Accountability of the Canal & River Trust

Published: Friday, 15 July 2022

A FEW days ago, Labour MP for Halton, Derek Twigg, secured an adjournment debate on 'Accountability of the Canal and River Trust', writes Allan Richards.

This debate was held on Tuesday 12th July. An adjournment debate is a half hour debate held at the end of each day's sitting of the House of Commons. It provides an opportunity for an individual backbench MP to raise an issue and receive a response from the relevant Minister.

At last, it would appear, that a 'waterways minister' was going to be put on the spot of explaining how Canal & River Trust is accountable. Unfortunately, this did not happen as Allan Richards explains.

Topic changed

On 10th July parliamentary documentation was showing that an adjournment debate 'Accountability of the Canal & River Trust'. However, on 12th July, the day of the debate, this was changed to 'Environment Agency and water levels in the Sankey Canal'. No explanation was given for this change and, at the time of writing, the debate is not even mentioned on the Derek Twigg's website.

The closure of coal fired Fiddler's Ferry Power station which has supplied the Sankey Canal with water for many years, has had a disastrous effect on wildlife and restoration plans. Of immediate concern are the high number of fish deaths.

Derek Twigg, assisted by neighbouring MP for Warrington South, Andy Carter (Conservative), attempted to put newbie 'waterways minister', Steve Double, on the spot regarding this but failed. Double, maintained that Defra was limited in what it could do and the local council must find a solution.

Charitable objects

Perhaps, Double would have been more honest in quoting one of CaRT's charitable objects -


—and then admitting that CaRT were unable to keep its navigable waterways in order much less undertake substantial restorations without government financial support.

The full debate can be found via Hansard.

Double standards

Steve Double, the new 'waterways minister' who replaced Rebecca Pow a few days ago, is MP for St Austell and Newquay. This area is perhaps better known for its connection with sea rather than inland waterways.

Double is now being called 'Double Standards' in some quarters. Having stated that he would not accept a new government role following the mass resignation of government ministers, he backtracked within 24 hours without explanation.