IWA Parliamentarian of the Year, Lord German, and his love of the Mon & Brec
1 What first attracted you to the waterways? The joy of walking alongside calm waters in beautiful countryside and watching the magic of lock gate manoeuvres – havens of calm in a hectic life.
2 Which is your favourite canal or river? The Mon & Brec, of course – a splendid example of a mainly contour canal, and a wealth of industrial history.
3 What do the waterways have to offer the country? A whole host of benefits – recreational, educational, historical, tourism and broad economic potential.
4 What do the waterways need most? Maintenance, refurbishment and reconstruction. We now see the benefits of a working canal on local economies. So we need to make all our canals fit for boating.
5 Tell us about your boating experience. From the age of 11 until my early 20s I spent a huge amount of time messing around in boats with the Sea Scouts. Sail boats, rowing boats and motor boats filled much of my holidays and weekends. I am the proud owner of an Admiralty certificate which permits me to take charge of a rowing boat with up to six crew. And I am very proud that I am able to scull.
7 What made you want to become an MP? I have never been an MP – though I stood four times. I have been an elected Councillor, and in 1999 was elected to the first National Assembly for Wales, and as my party leader. I went to the House of Lords in 2010. I decided to seek elected office as a young man when trying to negotiate with my local council. I realised that to make a real difference to people’s lives, you have to be on the other side of the table.
8 What is your proudest achievement? As a Minister, introducing a new rural economic programme for Wales, giving access to funding for many worthwhile projects, economic developments and tourism enterprises.
6 Have you ever fallen in? Never in a canal – but several times as a lad from boats in Cardiff Dock, and off the South Wales coast.
9 How long have you been involved with the Monmouthshire, Brecon & Abergavenny Canals Trust I got my first interest as a member of the All-Party Waterways group at the National Assembly for Wales during the early 2000s, and latterly as Hon President of the Mon & Brec Canals trust. I am passionate about our canal.
10 What would you like to see happen to the waterways in your lifetime? I would like to see the economic value of vibrant, working canals widely recognised for their potential and thereby securing the needed investment to restore and refurbish the many locks and canals awaiting repair.
11 How did you feel when you won the IWA award? Astonished and humbled. I understand that the award has never been given to a Member of the House of Lords, so it was a real surprise and an honour. I was hosting the award ceremony in parliament, and winning it never crossed my mind. I was lost for words (nearly!). Above all it made me indebted to the great team of volunteers on the Mon & Brec, and particularly the outstanding Richard Dommett who has given his all to the canals and has just won the IWA Christopher Powell award. They do all the work, and I do all the talk.
12 And how did that compare to being made an OBE? Nothing can compare to the privilege of receiving an honour at Buckingham
Palace, though both the IWA award and the OBE announcement were both a great surprise to me.
13 What do you think of people on the canals? Wonderful people and I am so envious of their being able to take the gentler way of life.
14 What is the best time of day to be on the waterways? In the late afternoon sunshine when the reflections on the water are at their longest and gentlest.
15 What are you reading at present? England’s Mistress by Kate Williams. The incredible story of Emma Hamilton – who is generally known for her relationship with Admiral Lord Nelson. But her story is much broader than just this one part of her life. A real rags to riches, and then almost to rags again true story.
16 Who would be your ideal cruising companion? My wife, of course.
17 What did you want to be aged 12? A fireman.
18 Tell us about your spare time interests. Music is another of my passions. I am a member of he 140-strong Parliament Choir. We rehearse in the Palace of Westminster, and often have to leave rehearsals to go and vote. I am also a keen caravanner. We also regularly walk and cycle – alongside the Mon & Brec Canal ( of course).
19 Where would you like to go for a dream cruise? The Canal du Midi from Bordeaux to Narbonne. It’s a long cruise but you pass through some incredible scenery, and vineyards.
20 What superpower would you like to possess? To be able to read tomorrow’s racing results today.
‘Tosee the economic value of the canals recognised’ LORD GERMAN, OBE IWA Parliamentarian of the Year 2016
Favourite? It has to be the Mon & Brec