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Lords report on plans to create Canal and River Trust

The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has today published a report on the Government's plans to transfer the statutory functions of British Waterways in England and Wales to a new charity, the Canal and River Trust (CRT).

The Committee acknowledges that the Government have engaged effectively with stakeholders, and have good support for the plans, with the majority of the 350 organisations who responded to the consultation supporting the proposals to establish a charitable trust.

However the Committee has made recommendations to ensure that Parliament is kept informed about the finances of the CRT, and that the Trust takes proper account of its stakeholders once it is established. These include:

  • The Government should provide Parliament with a Written Statement setting out the financial position of the Trust in two years' time, so that the financial development of the new organisation can be checked.
  • In developing any future byelaws, the CRT must demonstrate that it has taken into consideration the specific needs of all stakeholders, including itinerant boat dwellers.

Lord Goodlad, Chairman of the Committee, said:

 “It is understandable that there is a good deal of interest in these proposals.  British Waterways is responsible for a 2,200 mile network of historic canals, rivers and docks, which is visited by 13 million people a year.

 “The Government propose to transfer British Waterways' functions in England and Wales to the Canal and River Trust, by way of an Order made under the Public Bodies Act 2011.  We have taken evidence from the Minister, and see no reason to disagree with his view that the transfer of these functions will lead to greater efficiency, effectiveness and economy, and that accountability will be maintained, as the 2011 Act requires.

 “But we also strike a note of caution, given that such major responsibilities are being passed to a new organisation.  Parliament must keep the financial development of the new Trust under review, and we see it as important that, when the Trust makes any future bye-laws, it demonstrates that it is attending to the needs of its stakeholders.”