REBECCA Pow, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Environmental Quality and Resilience), attended a debate on the future of the UK's canals and waterways on Tuesday 22nd November 2022.
Pressed by MP's she promised a decision on CaRT's post 2027 funding 'forthwith', Allan Richards reports.
Westminster Hall debate
As reported in narrowboatworld last Monday (CaRT funding decision update), Michael Fabricant, MP for Litchfield and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group (APPWG), (pictured) secured a debate on the 'Future of the UK's canals and waterways'.
About a dozen MP's attended with Fabricant making a passionate plea for funding to continue and several MP's supporting him.
Responding on behalf of government Rebecca Pow (pictured below) agreed with much of what was said but stated that CaRT had been created in order to remove the financial burden of BW's waterways from the taxpayer.
In no mood to be fobbed-off
Although DEFRA's silent removal of its commitment to make a decision in Autumn 2022 was not mentioned directly (DEFRA reneges on Autumn future funding decision), it was clear that MP's were in no mood to be fobbed-off with the usual 'shortly' answer that ministers give when not wishing to commit to a date. Challenged to respond Pow stated:
"I am unable to comment further in detail on the outcomes, but it will be announced forthwith—not shortly but forthwith."
Fabricant later admitted trying to use his phone to confirm that 'forthwith' meant what he thought it meant! The Cambridge Dictionary meaning is 'immediately'. He decided that the minister was suggesting 'weeks' which led to nods of approval from Pow.
Tapering-off the grant
Not picked up by MPs was Pow's statement that government had been looking at tapering off grant. Whilst the minister gave no details it is known that DEFRA budgeted £800m over 15 years to support CaRT via the grant agreement. Due to low inflation in the early years and grant being fixed in later years, DEFRA will only spend £740m.
Perhaps DEFRA will use that £60m saved to provide grant for a further two or three years after 2027.