The House of Lords will debate the Draft British Waterways Board (Transfer of Functions) Order 2012 in the Grand Committee on Monday 25th June. Please write to as many Lords as you can before Monday asking them to vote against the Order. We have included an example letter below.
The Grand Committee debate will be followed by a vote a few days later in the House of Lords itself. The Committee does not vote as part of its procedure; any amendments to the Transfer Order have to be agreed unanimously in the Grand Committee. This means that the government can defeat amendments it does not support because it has a majority. However, it is still worth writing to individual Lords to ask them to vote against the Transfer Order as a whole. Lords don’t have geographic constituencies so you can write to any of them. Lord Avebury has campaigned for many years on human rights and minority rights including travellers, so it is worth writing to him. There will also be a debate in the House of Commons after the Transfer Order has left the Lords.
As time is short it’s best to email your letter. A list of Lords and their email addresses is on the Parliament web site here http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/ Not all Lords have email addresses. The postal address is: House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.
You can contact some Lords through www.writetothem.com You don’t need to be registered to vote to contact an MP or Lord. You may need a postcode; if you don’t have one, just use the postcode of the nearest post office or pub. You will find more information about the transfer by searching this web site for “BW Transfer Order” and “BW charity status”.
Here is an example letter:
Subject heading, especially if emailing: GRAND COMMITTEE DEBATE ON 25th JUNE: DRAFT BRITISH WATERWAYS BOARD (TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS) ORDER 2012.
“Dear Lord / Lady / Duke / Archbishop / Lord Bishop” (you may need to look this up on the list of Lords)
I am writing to you to express my concerns about the Draft Statutory Instrument, the British Waterways Board (Transfer of Functions) Order 2012.
Please ensure that this order does not become law. I am concerned that the transfer of British Waterways to charity status will result in boat dwellers like me and my family being made homeless by the Canal and River Trust. The transfer order should not be passed until the Government introduces specific statutory protection for boat dwellers from harassment and unlawful eviction, applicable to those both with and without permanent moorings, equal to that enjoyed by the tenants of houses.
I already have evidence (in the Trustees’ document TT06 available here http://www.canalrivertrust.org.uk/board-papers.html) that the Canal and River Trust will continue British Waterways policy of harassment and unlawful eviction of boat dwellers without permanent moorings. Please vote against the transfer after the debate in the Grand Committee on 25th June 2012.
The issue of British Waterways was not discussed at all in the Commons Committee stage of the Public Bodies Act. Therefore the extremely serious issues raised and submitted to the Committee by many boat dwellers regarding the risk of homelessness and the violation of our Article 8 rights resulting from the transfer were not considered before the Act became law. Please rectify that omission by considering these issues now. The House of Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee expressed concern in 2011 about the appropriateness of transferring the existing powers of British Waterways to make subordinate legislation; powers of forcible entry, search or seizure; powers to compel the giving of evidence and powers whose exercise will necessarily affect the liberty of an individual, to a private sector body that does not otherwise exercise any public functions.
Boat dwellers have no legal recognition or protection for their homes. The transfer of British Waterways to a charity will remove the minimal protection we have for our homes that derives from British Waterways status as a public body, namely the Human Rights Act, the Equality Act, in part the Freedom of Information Act, and the Government’s Code of Practice on Consultations. This must not be allowed to happen.
I look forward to your reply.