Please read my speech from the Canal and River Trust reception I attended in Parliament. The Canal and River Trust are instrumental in providing and maintaining waterways – including here in Chesterfield – and helping make them important places for nature and leisure.


“I’d like to start by thanking Wendy and Holly for hosting this reception.

They are that rare thing- two MPs who are widely respected across parliament by people from across the spectrum for the work they do.

They are also great advocates for canals and rivers and we are all grateful for the work we do.

Well, what an exciting day! I must admit I slightly drifted off when the Chancellor mentioned a new bus stop in Chipping Sodbury and didn’t actually catch his mention of any new money for canals and rivers.

I would like to thank the CRT for setting up this reception and for all that you do to support our waterways.

Our canals and rivers are so important in promoting biodiversity, supporting marine life, as locations for leisure and tourism, for our sense of wellbeing, provide a great environment for socialising, are critical to our economic health and so much more.

In the months since I have been in this role, I have learnt so much about the huge opportunities that our canals and rivers can play in winning the battle to restore nature and provide nature based solutions to many of the major challenges facing our country.

Whilst I may have been new to this brief in September, my family was certainly not. My grandmother, Crystal Hale launched a community campaign to save the City Road Basin in Islington back in the 1980s when there was a plan to fill it in and built the Islington Boat Club to give children in one of the most nature deprived communities access to the water. I am very proud to say that she has her own plaque in Islington, recognising that work. I am very much looking forward to joining the Canal and River Trust on a visit there to see how that area is now. The site is testament to the power of canals in creating wonderful spaces that people want to spend time in.

My water-based familial connections also extend to my great grandfather who had a house that backed on to the River Thames at Hammersmith and used to sail from there to Parliament when he served as an MP in the 1930’s and 40’s.

We also have an incredibly important restoration and expansion project on the Chesterfield canal which I have been very involved in. I was delighted that we have been able to secure around £7m to make a further ½ mile of that canal navigable in the Towns deal, although my work as a board member has demonstrated how difficult making progress on canal restoration can be. Having had terrible experience of flooding in Chesterfield, it is great to see the report highlighting the role canals can play in mitigating against flooding whilst also being a centre in the community for social activity.

The Canal and River Trust are instrumental in providing and maintaining these habitats and leisure spaces. The Canal and River Trust do amazing work to preserve and improve our country’s famous waterways which provide joy and leisure for so many, as well as providing essential habitats for numerous aquatic and semi-aquatic species. The quality of our waterways has a huge impact on biodiversity and the quality of surrounding nature.

I recognise the problems that the Trust has set out in its report, Maintaining Major National Infrastructure. The financial settlement for the Trust places real pressure on your ability to keep doing the good work you undertake. This is why Labour will refuse to tolerate our waterways being polluted with toxic sewage which destroys ecosystems and drives away tourism.

Under a Labour government, we will ban CEO bonuses for water companies who fail to meet their environmental commitments, it is unacceptable that water companies continue to pollute our waters and receive millions in bonuses and billions in profits, and we fear being financially successful whilst failing environmentally diminishes any desire to take the actions needed.

I’m very glad to see that the Government now appear to be in the process of nicking that policy- another one. I’m not certain that spending months arguing against Labour measures and then adopting them is quite the political masterclass the government believe it is, but in any case anything that increases the pressure on water companies to do more to clean up our rivers must be welcomed.

In any event, it is unlikely that any changes of this sort will have been implemented this side of a General election so it will fall on the next government to make this work.

In conclusion, I want to thank the Canal and River Trust once again for their hard work as custodians of these treasures. From the recent Union Canal oil spill to buttressing flood damaged canal banks, the Trust go above and beyond to protect these marvellous sites for us, and future generations, to enjoy.

Thank you.”

Toby at the Canal and River Trust parliamentary reception
Toby at the Canal and River Trust parliamentary reception
Link to Instagram Link to Twitter Link to YouTube Link to Facebook Link to LinkedIn Link to Snapchat Close Fax Website Location Phone Email Calendar Building Search