Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Conservative)

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries (Richard Benyon) has today made the following Statement.

I am pleased to announce to the House that I have concluded a long-term funding deal with the trustees of the Canal and River Trust (CRT), which will, subject to parliamentary approval, take over the ownership and management of the inland waterways in England and Wales from British Waterways later this year.

The Government have already announced that the 460 million commercial property endowment historically built up from surplus network property and used by British Waterways to fund the network infrastructure will be transferred to CRT for the same purposes, along with the rest of the network in England and Wales. In order to get the Canal and River Trust off to the best possible start, Defra will also commit grant funding of some 800 million over the next 15 years (from 2012-13 to the end of 2026-07).

The funding deal has the following major components:

A core grant of 39 million per year (index-linked to inflation from 2015-16 onwards).

From 2015-16, an additional grant of 10 million per year (reduced gradually over the past five years of the grant agreement), conditional on the Canal and River Trust's performance against three standards:

satisfactory condition of principal assets,satisfactory condition of towpaths, andsatisfactory flood risk management measures.

A 25 million one-off grant to be spread across the next few months, and a capped last resort Government guarantee in relation to the historic public sector pension liability.

A review will take place in 2021-22 to examine the case for the Government's funding of public benefits from the waterways beyond 2026-27.

The CRT will also be required to publish annually a range of data about the public benefits it delivers, to enable stakeholders and the public to hold the charity to account.

This is a very good deal for the taxpayer, the waterways, the boaters and enthusiasts who care so passionately about them, and for the many millions of people who visit them every year. The trustees have welcomed the deal, which provides a firm financial footing for the trust. The trust will seize new opportunities to generate revenue through donations, charitable grants and legacies, increased borrowing powers, efficiencies and volunteering activity.

The Canal and River Trust will inherit British Waterways' responsibilities for maintaining heritage sites, wildlife habitats and open spaces, so that all can enjoy them for generations to come. It will help realise public benefits such as green travel to work, health and well-being, support to the inner cities and rural regeneration.

This deal is a further expression of our commitment to building up the Big Society. The new charity will involve local communities and volunteers in shaping the future of our waterways.

Subject to satisfactory conclusion of outstanding issues, the Government plan to lay the order to transfer statutory functions from British Waterways to the Canal and River Trust in Parliament at the end of February. Subject to Parliament's approval, we hope to see the new charity launched in June.

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