Middle Level Bill could bring better facilities – IWA

THE Middle Level Bill, which has successfully passed its third reading in the House of Commons and been referred to the House of Lords, will bring better facilities and improved safety for users of the 100 miles of navigable man-made waterways that it covers, according to the Inland Waterways Association.

IWA is supporting efforts by the Middle Level Commissioners (MLC), the navigation authority responsible for the Fenland waterways, to get the necessary changes in law to enable MLC to charge registration fees for boats on its waters, in line with the practice of other navigation authorities.

It has long held the view that it would be fair and beneficial for boaters to pay a reasonable registration charge so that users of the waterways would enjoy the same benefits, facilities and safeguards as those that apply to boaters across the rest of the country.

“It’s an anachronism” observed IWA Eastern Region chairman, Chris Howes. “Although MLC invest a significant sum each year in maintaining navigation, they derive no income from boats to spend on facilities for boaters. We agree that needs to change.”

“Getting the Bill through the Commons is a major step forward,” commented Steve Warwicker, chairman of IWA Navigation Committee. “It would enable MLC to spend money on moorings and boaters’ facilities, which they are currently unable to do, and to remove sunken, stranded and abandoned vessels.

“Equally importantly, it would enable MLC to insist that vessels using the Commissioners’ waterways must hold insurance and comply with the Boat Safety Scheme, which is currently not the case.”

A motion to revive the Middle Level Bill in this session of Parliament was approved by the House of Commons and the House of Lords in October 2017. It was then passed, subject to a number of amendments, by the Opposed Bill Committee, which met in mid-January.

Chris Howes, IWA Eastern Region Chairman, represented IWA at the Committee on behalf of the Middle Level Commissioners, as a witness to speak in support of the Bill.

The Bill has now had its first reading in the House of Lords and a second hearing will take place after a petitioning period, which runs until March 12. It is hoped that Royal Assent will be gained by Christmas.