In response to concerns raised by members, NABO sought assurance from British Waterways (via the BW Advisory Forum) and direct from DEFRA that BW will not be allowed to seek additional boating enforcement powers if the transfer of engagement to the New Waterways Charity go ahead.
Boaters raised concerns over a minute in the January BW Board meeting, (which was also highlighted on the Narrowboatworld website), where it was reported that:
11/003 The possibility of introducing greater enforcement powers for BW as part of the new legislation was also discussed and Mr Johnson agreed to report back on the subject to the May Board meeting.
This raised concerns that BW might be attempting to bring in additional legislation by the back door under cover of the NWC.
BW flatly deny this allegation: In a letter to all British Waterways Advisory Forum members BW Corporate Services, Director Nigel Johnson, states:
There is no intention (nor does the PBB permit) to create any new powers. The amendment is simply there to enable the effective and necessary transfer of existing powers from BW to NWC.
NABO has received a similar assurances from DEFRA:
I have seen Nigel Johnson’s e-mail to BWAF members of 19 June and concur with his account of what we are trying to achieve through the Public Bodies Bill (PBB), and with the reassurances he has given you. BW has not asked the department for any enhanced enforcement powers through the PBB.
In a follow up letter to NABO Nigel Johnson also confirmed to NABO that:
The item you have noted from the minutes of the January meeting of the BW Board was a query from one Board member at that meeting as to whether licensing enforcement procedures could be updated or enhanced using the Public Bodies Bill. My immediate answer was a ‘no’ because….
I also added that in my opinion there was no need for significant change to enforcement procedures.
Council member for Mooring matters Simon Robbins said;
I think we are all glad that rumour this has been cleared up and hopefully this will put boaters' minds at rest. What this episode does indicate is that relationships with some boaters are so low that we feel we have to seek written re-assurances on this sort of issue. It highlights the importance of improving communication and trust between boaters and BW.
We're grateful that our members and other boaters trust NABO to pursue concerns like this on boaters' behalf. We will continue to represent boaters concerns about issues that they bring to us.
We are encouraged to hear that Mr Johnson seems agree with NABO's long held view, that BW's current enforcement powers are adequate for the job and no new powers are urgently needed.
We have long held that BW's existing powers are suitable for the purpose and that more attention should be given to using the existing powers fairly, effectively and consistently than to creating further rules and regulations. We hope that Mr Johnson's comments represent the beginning of a re-focusing of BW's energies away from wishful thinking about greater powers back to the job in hand.