The draft Order to transfer British Waterways to the Canal and River Trust has been published and is currently being scrutinised by two Parliamentary Committees. It will also be debated in both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Despite many boaters lobbying and submitting evidence when the Public Bodies Bill (now an Act of Parliament) was being drafted, the issue of British Waterways was not discussed at all in the House of Commons committee on the Bill. The subject of the transfer order is BW alone, so it is vital that we take the opportunity to raise all the issues about the risks of homelessness to boat dwellers (both with and without permanent moorings) that arise from the transfer of BW to charity status. The deadline for submissions to the Committees is this Monday 19th March so write to them now! The debates will take place in the next few weeks, so it’s important to write to MPs and Lords as soon as possible.
Here are four things you can do.
1. Write to your MP and write to some Lords (Lords don’t have geographic constituencies so you can write to any of them – there are over 800).
2. Submit written evidence to the two Committees before Monday 19th March.
3. See your MP at one of their surgeries.
4. Object to the registration of the Canal and River Trust as a charity
If your time is limited, write to these two people: your own MP and Lord Avebury (the protection of travellers is one of his main concerns).
An example letter, contact details for the Committees, and how to contact your MP and MPs surgeries are below. Please pass this message on to your friends and family, and please print and give this message to all the boaters you know who don’t have internet access.
1. Example letter to your MP, Lords and the Committees; it’s best to put it in your own words if possible though.
Subject heading, especially if emailing: DRAFT STATUTORY INSTRUMENT, THE BRITISH WATERWAYS BOARD (TRANSFER OF FUNCTIONS) ORDER 2012.
“Dear _____________ MP” (or “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.
A search at Companies House shows that Canal and River Trust is a private limited company (No. 78072760) incorporated on the 12th October 2011, and yet the Charities Commission has said recently that it has not received an application to register the Canal and River Trust as a charity. In other words, the waterways are being transferred to a private company, not to a charity. Sections 5.17 and 5.18 of the Articles of the Canal and River Trust Company show that it has an unlimited power to dismember and dispose of the waterways system for cash, piecemeal, whether directly through sale, or by default through financial failure to repay loans. This means that canal network will be split amongst a multitude of separate private businesses.
The break-up and privatisation of the canal network would further reduce the minimal protection that boat dwellers have for our homes due to both profiteering and to the sheer fragmentation of the regulatory framework leading to an even poorer compliance of navigation authorities’ enforcement practices with the law.
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.
In addition, the Transition Trustees of the Canal and River Trust stated that they wanted enabling powers in a meeting with the RBOA in September 2011. This means that an unaccountable body will be able to impose draconian new restrictions that adversely affect boat dwellers.
Boat dwellers have no legal recognition or protection for their homes. The transfer of British Waterways to either charity status or to a private company 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.
Yours sincerely, Harassed Boater
2. How to find out who your MP is and how to contact MPs / Lords
All MPs and Lords can be contacted by post at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA / House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW. You can find out the names of members of the House of Lords from http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/
You will need to enter a postcode. You don’t have to be registered to vote to contact an MP. If you have a postal address, contact the MP for that postcode area. Otherwise just contact the MP for the place you are currently moored, using the address and postcode of a nearby Post Office or pub, and say you live on a boat with no fixed address.
The MPs on the K&A are Don Foster, Bath; Duncan Hames, Dundas to Sells Green; Claire Perry, Foxhangers to Froxfield; Richard Benyon, Hungerford to Tyle Mill; Alok Sharma, Reading West.
3. Contacting the Committees.
The Transfer Order will be considered by the committees below: write to them before Monday 19th March. Address your letter to the Chair.
Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee (House of Lords)
Rt Hon. Lord Goodlad (Chair)
Contact: Clerk of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, Legislation Office, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW. Tel 020 7219 8821 Fax 020 7219 2571 Email email@example.com and copy it to firstname.lastname@example.org (the relevant member of staff).
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee (House of Commons)
Miss Anne McIntosh MP (Chair)
Contact: Clerk of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA. Tel 020 7219 5774 Email email@example.com and copy it to firstname.lastname@example.org (the relevant member of staff).
4. Guidance on submitting written evidence to the Committees that will consider the Draft Transfer Order.
In an ideal world your letter to the Committees should follow the guidelines from Parliament summarised below, but time is short and the most important thing is to communicate your concerns.
Your submission should be factual rather than purely opinion, and should address matters relevant to the Transfer Order, concentrating on issues where you have a special interest or expertise, and factual information which you would like the Committees to be aware of. This could include any harassment or unlawful enforcement from BW that you or others have experienced. Your submission should generally include only material specifically prepared for the Committees, although, of course, it is perfectly acceptable to quote from other sources for critical or illustrative purposes. It is helpful if the submission includes a brief introduction about you or your organisation. It should not have been previously published or circulated elsewhere. If you have any queries about the extent to which submissions will be protected by Parliamentary privilege, contact the Committee Clerks.
Ideally, submissions should be in electronic form: Word, WordPerfect or rich text. A summary should be provided. Paragraphs should be numbered, but there should be no page numbering. Essential statistics or further details can be added as annexes, which should also be numbered. To make publication easier, please avoid the use of coloured graphs, complex diagrams or pictures unless absolutely essential. As a guideline, submissions should not exceed 3,000 words.
For data protection purposes, you should also include a separate covering letter or email containing the name, address, telephone number and email address of the person responsible for the submission. The submission should be dated.
You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which Parliament will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
5. Going to see your MP in person
All MPs hold drop-in surgeries for constituents. You don’t have to be registered to vote. You can find out when the surgeries take place by contacting the MP or their constituency office by phone, email or post. The local library should also have this information. If you don’t have an address, just go to see the MP for the area you are moored at present. Duncan Hames MP will be holding a surgery in Bradford on Avon library on Saturday march 24th.
6. Objecting to the registration of the Canal and River Trust as a charity
There is still time to object to the registration of the Canal and River Trust as a charity as no application has been made yet. Section 4(2) of the Charities Act 1993 permits “any person who is or may be affected by registration” to object to an institution being entered on the register of charities. “Person” includes an organisation as well as an individual. More information, the email and postal address, and an example letter are in our article here http://kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk/wordpress/nows-the-time-to-object-to-registration-of-bw-charity/
Email and postal address of the Charity Commission:
By email: email@example.com If you are unable to use email, write to:
Charity Commission Direct, PO Box 1227, Liverpool L69 3UG.
Tel 0845 300 0218
or you can use the web contact form: http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/sendmailCRM.aspx
You can attach documents to this web contact form.