This is one of those NABO moments when our long-term knowledge, experience and memory pay back. Like no other inland boating organisation, we just love the small print and legalities. We do this so that boaters are represented with a balanced and informed view. We do not do this to find loops holes in the law or the terms; neither do we do it to support those with no respect for the law. We do this in the face of BW’s and now CRT’s intransigent and in our view illegal approach to our licence contract.

Our strength comes from our membership. Our influence comes from the long term work we do with CRT and other navigation authorities to build the relationships. That does not mean we agree with them on all things. There comes a time when we have use that strength and influence. This is now. You can be part of this by joining. The links are on the web page. You can help by joining now.

We are privileged to have been at this game for nearly 30 years We have members who guide us from their experience with BW and the House of Lords in drafting the 1995 BW Act. If you want to the see history of this you only have to read the NABO magazine from the period. And of course many of the current NABO team have been in place for many years from the time of BW. We have the experience needed.

NABO is free to express our opinions. We have no business interests to support, no moorings, no charitable objectives with the Charities Commission to answer too. We just answer to the paid-up membership who provide their own pithy guidance, history, experience and support. Because of the support and generosity of members current and past, we have the financial stability to be able to afford to get legal advice.

The current terms and conditions consultation issue is a long-term project of course. The last consultation was in 2015, and although we made some points stick, CRT just ignored most of our submission. The executive in charge then was Ian Rogers. Fortunately for boaters he did not make the cut in the last few years. After the 2015 consultation, we told CRT that we were no longer able to support their terms and conditions document. This was unprecedented in recent times.

The current consultation is not about the full terms and conditions. They think they are very clever by limiting the questions to changes they proposed to make since the 2015 revision. Of course there are many contentious things in this previous version. Apparently, they don’t want the hear about that. Rest assured we will not neglect this.

So here we are just over half way though the current consultation period of 12 weeks. CRT wanted to have it for 8 weeks, but at NABO insistence, this was restored to the 12 week period that is the normal recommendation. Richard Parry is reported to have been heard saying recently that so far, the responses are mostly supportive. It sounds a bit like the US election for my taste. All the more reason to tell them if you don’t like something! Of course he hasn’t seen our response yet.

So where are we up to? We are just over half way through the 12 weeks for this and we will use every day to study this in depth and fully review our responses. No marks for going in too early. We have briefed our members on the issues, and invited views, and asked them to respond individually. We are now gathering these views and reviewing them. We discussed this as the main business item of the November AGM. We have been watching informed sources, social media and the like to make sure that all the issues are identified. We have instructed our professional legal team and received their advice.

Now the team are working on first drafts of the response. This is on multiple fronts and we are not going to stick to the CRT script alone.

  • There is the response to the CRT proposals as made.
  • We have to look at the outcome of 2015 and make sure that the outstanding issues are back on the table. Are they valid now as they were in 2015.
  • We want to look at the issues around the readability of the contract documents. Can users be expected to understand them? We complained about this sort of thing in 2015 and CRT brushed it off. Their new wording does not demonstrate any new understanding of the issues. See this as an example of how the world is waking up to this:

https://www.vice.com/en/article/xwbg7j/online-contract-terms-of-service-are-incomprehensible-to-adults-study-finds

  • We need to look privacy policy and GDPR. NABO members will know that we have been implementing this internally since it came in in 2018. How do CRT’s privacy arrangements stand up to scrutiny? Have they adapted to the new law?

And now we are thinking of the campaign. We are not going to put this in the post to CRT and forget about it. There is other work to be done to push the issues. We have to use all the league of contacts with our sister organisations, influential people and our contacts within CRT.

We have made a start by sending a letter this week to Members of Parliament on the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways (APPGW). This alerts them to our views on the legality of CRT proposals for home mooring cruising patterns. There will be more to come.

I return to NABO’s long experience with CRT. We would not be able to do this without the many hours our members spend in committee rooms and undertaking volunteer activities. This builds our own memory which in many cases goes back further than that of the CRT people we are dealing with. We know that progress cannot be made with organisations like CRT without personal relationships and long-term engagement. We cannot promise instant solutions and to win all battles. But we can demonstrate success by sicking with these issues for the long term, never forgetting and never giving up.

Please come and join us. Twenty five pounds each year, well spent.

Here is the link to the consulations https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/refresh/media/library/42500-your-boat-licence-terms-and-conditions.pdf