, that it has been before his Department for a considerable time and that a decision is overdue?

Mr. Fraser

When the 1962 Act was passed it envisaged that a new policy for waterways would not be evolved quickly. As a matter of fact, Section 23 of that Act seems to anticipate that it might take about five years to evolve a new policy. In any case, I am awaiting the Report of the British Waterways Board and, when I get it, I will certainly consider, as a matter of urgency, the preparation of the legislation which would inevitably follow if we are to put this matter right.

Sir B. Janner

Will my right hon. Friend consider this as a matter of some urgency? Is he aware that those who use the waterways are themselves contributing considerable amounts by way of voluntary contributions towards providing amenities, not only for people who use the waterways for business purposes, but for those who spend their leisure time on the waterways? Will he bear in mind that, since our waterways are an asset to the nation, this matter should be regarded as one of considerable urgency?

Mr. Fraser

I feel sure that my hon. Friend will agree that I must await advice from the British Waterways Board as to the extent waterways are used for commercial purposes and to what extent they might be used for amenity purposes.