Canals, Lichfield Cathedral, and the French Fishing Dispute were all raised in the House of Commons this morning (28th October) by Michael Fabricant.
Michael Fabricant: What steps he is taking to encourage the use of navigable waterways for freight traffic; and if he will make a statement.
Under-Secretary of State for Domestic Environment Rebecca Pow: “The Government is providing £20 million through the Department of Transport’s Mode Shift Freight Grant Scheme in 2021/22 to support rail and water freight services on routes where they deliver environmental benefits over road haulage, but are more expensive to operate.
Responsibility for the operational matters and management of the inland waterways rests with the relevant navigational authority, and ministers have no role in that.”
Michael Fabricant: “The All-Party Waterways Group, of which I have the honour to chair, has identified that there are something like 1,500 miles of waterways out of the 5,000 miles of navigable waterways that we have, which are suitable for freight.
In addition to the measures that she’s just outlined, I wonder whether her department has given any thought to maybe reintroducing the Freight Facility Grants for wharves and handling facilities?”
Rebecca Pow: “I am genuinely interested in his work! It’s actually the Department of Transport that this comes under. They don’t have any plans as such to reinstate the Freight Facilities Grant in England, but obviously the Government is really interested in the shift of getting freight transported in other ways.
The fund I mentioned earlier has gone mostly to rail, because the case has to be made for whether it’s better to do it by water, and what I would recommend is that he gets in there and makes the case! And remember of course the other great benefits of waterways, especially through cities, for health and wellbeing.”
Michael Fabricant: To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what estimate the Commissioners have made of the annual cost of maintaining England’s historic cathedrals; and if he will make a statement.
Church Commissioner Andrew Selous: “I’d like to start by commending my Honourable Friend for the consistent way in which he sticks up for his cathedral in Lichfield, and other members could follow his example.
In 2019 England’s 42 Anglican cathedrals estimated that they required £140 million of repairs and maintenance over the next five years, and the Church Commissioners are providing cathedrals sustainability funding of £20 million between 2020 and 2022, double the original planned figure.”
Michael Fabricant: “Lichfield Cathedral costs around £2 million a year to run, and on good years, they are able to set aside a few hundred thousand pounds each year to try and restore the damage done to an 800-year old building, through the usual environmental impacts.
Because they’re not making the £2 million available because we’re still recovering from Covid, is there any chance of the Recovery Fund continuing?”
Andrew Selous: “What I can tell my Honourable Friend is that the Church is very grateful to the Government for the Culture Recovery Fund allocation to cathedrals of £29.4 million, of which £264,000 has been allocated to Lichfield Cathedral.
I’d also like to commend Gloucester Cathedral’s “Beacon of Hope” appeal which has raised over £1 million. There has been a £3.1 million investment in craft training between the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship and the Hamish Ogston Foundation, and also for example the launch of cathedral gins at Blackburn, Portsmouth, Ripon and Bristol cathedrals in order to raise further funds. All examples other cathedrals could follow.”
French Fishing Dispute
Michael Fabricant suggested that such disputes are not new and recommend the House reads the history book: ‘1,000 Years of Annoying the French’. He asked whether the Environment Secretary had raised the matter with the European Commission.