Thank you writing to me about canals.
Canals are not only important for their history and industrial heritage, but also for the health and well-being of many people. Around 800 million visits are made to canals every year, providing a backdrop for people to walk, run, cycle, boat and fish. Canals are also an important part of the Government's work to reintroduce biodiversity into nature.
The Canal & River Trust is responsible for 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales. It maintains the navigability and safety of its waterways, including reservoirs and embankments, and also works to improve their environmental quality. The Government recognises that the organisation has an important role to play in contributing to the Environmental Improvement Plan, which aims to improve the environment for people and wildlife.
To date, the Canal & River Trust has received £550 million of government funding. While there is no obligation to fund it beyond 2027, I understand from speaking with ministerial colleagues that the Government will offer a new long-term funding package of over £400 million, subject to certain conditions.
Since being created in 2012 as a private charity independent of the Government, Ministers have been clear that the Canal & River Trust should become progressively more self-sufficient financially. A memorandum of understanding between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Canal & River Trust signed in June 2012 included the objective to "reduce dependence on government grant and to foster increasing self-sufficiency, by providing access to new charitable income streams and stimulating new efficiencies." I am aware that the new funding deal for 2027 to 2037 continues that objective.
Defra has been in discussions with the charity for some time, offering support on how it can increase income from other sources alongside continued government funding.
Locally, I have been very supportive of the Basingstoke Canal Trust and the wonderful work that it does, including helping to raise funds for the new electric barge that replaces 'Kitty'. This new barge will, in turn, raise significant funds for the Trust over the next two decades and enable literally thousands of local and Surrey residents, as well as other tourists, to enjoy our beautiful stretch of the canal.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this matter as the future of our canals is extremely important.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking