On 21 June 2010 I made a statement about inland waterways policy for England and Wales, Official Report, column 4WS. I said that we were considering the appropriate civil society model for British Waterways, including the possible inclusion of the Environment Agency’s navigations. On 14 October, the Government subsequently announced their intention to move British Waterways in England and Wales from being a public corporation to a new waterways charity—subject to parliamentary approval.
As a result of work undertaken by the Government, British Waterways and the Environment Agency over the last few months, I am convinced by the compelling vision of a national trust for the waterways that includes the British Waterways and Environment Agency navigations. However, I wish to take a phased approach to the delivery of this vision, so that assets and liabilities can be transferred sustainably. In phase 1, the liabilities and assets of British Waterways in England and Wales will transfer into the new charity, alongside an “endowment” consisting of the property portfolio owned by British Waterways in England and Wales. In phase 2, the EA navigations would transfer to the new charity, if sufficient funding can be found in the next spending review to enable the charity to take on the liabilities associated with them, and subject to the agreement of the charity’s trustees.
The Government’s proposed approach, which will be subject to public consultation as part of the forthcoming consultation on setting up the new charity, is that the EA navigations should transfer to the new charity in 2015-16 in the next spending review period, if it is affordable to do so. To maintain momentum, a review will be undertaken in 2014 to assess the progress and achievements of the new charity and to consider the options for the transfer of the EA navigations.
The Government are absolutely committed to delivering their exciting vision for a national trust for the waterways over the coming years and consider that over time the new waterways charity offers the most sustainable future for both the BW waterways and EA navigations.