HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc593-4
14. Mr. Sever

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects next to meet the chairman of the British Waterways Board.

Mr. King

I met Sir Frank Price on 26 June. I have not yet arranged further meetings.

Mr. Sever

What help, advice and encouragement is the Minister able to give to the board for the development of freight-carrying on waterways, bearing in mind that there is a saving of some five times the amount of energy when carrying freight by canal as opposed to road?

Mr. King

Obviously we would be anxious to examine any potential for carrying freight by water. We have made clear to Sir Frank Price our interest in the future of the British Waterways Board and the canal system. It must be recognised that, while we can talk about the South Yorkshire canal, which can be designed specifically for carrying freight on the right type of barges, much of the historic canal system has very restricted lock sizes. The possibilities for carrying freight on those canals are much more limited.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister intend to change the structure of the British Waterways Board, which was the declared intention of the previous Labour Administration, or does he intend that the board should carry on in its present satisfactory way?

Mr. King

As I made clear earlier, the previous Government's proposals to merge everything into one huge authority will not be proceeded with. We think that the British Waterways Board is best able to serve the interests of consumers and those who use the waterways by remaining an independent entity.