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Canal & River Trust Funding

Volume 738: debated on Thursday 19 October 2023

We have had many discussions with the Canal & River Trust over the past three years on the review of its funding, and we are providing it with more than £400 million of additional funding between 2027 and 2037. When the trust was created in 2012, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the trust signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing that the trust would have to move increasingly towards alternative sources of funding.

In Ellesmere Port, we are proud that the Canal & River Trust has made its headquarters there, but we are concerned about the implications of the funding decisions, which amount to a £300 million cut in real terms over the next decade. Clearly that will cause the trust real problems, so I urge the Minister to think again about these decisions and to engage with the trust about how that gap can be bridged.

We all recognise the important work and benefits that the Canal & River Trust brings, but the £300 million cut in funding asserted by the trust is not correct, because that includes adjustments for inflation. Government funding does not provide for that. We should also remember that an investment portfolio of over £1 billion was transferred to the trust, and it gets the benefits of the investments and the funding that accrues from them.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for the waterways, I share concerns about the future of our canal network, but I am conscious of the fact that 15 years ago when the trust was set up, the aim was for it to be self-financing. Richard Parry, the chief executive, has discussed with me and Ministers in the past the possibility of receiving a lump sum, rather than a sum over 10 years. What progress has been made on that?

I thank my hon. Friend for all the valuable work he does in that capacity. That subject is still under discussion.