Middle Level Bill becomes law with further amendments

On 1st November 2018 the Middle Level Bill gained Royal Assent, having been further amended in the House of Lords Select Committee which met between 25th June and 12th July.

Some of the amendments were the result of continued action by Petitioners against the Middle Level Bill. Other amendments were the result of close scrutiny by the five Peers on the Select Committee, who were particularly concerned about the governance of the Middle Level Commissioners (MLC) which excludes anyone who is not a substantial landowner resident in the area from becoming a Commissioner, even if they live full-time on a boat on the Middle Level waterways.

Despite the efforts of the MLC to remove two of the Petitioners, the case was successfully made for further protection of itinerant and moored boat dwellers and the efforts of the Petitioners are reflected in some of the amendments that were made by the House of Lords.

The MLC withdrew its objection to the Petition of the NBTA, but the Select Committee upheld their MLC’s objection to the Petition of Nigel Moore. However the Committee did take on board much of Mr Moore’s Petition and he was also called a a witness by other Petitioners.

Although the Petitioners did not succeed in getting all the amendments that they Petitioned for, the Act is a significant legislative step forward towards greater protection for boat dwellers. As well as making considerable amendments to the original Bill, the MLC made a number of Undertakings to the House of Lords and also to the House of Commons in the earlier Select Committee.

The main outcomes are as follows:

  • The MLC can charge for use of the Middle Level waterways by pleasure boats; and boats must have third party insurance and meet prescribed safety standards, defined by the Boat Safety Scheme, with a transitional period of 12 months to allow boats to be modified to meet safety standards.
  • The definition of the Middle Level waterways is narrowed to exclude some adjacent waters, namely private adjacent waters used only by the landowner or owner of the adjacent building.
  • The MLC must draw up a protocol for the removal of vessels which must ensure that removal powers are exercised only as a last resort; exercised with sensitivity; and with adequate notice.
  • Itinerant and moored boat dwellers are to be represented on the new Navigation Advisory Committee (NAC).
  • The MLC must give reasons for all appointments to the NAC.
  • The MLC must consult the NAC on fees, byelaws, facilities and proposals for the protocol for the removal of vessels.
  • The MLC must follow the advice and recommendations of the NAC or give reasons in writing for not doing so.
  • The NAC may refer matters to mediation where its advice is not followed by the MLC.
  • The MLC can charge for the use of the waterways but must not attempt to raise all the money needed to maintain navigation from licence fees unless the number of users makes this a fair charge.
  • Income from charges must not exceed the costs of maintaining navigation: in other words, the MLC cannot make a profit from licence fees.
  • Terms and Conditions are limited to the use of services and facilities, and do not apply to the use of the waterways or the registration/ licensing of boats.
  • Small unpowered pleasure boats are exempt from charges.
  • Well Creek is to be open for navigation over the Christmas week unless ice has already formed.
  • The Act sets out the MLC’s duties towards boat dwellers, including those who do not have a permanent mooring; the MLC must publish a report annually regarding how this duty has been fulfilled.
  • The MLC has powers to develop, improve, preserve and manage the waterways and their banks including as places for the use of vessels as dwellings.
  • Financial accountability of the MLC is extended to boat licence holders.
  • The MLC have Powers to remove vessels that are sunk, stranded abandoned or left or moored without lawful authority.:
  • The definition of left or moored without lawful authority is that a boat required to be registered is unregistered; the position or mooring of the vessel constitutes a trespass; or the boat obstructs navigation.
  • The MLC have byelaw-making powers that include regulating the use of the waterways by vessels; which classes of vessels can use the waterways; and the use of the waterway banks.
  • The MLC have powers to revoke a boat’s registration.

Here is a summary of the Undertakings:

  • The MLC will not carry out enforcement on behalf of other navigation authorities for any breaches carried out on other authorities’ waterways.
  • The MLC is to spend at least 25% of the income from licence fees/ registration charges on improving facilities on main Nene-Ouse link.
  • Boats used as homes that never leave a marina will not be charged the full registration/ licence fee for navigation.
  • The protocol for the removal of boats is to be published with the byelaws.
  • The MLC must publish a strategy showing how they will achieve an increased availability of residential moorings including temporary and transit moorings.
  • The MLC agrees not to raise all the money needed to maintain navigation from licence/ registration fees unless the level of use of the waterways makes this fair to all users.
  • The Undertakings will be published.

The Middle Level Act 2018 is here Middle Level Act 2018

The Undertakings are here
Middle-Level-Bill-Undertakings-by-the-Promoter
Middle-Level-bill-Undertakings-given-by-the-Promoters-in-OBC

The webcasts of the House of Lords Select Committee hearings are available here:

Tuesday 26 June 2018
https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/eda7785e-af40-452a-94ba-46d47a19276d

Wednesday 27 June 2018 (morning)
https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/4fac74c5-1244-412e-85f3-bd6bec646e2e

Wednesday 27 June 2018 (afternoon)
https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/00cd88cc-3316-44fd-95d8-01e3d063a9ff

Thursday 28 June 2018 (morning)
https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/589bb977-176d-4c05-b023-59546aa926e7

Thursday 28 June 2018 (afternoon)
https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/51eeb1b7-eae2-4f38-950a-af9f1e51a108

Transcripts of the House of Lords Select Committee hearings are downloadable here

https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2017-19/middlelevel/committees/houseoflordsopposedbillcommitteeonthemiddlelevelbill201719.html

See also
http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/petitioners-obtain-amendments-to-middle-level-bill/
http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/please-write-to-your-mp-about-the-middle-level-bill/
http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/nbta-submits-petition-against-middle-level-bill/
http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2016-06-29-NBTA-Middle-Level-navigation-consultation-response.pdf