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Inland Waterways: Tourism

Volume 561: debated on Thursday 18 April 2013

The Government, through VisitEngland, promote tourism on inland waterways in a number of ways. Inland waterways have benefited from Government funding through the £25 million rural growth fund and a £1 billion contribution to the Canal and River Trust.

South Staffordshire has some of the finest canals in England, with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and the Shropshire Union canal. What more can my right hon. Friend do to encourage not only more domestic tourists, but more international tourists to discover the delights of our canals, which would bring much-needed business not just to rural communities, but to our towns and cities?

I have a very simple and, I hope, positive answer for my hon. Friend. VisitBritain will actively market all of Britain’s canals and waterways on its public-facing website. I hope that that will achieve the effect that he desires.

The Nene runs through my constituency, providing great leisure facilities for tourists and locals. However, when I visit places such as Barnwell country park these days, it concerns me to see such a reduction in resources, particularly from the local authorities. For example, the rangers are gone and the hides that had been maintained have been taken away. Will the Department for Culture, Media and Sport make representations to the Department for Communities and Local Government on its budgets, given that they will be cut under the Chancellor’s recent Budget?

Clearly, my Department wants to do everything it can to encourage tourism and the development of tourism facilities. Decisions made by local authorities in that regard are, of course, a matter for them, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that for those assets that lie within my control, everything will be done to promote the inland waterways of this country.