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Rural Payments Agency

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 7th November 2006.

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Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:33 pm, 7th November 2006

I am sorry that my earlier answer was so unclear. In response to my hon. Friend Charlotte Atkins, I tried to explain that 10 per cent. of the financial difficulties faced by the Department was the responsibility of the RPA, not 100 per cent. My hon. Friend makes a passionate defence of the work of British Waterways—I share his sentiments—but let us not forget that there has been £40 million of investment over the past nine years to clear the backlog that was left when we came into office. There has also been£30 million of additional investment on top of that. The £3.9 million reduction that we have had to make is deeply regrettable and it means that important work by British Waterways will not go ahead. However, let us not fall for the fallacy that that means that no work will be done by British Waterways, or that all its good work will be eliminated. There are £3.9 million of cuts, but more than £50 million of Government grant a year. There is a budget of £190 million, and there has been more than £70 million of new investment over the past nine years. That record is a good one on which to build. Our responsibility in the Department is to ensure that its finances are managed in such a way that it is able to support good organisations such as British Waterways.