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New Waterways Charity

Volume 532: debated on Monday 12 September 2011

On 14 October 2010, the Government 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.

On 30 March 2011, I launched a high-level consultation on this proposal. The consultation closed on 30 June 2011.

Today, I am announcing the publication of the Government’s response to this consultation, alongside a further consultation on the legislation to transfer functions from British Waterways to the new charity, both of which are available at: uk/consult/.

The Government response confirms our commitment to the creation of a new waterways charity in England and Wales, subject to parliamentary approval. It details the main points raised by stakeholders during the consultation exercise, and the Government’s proposals in the light of those comments. The response has been developed by working closely with the transition trustees of the new charity. Key points addressed in the response include:

Local partnerships will be named “Waterways Partnerships” to reflect their strategic role and size; each partnership will develop a “localism strategy”.

Fair representation of different groups on the council will be prioritised. “Private boaters”, “boating businesses” and “NWC employees” will directly elect their representatives from the outset. We will progress to 50% of the council being directly elected overtime.

In addition to the Waterways Partnerships that cover the waterways in England, and those that cover the waterways straddling England and Wales, there will be a separate All-Wales Partnership, with representation from associated bodies with a Welsh remit.

We are publishing a revised and enhanced draft of the charitable purposes.

More detail is available on how Government will work with the charity to secure and safeguard public benefits, including free pedestrian access to the towpaths, through the charitable purposes. Trust obligations, legislation and Government funding agreement.

The Government believe that the move to civil society will secure the long-term financial sustainability of the waterways. We have already announced plans to transfer all of British Waterways’ property assets to the charity, as an endowment, and to commit to a long-term funding agreement. The length and terms of the agreement will be subject to negotiation and final agreement between Government and the transition trustees, this autumn.

The further consultation on legislation deals with the content of the proposed transfer order under the Public Bodies Bill, which will, subject to parliamentary approval, transfer the functions of British Waterways in England and Wales to the new charity. The document provides further information about the legislation which currently relates to British Waterways, the principles underpinning the functions to be transferred, and proposed amendments to legislation. It invites comments on the proposals specified. Because a full, 12-week consultation has already taken place on the principles of the transfer and this is a more limited consultation, it will take place over six weeks only and will close on 24 October 2011.