Monday 30 May 2016

Blessed U-Turn Imminent on Houseboat Tolls?

Our Yeorgt House spies have learned that the Blessed Authority may have to make a U-turn on tolls for houseboats in adjacent waters, after an appeal court confirmed that floating houses were 'homes on water' rather than vessels capable of navigation.

Confirming the 2015 judgement of the Crown Court, the appeal Judges said that a vessel must be navigable, and that if it wasn't navigable then it wasn't a vessel.

The judgement contradicts repeated assertions from the Blessed Authority that floating homes are vessels, after they attempted to re-categorise houseboats at Balls Basin in the Southern Broads as 'vessels liable to pay a toll'.

One brave owner, who challenged the re-classification, has received 4 different justifications from Blessed Officers. This is part of the normal BA complaints procedure, in which Officers have up to 3 chances to change their reasoning before a complaint can finally be taken to the Ombudsman. This is known internally as the 'grinding down' process, which is designed to ensure that - by the time a grievance reaches stage 3 - the complainant will be so exhausted or confused that they will simply give in.

In this case, Blessed Officers twice used the Authority's time-honoured tradition of adding words to Acts of Parliament (using Blink) in the hope that nobody would notice. On one occasion, the owner was told that his property "qualified under the 2009 Act as a houseboat" - despite there being no reference to houseboats in the Act - and in another reply, the Act was misquoted to include a non-existent provision for 'anything which could be moved on water'. More recently, it was declared by Dr Pikeman himself that Officers could add any category of floating object to Parliament's definition of a 'vessel', by virtue of the Act including a reference to sailboards. If sailboards, then why not houseboats, goes the flawless argument, which presumably has been approved by the Authority's solicitor.

The new ruling appears to torpedo the Blessed position, by declaring beyond doubt that floating homes are not vessels. The decision follows similar judgements in America, as well as basic rules of common sense and the English language as we know it. However, officers remain stubborn to the last, claiming that they are the final arbiter when it comes to interpretation of terminology, rather than Parliament or the Courts. "In the case of the 2009 Act", said a Blessed Spokesperson, "we can safely ignore the intentions of Parliament, because we drafted the Bill and we know what we intended. And what we intended was to be able to interpret the provisions in any way we like."

Since the Blessed Authority's resources for legal action are effectively unlimited - and those of its customers are not - it's easy to bully most people into paying tolls, even when there is no legal basis to charge one. Officers may also choose to invoke the 'Pikeman' principle which says that Court judgements do not apply to organisations which call themselves National Parks, as they are thought to be above the law.

Amazingly, Blessed Members - and even Members of the Navigation Committee (who advise on tolls) - remain in blissful ignorance of the actions taken on their behalf by officers, as it's all done under Blessed Delegated Authority! And woe betide any Member who does start asking questions - the ejector seat awaits your pleasure, dear Member.

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