The draft Order for the transfer of functions of British Waterways to the Canal & River Trust was laid before Parliament on 29 February 2012. The Public Bodies Act 2011 allows for such orders to be approved by resolution of each House after the expiry of the 40-day period specified in the Act.
However, the draft Order will undergo scrutiny by committees of both Houses. The House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Select Committee will consider the matter and will report before the Upper House debates the proposals.
The Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons is scheduled to scrutinise the draft Order on 13 March and will hear evidence from the sponsoring department, the chair of the CRT Trustees, the BMF and IWA. Consequently, the period of scrutiny is almost certain to be extended to 60-days overall. This will allow time for representations and debate before the Order is finally approved by Parliament. The Order is therefore unlikely to be approved before the beginning of May. The Secretary of State will then make the Order and it will become effective on the following day.
The Order is quite short – only 7 Articles on 2 pages. There then follow lengthy Schedules detailing consequential amendments to existing Acts of Parliament, so that all references to BW are changed to CRT (in England and Wales only) and BW continues to be the public body for the Scottish waterways.
The draft Order to abolish the Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC) has also been laid before Parliament. It is a straightforward abolition exercise with just one consequential amendment to the British Waterways Act 1995 in respect of the make-up of the (boat safety) Standards Appeal Panel.