Issue date: 8 October 2010
IWA together with The British Marine Federation (BMF), Royal Yachting Association (RYA),and British Canoe Union (BCU) all came together to talk to politicians with one voice on behalf of boating, water-sports and the boating industry as ‘the Boating Alliance’ at the various party conferences over the last three weeks.
The future of British Waterways, UK boating tourism, the impact of the economy on the boating market and possible regulation that may impact on leisure boating were top of the agenda at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this week.
IWA and the team discussed the future of British Waterways and the possible inclusion of EA navigations with Richard Benyon, Waterways Minister, who fully understood IWA’s views and could see the advantages of such a move. We also raised the profile of boating holidays in the promotion of UK tourism with Tourism Minister John Penrose and the need to market the waterways as one clear proposition, again supporting the conservancy idea.
The Alliance also discussed the topical Fuel Quality Directive with Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport, and had a joint meeting with Anne McIntosh, Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee and Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The current economic climate and potential for marine companies was also discussed with former Trade Minister Lord Digby Jones, now a Business Ambassador and champion for the manufacturing industry.
Detailed discussions on these issues were also held with Labour’s front bench team at their party conference. Notable amongst continuing support for the work of IWA, was acknowledgement by the former Treasury Minister Liam Byrne of the key role IWA and its political lobbyists had played in convincing him to refrain from selling-off BW’s property portfolio to fund the deficit payments in the latter part of last year.
In addition to getting in front of the key politicians, IWA was also busy on the Alliance stand meeting councillors, MPs and MEPs. There was a great deal of positive interest in our ideas for reforming the navigation authorities through the conservancy approach, and our political briefing note was in high demand from visitors to the stand. Visitors were also very positive around ideas and schemes to revitalise their own constituencies and improve amenities on the water-sides of riparian constituencies. It is likely that there will be a major plan to improve Staines put forward by the Town Council in the near future, involving a revitalisation of the river Thames frontage as a key focus for the town with the improvement and development of the water-side to encourage greater public use and boating.