HC Deb 12 February 1997 vol 290 cc186-7W
Sir Anthony Durant

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has received preliminary reports from British Waterways and the Environment Agency examining individual waterways in response to the Government's conclusions to the review of British Waterways and agency navigation functions; and if he will make a statement. [15832]

Mr. Robert B. Jones

British Waterways and the Environment Agency have submitted a joint report following a series of regional reviews of the river navigations under their control. I have placed a copy of their report in the Library.

In the light of the regional reviews, BW and EA recommended further detailed studies. I have accordingly accepted the suggestion that BW and the agency undertake a detailed review of the division of responsibilities on the River Weaver. I have also invited BW to carry out a three-month study, in consultation with the agency, of the Great Ouse and the Nene to examine what it could do if it managed the navigation aspects of these two rivers. This study should cover, among other things, costs and benefits, environmental impacts and the views of all interested parties on such an arrangement.

The report concludes that relationships between the two organisations are good and that BW and the agency are already working well together in many areas. The reviews have identified a number of steps that can be taken to improve this collaboration further. I endorse the organisations' efforts to identify efficiency gains, ways of working more effectively and means of providing service improvements.

At the third annual inland navigation seminar on 4 December 1996, BW and the agency, together with the Broads Authority, created the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities. I support this initiative and look forward to it making a positive contribution across the range of navigation policy issues. I hope that BW and the EA will progress jointly their ideas to develop a national navigation strategy in consultation with the new association and the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council.

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