The NBTA and four other Petitioners obtained amendments to the Middle Level Bill that go some way towards protecting both boat dwellers and leisure boaters from enforcement, following an Opposed Bill Select Committee in the House of Commons on 15th-17th January 2018. The Promoters of the Private Bill, drainage and navigation authority the Middle Level Commissioners, also made Undertakings to Parliament regarding the exercise of the new powers they seek. The Petitioners also included Nigel Moore; the March Cruising Club; a boat dweller; and a leisure boater.
The Bill progressed to the Report stage in the House of Commons on 6th February but was objected to, which means that it cannot progress further without a debate, which may lead to further amendments being agreed. The Bill will eventually be considered by the House of Lords, possibly in about six months’ time. At that point there will be another opportunity for anyone who is “specially and directly affected” by a Private Bill to oppose the Bill or seek its amendment in a Petition to the House of Lords. If you are considering petitioning against the Bill when it reaches that stage and you would like to talk it over with the NBTA, please contact us.
The Middle Level Commissioners are seeking powers to require boat registration and to charge pleasure boaters for registration, for the use of the waterways, and for the use of services and facilities; to impose terms and conditions, and to remove boats that are sunk, stranded, abandoned or moored “without lawful authority”. Use of the Middle Level by pleasure boats is currently free of charge, a historic right that was conferred by the Nene Navigation Act of 1753 as compensation for the draining of the network of fens and waterways that destroyed the way of life of the local population who relied on fishing, wild fowling and reed cutting for their living. Drainage of the fens created some of the most productive agricultural land in Britain, benefiting landowners who became extremely wealthy due to the profits they made from farming the former marshland.
Pamela Smith, Chair of the NBTA said: “Too much is missing from the Bill as it stands for it to withstand proper scrutiny. There is no clarity about what would lead to the refusal or revocation of a boat registration, and even with the amendments, the proposed powers to remove boats are far too widely drawn to be fair to boaters”.
These are the amendments to the Bill
These are the Undertakings made by the Middle Level Commissioners
Here is the Bill as amended by the Committee
Here is the Bill in its original form
A full transcript of the Committee proceedings is due to be published here shortly
You can watch all the public Committee sessions here