The Middle Level Bill has now been passed by the House of Commons and has gone to the House of Lords for the next stage of the parliamentary process.
The Middle Level Commissioners (MLC) are the navigation authority for the Middle Level river system, which comprises 100 miles of navigable waterways in Cambridgeshire (including Peterborough City Council) and Norfolk. The Middle Level Bill, a Private Members Bill, would bring MLC into line with other navigation authorities by enabling better waterway management powers and increased provision of facilities and moorings in connection with their navigation function.
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 who met from 15th to 17th 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 received its third reading in the House of Commons on 28th February and had its first reading in the House of Lords the following day. The petitioning period in the Lords runs until 12th March and that will be followed by a second hearing, with possibly an opposed Bill Committee stage after that. Royal Assent is expected by Christmas.
IWA welcomes the positive progress of the Bill through Parliament, as it will enable the Commissioners to levy charges in respect of vessels using the Middle Level waterways, including the ability to charge where vessels overstay time limits in force at a mooring place.
The Bill would enable MLC to generate income specifically for boating and the provision of more moorings and better facilities. It would also enable the removal of sunken, stranded and abandoned vessels and it would enable requirement of vessels using the Commissioners’ waterways to hold insurance and to comply with the Boat Safety Scheme, which is currently not the case.
IWA supports the Commissioners’ proposal to set up a formal Navigation Advisory Committee to advise the Commissioners on the exercise of their navigation functions, and welcomes their commitment to achieve at least IWA’s published minimum standards for the provision of boaters’ facilities.