Issue date: 24 December 2010
The Defra consultation on the principles of British Waterways becoming a charitable body is expected early in 2011 and the intelligence is that it is planned for release in about the middle of February 2011. It is expected to cover all the major issues, such as structure, governance and finance. The period for comments to be made is likely to be 12 weeks.
The legislative authorisation for the transfer of British Waterways responsibilities and obligations to a charity will be conveyed by the provisions of the Public Bodies Bill. This is an enabling Bill which provides for the technical changes to be made by an order. The Government is required by law to consult on secondary legislation and that is expected later in 2011.
The Public Bodies Bill is currently going through its Parliamentary scrutiny. The enabling powers are so wide ranging that they have been subject to critical debate in the Bill’s House of Lords stages. A concession made by Government is that orders under the Bill will be subject to the super-affirmative resolution procedure. This procedure was introduced by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. It is the most demanding from of Parliamentary scrutiny of secondary legislation. It makes orders subject to resolution by either House of Parliament (Lords and Commons) and the consideration of a Committee of either House charged with reporting on the order.
No decision has yet been made on whether the charity should also be responsible for the Environment Agency navigations. The consultation is likely to offer a preferred option for comment by consultees. It is known that the charity will not include the British Waterways navigations in Scotland. IWA fully accepts the decision of the Scottish Executive. However, IWA would support any future option for British Waterways Scotland which encourages co-operation on navigational issues for Great Britain so that the waterways currently managed across Britain by British Waterways maintain consistency for users.