Please write to your MP now about CRT’s proposed changes to boat licence T&C!

In the next few weeks CRT will be starting to finalise the changes to the Boat Licence Terms and Conditions following the consultation that ended on 21st December 2020. Please write to your MP, or better still ask for a (virtual) meeting with them – personal contact is far more effective than a letter – and ask him or her to intervene to halt CRT’s proposed changes to the Boat Licence Terms and Conditions. Here is a sample letter to express your concerns and request a meeting with your MP:

Letter to MP CRT T&C proposals

If you don’t have a permanent address, your MP is the MP for where you are now; use a nearby postcode such as a boatyard, Post Office or pub and say you live on a boat with no fixed address. You don’t have to be registered to vote to contact an MP. To find your MP, see http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ or http://www.writetothem.com/

This is urgent, because in the original consultation, CRT stated its intention to implement the revised Boat Licence Terms and Conditions from April 2021.

The MPs on the K&A are:

Wera Hobhouse (Bath)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Dundas to Bathampton, plus Keynsham, Saltford etc)
Michelle Donelan (Chippenham) (Dundas to Sells Green)
Danny Kruger (Devizes) (Foxhangers to Froxfield)
Laura Farris (Newbury) (Hungerford to Tyle Mill)
Alok Sharma (Reading West)

All of the above MPs are Conservatives except the Liberal Democrat Wera Hobhouse. You might want to write to the Labour MP for Bristol West, Thangam Debbonaire, who is the shadow minister for housing.

For more information see

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/only-a-week-left-to-oppose-crts-proposed-changes-to-boat-licence-terms-and-conditions-please-respond-now/

http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/oppose-crts-proposed-changes-to-boat-licence-terms-and-conditions-before-21st-december/ 

Here is the text of the sample letter in full:

Canal & River Trust proposals exceed its statutory powers and put boat dwellers at risk

Dear __________________ MP,

I am writing to you because I live on my boat on Canal & River Trust (CRT) waterways and CRT has recently consulted on proposals for changes to the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) for the issue of private boat licences. If implemented, these changes would vastly increase the risk that my boat licence is terminated and I therefore lose my only home, which CRT would then have power to seize and destroy. Please could I have an appointment with you to discuss this matter, that could put at least 15,000 boat dwellers at risk of losing their homes.

Private boat licences are issued as a statutory duty under Section 17 of the British Waterways Act 1995. The 1995 Act is very specific that the authority can only refuse a ‘relevant consent’, which includes all forms of private boat licences, under two conditions.

My concern is that CRT wishes to change the T&Cs to extend the use of its power to refuse licences for breach of the T&Cs, rather than depending on the two Conditions set out in Section 17 of the 1995 Act. This would amount to unlawfully changing the boat licence from a statutory requirement to a civil contractual matter. If this move was to be accepted as lawful, it would vastly reduce the protection for CRT’s boat licence customers.

CRT claims that it has the power to set boat licence T&Cs under Section 43 of the Transport Act 1962, which gave British Waterways (BW) power to charge for its services under such terms and conditions as it sees fit. CRT, as BW’s successor, has been using the 1962 Act to add T&Cs to private boat licences, despite the fact that a statutory requirement for boat licences did not exist in 1962 (it was introduced between 1971 and 1976) and boat licences are issued as a statutory duty under Section 17 of the 1995 Act.

CRT is thus attempting to modify the Will of Parliament by using T&Cs for services under the 1962 Act to change the Conditions laid down in Section 17 of the 1995 Act. This is in spite of the fact that in carrying out its statutory functions, CRT can only exercise the powers that are specifically granted to it by Parliament. The 1962 Act did not grant CRT or its predecessor powers to modify subsequent legislation setting out Conditions for issuing consent to use the waterways it manages.

By doing this, CRT aims to make breach of the T&Cs a contractual matter, suggesting that the T&Cs form part of a licence contract. CRT forces agreement to the T&Cs as part of the licence application or renewal process. Unless boat owners agree to the T&Cs, CRT will not issue a boat licence. Unlicensed boats can be seized and destroyed. CRT would enforce the T&Cs through the civil courts. Boaters should not be forced to agree to T&C that exceed the requirements set out in the 1995 Act.

In addition, CRT proposes bringing into the T&Cs matters such as the use of fenders and crew requirements and behaviour, which are actually already covered by BW By-laws and common law. This would move enforcement of By-laws from criminal law to civil law by asserting contractual structure to licensing.

This would introduce a further change in customer management as the standard of proof for breach is changed from the criminal requirement of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ to the civil measure of ‘on the balance of probabilities’. This would make CRT’s case easier to argue in Court and thus measures such as removing a boat easier to achieve.

Other changes to the T&Cs proposed by CRT, such as making the boat licence conditional on agreeing to share personal data with unspecified third parties, would amount to unlawful sharing of personal data, contrary to the Data Protection Act 2018/ GDPR.

These current proposals by CRT follow changes to the T&Cs made in 2015 and 2008 that demonstrate that CRT’s aim is to unlawfully widen its powers by putting progressively more distance between the original wording of the 1995 Act and its own unenforceable interpretation of that Act.

This is an extremely serious and frightening matter for everyone whose boat is their only home. Please would you to use your influence and lawmaking experience to stop these unauthorised extensions of power by this national public and statutory authority.

Please would you also discuss these matters with the MPs in the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways, who may be able to understand why this is such an appalling prospect for those whose boat is their only home.

For further information please see the consultation responses by boaters’ organisations National Bargee Travellers Association and National Association of Boat Owners:

http://www.bargee-traveller.org.uk/nbta-response-to-crt-boat-licence-terms-and-conditions-consultation/

https://www.nabo.org.uk/files/NABOCommentsonT&Cconsultation.pdf

Yours sincerely,

A. Boater

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