HC Deb 16 December 1970 vol 808 cc1322-3
6. Mr. John Wells

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what his future policy will be about enabling the British Waterways Board to retain more of its earnings in order to develop its capital resources and to acquire adjacent properties that will enable the board to operate on a more profitable basis.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)

The board Sir, has no surplus earnings. I am very willing to consider any proposition that would reduce the burden on the taxpayer or the extent of Government involvement.

Mr. Wells

Is it not true that the board may not have surplus earnings but it makes a profit in certain sectors and this has to be repaid to the Treasury, whereas a certain element of limited ploughback could enable it to acquire more properties and thereby make greater use of its assets and thus speed up the implementation of Conservative policy for the Waterways Board?

Mr. Griffiths

My hon. Friend, who has great knowledge of this matter, knows that this proposal has been put forward by others, but I must tell him that while there were net profits on freight services of £46,000 in 1969, the net loss on running commercial waterways was £330,000.

14. Mr. John Wells

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give a general direction to the British Waterways Board to show in its accounts in future the profits or losses on its pleasure-boat operation, and to publish a supplement to its accounts revealing these figures.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

No, Sir. The British Waterways Board already publishes this information in its accounts.

Mr. Wells

While I am well aware of the figures which appear in Table D2 of the accounts last year, the word "net" creeps in in this category, and what the word "net" means is highly suspect. Will my hon. Friend look at this again with a view to having a proper break-down published, showing the depreciation of the boats, the repairs, the insurance and the administration that can rightly be ascribed to boats, as opposed to general administration?

Mr. Griffiths

I understand that the figures in the accounts are net of all properly attributable expenses and overheads and that they represent the true outcome of the board's pleasure boat operations. On my hon. Friend's suggestion, certainly I will look at this matter.