HC Deb 10 December 1990 vol 182 cc271-2W
Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what level of grant and or subsidy was provided to inland waterway freight for each year between 1978 and 1989.

Mr. Baldry

The British Waterways Board (BWB) receives annual grant in aid from the Exchequer towards the cost of operating and maintaining all its waterways. The table shows the board's external financing limit (EFL), which covers grant and borrowing, for the years 1978–79 to 1989–90.

BWB finance 1978–79 to 1989–90
£ million
EFL (outturn) (cash) EFL (outturn) (1990–91 prices)
1978.79 26.0 65.5
1979.80 25.7 55.5
1980.81 30.0 54.8
1981.82 31.6 52.5
1982.83 39.3 60.9
1983.84 40.8 60.4
1984.85 42.8 60.4
EFL (outturn) (cash) EFL (outturn) (1990–91 prices)
1985–86 44.1 59.1
1986–87 44.8 58.2
1987–88 45.0 55.4
1988–89 44.8 51.4
1989–90 46.9 50.6

Waterways are nowadays used mainly for recreation and amenity; excluding maritime traffic, they carry only 1.5 per cent. of total inland freight. BWB's share of total inland freight (all modes) is 0.1 per cent. All freight traffic on the board's network is now carried by private sector operators. The Government wish to see maximum use of rivers and canals for freight transport where commercially sensible. But customers should be free to choose the mode of transport best suited to their needs. The Government's role is to ensure that conditions of competition are fair, and subject to proper safety and environmental standards.

However, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport can give grants under section 36 of the Transport Act 1981 towards inland waterway freight facilities which bring significant environmental benefits by keeping lorries off unsuitable roads and where, in the absence of grant, the commercial decision would be to use road transport. Five grants, with a total value of £1.4 million, have been awarded up to 1989.