It seems we weren't the only ones to spot a lack of substance in the Waterways Minister's statement earlier in the week.
Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Caroline Spelman) about her plans for the future of British Waterways. Waterways Minister Richard Benyon repeated what he had said in his statement a few days earlier that the government would be "looking in detail at options for a third sector model that will be appropriate for British Waterways, including the possible inclusion of Environment Agency navigations", adding that no decisions would be taken until after the spending review.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Hunt sought more detail, stating that "in order to become a proper third sector organisation, British Waterways needs an appropriate financial settlement following the comprehensive spending review and a longer contract with Government to replace annual grants". He asked whether British Waterways' property endowment could be put in a charity-locked mechanism, so that the Treasury "does not sell it down the canal".
The minister, in reply, did give some sort of re-assurance: "The answer to his question is yes. For the third sector model to work, British Waterways will have to have access to its estate, or a large proportion of it, for it to gear up funding for sustainable funding in the future. I can assure him that it will not proceed unless it is locked in in that way."
So he seemed to be saying that if BW is to move to the "third-sector" this would be properly funded, seemingly retaining a large proportion of its property, so that it would be sustainable in the future. He also seemed to be saying that the third-sector move would not take place unless it was properly funded.
As we suggested on Tuesday, a half-baked, cash-starved, third-rate new organisation would be the worst possible outcome, so we suppose we must take some comfort from whatever crumbs of good news appear on the table!
The text of the exchange can be read in full here.