Saturday, 25 June 2011

Waterways Minister says no to statutory right of access for paddlers

On the 13 June 2011 MP Ian Austin (Dudley North, Labour) received the following response to his Parliamentary written question
 "To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will consider the merits of introducing a statutory right of access for unpowered craft to inland water for recreational purposes."

Richard Benyon (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Natural Environment and Fisheries), Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; MP for Newbury, Conservative) replied that

"We have no plans to introduce a statutory right of access to inland water for unpowered craft for recreational purposes. We are keen to achieve far greater levels of access to waterways for canoeists and other users by encouraging locally agreed, voluntary, access agreements. This fits very well with the big society agenda as it will give access where it is needed and meet the needs of all users and interested parties."

Whilst it comes as no surprise that this Minister has reiterated his personal and party stance in this way, it serves to once again highlight  the facile emptiness of the Coalition Government's claim that it seeks to build a fairer society, and demonstrates that it is prepared to ignore the clear failure of this approach over previous years, and its own recent 'Red Card to Red Tape' recommendations to remediate this inequity, in order to protect the status quo in favour of vested interests.

Waterways Minister Richard Benyon disagrees with the report comissioned by the Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson MP, which conludes that "DEFRA should introduce a statutory right of access in England and Wales for unpowered craft to inland water for recreational purposes.  This system of rights and responsibilities should be based on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code."