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Pleasure Boats

Volume 987: debated on Thursday 3 July 1980

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(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, any of the following authorities, namely—

  • (a) a district council;
  • (b) a London borough council;
  • (c) the Common Council of the City of London,
  • may make byelaws—

  • (a) for regulating—
  • (i) the numbering and naming of pleasure boats and vessels which are let for hire to the public; and
  • (ii) the mooring places for such boats and vessels; and
  • (b) for fixing the qualifications of the boatman or other persons in charge of such boats or vessels; and
  • (c) for securing their good and orderly conduct while in charge.
  • (2) No authority mentioned in subsection (1) above shall have power to make byelaws under that subsection in relation to pleasure boats or vessels operating—

  • (a) on any water owned or managed by the British Waterways Board;
  • (b) on any inland waters, as defined in section 135(1) of the Water Resources Act 1963, in respect of which a water authority may make byelaws under section 79 of that Act;
  • (c) subject to subsection (3) below, on any canal or other inland navigation which a navigation authority, as defined in section 135(1) of the Water Resources Act 1963, are required or empowered to manage or maintain under any enactment; or
  • (d) on any harbour maintained or managed by a harbour authority, as defined in section 57(1) of the Harbours Act 1964.
  • (3) Subsection (2)( c) above does not preclude a local authority making byelaws under subsection (1) above in relation to pleasure boats or vessels operating on any canal or inland navigation which they themselves are required or empowered to manage or maintain.—[ Mr. Fox.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    With this we may take Government amendments Nos. 225, 285 and 287.

    In presenting this new clause and these consequential amendments to the House, I am fulfilling an undertaking that I gave to Standing Committee D during its consideration of paragraph 2 of schedule 6 on 19 February. That paragraph was included in the Bill following the Government's review of central Government controls over local authorities because they would have removed the need for local authorities to submit byelaws to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department every time they wished to fix rates of hire for pleasure craft under section 172 of the Public Health Act 1875.

    Following publication of the Bill in January 1980, however, we received representations from numerous holiday boating firms and other inland waterways interests about the detrimental effect which unfettered or, indeed, any controls over rates of hire would have on the boat hire business. They also drew attention to the fact that those provisions would enable local authorities to make byelaws to regulate pleasure boats and vessels let for hire on waterways and waters controlled by other bodies, such as the British Waterways Board and navigation authorities, and argued that their circumstances could not have been envisaged when the original Act was passed.

    Following consideration of these representations, we came to the conclusion that we should amend the Bill to preclude local authorities from having any powers to fix rates of hire for pleasure boats. In our view, there were no grounds for refusing to treat the boat hire industry like any other business enterprise and to leave the fixing of rates of hire to be determined by free competition and the normal market factors of supply and demand.

    We also concluded that the Bill should be amended to preclude local authorities from exercising their remaining powers to regulate pleasure boats under section 172 of the Public Health Act 1875 in respect of boats on waters where such boats could already be regulated by the British Waterways Board or by any water, navigation or harbour authority. As the House will appreciate, it would be unnecessary and undesirable to allow local authorities to exercise this power where another authority already has adequate power to ensure public safety.

    That led me to undertake to introduce suitable amendments to implement these proposals, and that I am now pleased to do.

    I entirely share my hon. Friend's desire that there should be the maximum freedom for boat owners and renters to use our waterways as they choose without too great a degree of regulation. I am sure that many local authorities have far too much to do with being involved in impeding people's use of their boats for pleasure and navigation.

    However, I should be glad of further clarification on one narrow point. Some years ago I had something to do with local authorities and boats. There is the problem of large concentrations of boats depositing large quantities of sewage in still waters with consequential pollution and nuisance to those who either sail the waters or live in the vicinity.

    I should like to be clear that my hon. Friend adheres to the policy that pleasure boats are to be required to have suitable toilets installed and that it will still be within the power of local authorities or, as need be, other navigation authorities—such as the Broads authority, the British Waterways Board and other water authorities—to ensure that boats comply with the minimum requirement of providing toilet facilities so that they do not foul up the water and damage the pleasure and environment for other people.

    I welcome the new clause. However, I should like my hon. Friend to clear up one small point, because the clause is somewhat complicated. It seems to give and to take away powers at the same time. Will my hon. Friend confirm that it does not restrict local authorities on water safety? There are a great number of unnecessary accidents. For example, there is a very live water safety committee in my constituency. I should like to be assured that the new clause will not restrict its activities.

    I endorse the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir A. Costain). In my constituency there are large stretches of waterway. It is obvious that we should continue to ensure that there are adequate provisions—which I am sure exist in other Acts—to prevent the pollution of water by boats. I do not think the provision will impede existing powers. We are only removing unnecessary restrictions on boat owners, which would have been very difficult to impose.

    I reassure my hon. Friends that nothing in the new clause will worsen the situation as regards sewerage and the provision of toilet facilities. I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Sir A. Costain) that nothing in the provision will impinge on existing safety regulations. I also note the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn).

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.