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Water Authorities And Cargo Waterways

Volume 326: debated on Wednesday 15 December 1971

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what the duties of the new water authorities will be towards working over cargo waterways and their policy on developing new cargo waterways.]

My Lords, it is contemplated that the Regional Water Authorities should have duties to maintain commercial waterways similar to those now imposed on the British Waterways Board by Section 105 of the Transport Act 1968, subject to any changes in Part I of Schedule 12 to that Act that might be dictated by economic circumstances and subject to my right honourable Friend's current discussions with operators and the British Waterways Board.

My Lords, could the noble Lord tell us why this decision has been made without consulting anybody, and especially without consulting British Waterways? Has he yet been able to study the report which British Waterways made to the Government yesterday, in which they say that on the commercial waterways the central driving force and encouragement to traders will be lost, and the research which they have been carrying out into means of water transport, such as with barge-carrying ships, will no longer be available?

My Lords, one or two of these points were answered by my noble friend Lord Sandford last Thursday night. I have not had a chance of looking at the document to which the noble Viscount is referring. He is no doubt well aware that my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment is holding a national conference early next month. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is in the middle of discussions with all interested parties, including the British Waterways Board, and I think it is unfair and wrong to impute that we are doing things without consulting British Waterways.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that on the other hand he has come to a number of decisions and announced them in Parliament without consulting anybody, especially without consulting the British Waterways?

My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Sandford told the noble Viscount last Thursday, there were 18 months of discussions before the paper was produced.