Mr. Robert Ainsworth
[holding answer 15 March 2001]: British Waterways (BW) closed access to all its waterways located in affected and restricted areas from the beginning of the month to help limit the spread of foot and mouth disease. The closure applies where county councils have taken powers to close rights of way and prevents all non-essential use of the waterways concerned.
The Government have established a task force chaired by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment to consider the implications of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease for the rural economy. The implications for the canal network (and other waterways) will be within the ambit of this group which will be considering whether and where it is safe to reopen rights of way, including waterways. The task force will also help those caught up in the crisis and measures to help the rural economy once the outbreak has been eradicated.