Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

British Waterways Board -v- Ward

British Waterways Board -v- Ward Bristol County Court, 2 December 2012 HHJ Denyer

Mr Ward is a boatdweller who was resorting to the Kennet & Avon Canal. He failed to pay his licence by 31 January 2010 and the British Waterways Board (BWB) sought payment of the licence plus a late payment charge. On Mr Ward’s continued failure to pay, they then took action against him under section 8 of the British Waterways Act 1983 to seek removal of the boat from the waterways under their control.

Mr Ward, assisted by two McKenzie friends, argued that BWB had no power to levy a late payment charge, that his failure to pay was partly due to BWB assisting him in obtaining a boat safety certificate and that their actions were a breach of the Equality Act 2010 and Article 8 of the European Convention.

In a previous document BWB had justified the introduction of late payment charges by stating:
The charge therefore is intended as an incentive to all boaters to renew their licence promptly. The income that we raise from those who don’t do this will be used to cover our enforcement costs.

BWB had sent Mr Ward reminders about payment of his licence plus the danger of a late payment charge.

HHJ Denyer was satisfied that BWB had power to introduce late payment charges under the Transport Act 1962 s43(3) which states that they:
shall have power to demand, take and recover such charges for their services and facilities and to make the use of those services and facilities subject to such terms and conditions as they see fit.

Mr Ward sought to reply on proceedings in House of Commons and House of Lords Select Committees but the judge ruled that these matters did not come within the criteria laid down in Pepper v Hart.

He concluded that BWB could not be blamed for Mr Ward failing to get a boat safety certificate in time and that there was no breach of either the Equality Act 2010 or the Human Rights Act 1998. Accordingly he granted the order requested.

A copy of the judgment is attached to this article.