Five liveaboard boaters attended the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee on 24 April, to observe Robin Evans, the BW Chief Executive; Nigel Johnson, BW’s Legal Director, and Waterways Minister Richard Benyon MP being cross-examined by the Committee about the Draft British Waterways (Transfer of Functions) Order 2012. The boaters observing included Frank Kelly, who stood for election to the Canal and River Trust Council, and Nick Brown, Legal Officer of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA), who sent this report:
“If British Waterways transfers to the Third Sector (Canal and River Trust) it will do so by means of Statutory Instrument (SI) under the Public Bodies Act. The draft SI is being scrutinised by the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee. The Committee took evidence from BW Director.s
The NBTA has given written evidence to the Committee on the difficulties that live-aboard boaters have with BW, including the systemic violation by BW of our Article 6 and 8 rights under the Human Rights Act. We informed the Committee of the recent case of Moore v British Waterways Board in the High Court in which the Judge confirmed that BW had violated Mr Moore’s Article 8 rights.
The Committee were particularly interested in the extent to which BW had taken steps to inform live-aboard boaters of the effects of the ‘new life under CRT’. One peer in particular was specifically interested, he said, in the plight of Bargee Travellers. The Committee didn’t appear to be completely satisfied with BWs evidence in response. Mr Evans also gave evidence that he was adamant that BW should become a charity ‘because it was an exciting thing to do’. Separately a Freedom of Information requisition revealed that both Mr Evans and Mr Johnson have been incentivised (ie getting a bonus) to successfully complete the transfer of BW to the third sector.
The NBTA explained to the Waterways Minister afterwards that we were particularly concerned about the way that BW has been systemically abusing travelling boat dwellers. The Minister has agreed to meet with us.”
A transcript of the Committee meeting will be online next week at: