Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 10:57 GMT
Cash help for UK canals
Britain's canal network needs modernising
The government wants to tackle a £260m backlog of repairs which waterways campaigners say is putting jobs and a unique part of the country's heritage at risk.
The measures are designed to increase the use of the 2000-mile network of canals and navigable rivers.
Thousands of jobs
Around two million people a year travel on the waterways, and millions more use the banks and towpaths for cycling and angling.
Much of the canal network was built in the 18th and 19th centuries to provide the transport links which helped drive forward the Industrial Revolution.
Campaigners say that the age of the canals, combined with neglect and underfunding, means they are now in a serious state of disrepair.
Mr Prescott was joined on his river journey by waterways minister Alan Meale and British Waterways chairman Bernard Harrison.