Sunday, 25 November 2012

Snoopers Charter (2)

You already know what I'm like... I usually like to take a "well meaning" if Victor Meldrew in style "I don't believe it" swipe at whatever I come across. As It says on the front page "If you take this blog seriously, then you are on your own."On Wednesday, I wrote a bit about the governments snoopers charter. I postulated in a roundabout way that CART might want to take advantage of such a charter. My blog reader replied with a considered opinion. One that I take on board at  face value. However,  this stimulated your scribe into a reply (banging on)  at great length. 

Quote: Whilst I share your concerns about the Governments intentions re the Communications Data Bill, I'm not sure how you can link that to C&RT's work in maintaining its income stream (similar I might suggest to parking wardens 'snooping' on parked cars). I would also like to know what is wrong with C&RT asking a marina for information? I'm not sure why C&RT have to quote S 35(2) of the DPA to justify their questions, because as far as I know it is not illegal to ask questions, what may be illegal is supplying the information requested. On the point of people giving money to a charity that uses it to monitor boats to make sure everyone pays the correct licence fee - I think the answer is probably yes.

Dear John.
I agree that asking questions is not in itself illegal, but does asking such questions have a moral dimension. If the questions were not intended to be covert and hidden from the boater in question - why were they not addressed to the boater concerned. If the questions were intended to be covert and hidden from the boater in question - why is there the need for CART to be covert about what CART already have on record. (A more up-to-date version of the chicken, egg - egg, chicken conundrum)
If as a landlord, (Marina owner) I was in receipt of a letter asking questions about one of my tenants. (Boat Owner) I would weigh up the letter content and make a decision as to whether I considered the questions to be a legal and valid enquiry. I would also look and make a judgement on the morality aspect of asking such a question. Our opinions may differ, but I am minded that legality or morality certainly have a roll to play. (Leaving out any issues centred around transparency)
Why would CART feel the need to include a reference to a bit of legislation. Unless they themselves thought that the questions might be considered by the recipient as being - well, questionable in themselves. Further more the quoted piece of legislation does not give any compulsion or requirement to me to reply or to keep covert the correspondence. (However, it would appear at first sight to a lay person to actually suggest differently. It certainly did to me.)
In such a case I would feel a business and moral responsibility to look after the interest and welfare of my tenant. This would certainly include not compromising their privacy. This is after all, the very least anyone as a tenant should expect from me as their landlord. My suspicions being raised about the way this communication has been been conducted. I would feel bound to alert my tenant to the letter and its content. I would also feel aggrieved that the letter might in itself put me in some legal or moral discomfort with my tenant. Discomfort that the writer does not (in this instance) apparently feel.
Our Civil Liberties seem to be something that the general public feels a need to be protected. It's a sad but evident truth for the general public to feel the need to collectively protect themselves in such a way. Charities such as The National Council for Civil Liberties are in business to keep the public aware of such issues. When you are made aware of the gradual erosion, you do tend see the issues from a whole new perspective. 
Sometimes such matters may raise doubts in your mind about whether they are accidental or deliberate infringements of our Liberties. One such instance for me was the cart letter. Whilst such a matter does not directly concern me. I am one of the public collective and so I have some concerns as a fellow boater.
Recently I have seen a more litigious side of the new charity come to the forefront. This in itself begs the debatable question “is this the way we want our inland waterways to be run.” That debate on the running of the inland waterways started long before the creation of CART and will continue for the foreseeable future.
There have been some inherited Health and Safety infringements where certain employees actions or lack of action are called into question. There will be significant sums of our licence, mooring and charitable donations expended on such matters. 
Questionable judgement calls on other piffling issues that are now involving threats of litigation do nothing to further the cause of the inland waterways. In my opinion they only give fuel to the fires of dissent amongst some boaters.
I accept that not all of the litigation is of CART's own making. People can and do sometimes feel the need to challenge interpretation and perceived discrimination. In such cases if CART is right - then costs will be awarded as appropriate. However, the public face of a charity (measured in the public’s perception) will guide how deep into their pockets their hands will go. Sometimes proving a point of principal in the courts, might eventually cost the inland waterways considerably more in other ways. It seems to me, to be so inept, demonstrates an apparent lack of forethought. Piling up even more fuel for the detractors to get in a bit more CART bashing.
In the public mind we collectively remember bad news and forget the good news. We then formulate an opinion on our remembered instance creating a perception. At university my tutor once gave me a bit of advice. He said “Engineers are renowned for their failures.” What he meant was build a good bridge and its builder is soon forgotten. However, if your bridge falls down you will never be forgiven or forgot. I am not aware of any successful engineering failures other than in the notoriety gained for the engineer.
We are back to perspectives and perceptions. I live in a northern town where money is in short supply for hospitals, police, fire service, schools, libraries, the roads and a myriad of other more essential causes. Jobs are disappearing (900 this week at Tata) and austerity rules our lives. Common sense needs to prevail. Spending money (at this time of financial meltdown) no matter how much it might be - on lock gate poetry when it is considered by many as being best spent elsewhere on the system – such as repairing lock gates for instance. Spending thousands on balloons and bunting will never be considered a better investment than a bit of spot dredging. Boating trees round the canals will never be considered a better investment than money spent on towpath repair. Good waterways managers like a good engineer will soon be forgotten. However, if your canal bridge falls down you will never be forgiven or forgot.
Then there was your parking wardens 'snooping' on parked cars comment. Rather than answer this directly I refer you back to NBW. The matter has moved on a little in the last few days. See here on Narrowboat World.
Quote: Just suppose you had an expensive car worth say £40,000 and it was parked on your drive. Someone approached it stealthily, photographed it at close quarters and walked off quickly before you could question them. On another occasion, when your car was parked in your works car park, a different person walked up to it and photographed it. Later still, when it was parked in a local supermarket car park, yet another person photographed it. This time you asked what they were doing but they refused to answer, jumped on a bike, and rode off at speed. None of these people wore any uniform, carried any obvious I.D. and refused to answer when challenged. Now what would you do? Ring the police would be my guess? Maybe that is what I should do next time? As regards Damien Kemp's recent complete denial in narrowboatworld I feel I can't do better than repeat the now famous Mandy Rice-Davies quote: "Well, he would, wouldn't he?"

As I said, I am not aware of any successful failures. 

Errr.... Well apart from the royal family, I dig deep enough in my pocket there – so don't get me started on them..... 
Errr.... There is the “Fat Cat” salary syndrome for CEO's of poorly performing charities...… 
Errr... The Bankers salary and bonuses scandal... 
Errr.... MP's fiddles and house flipping..... 
Errr.... Nurse my tablets please! 



  1. Hi Mike,

    A rather long and on occasions off topic response to my comment, but maybe my best reply is to quote Victor Swift from narrowboatworld.

    "YOU may be surprised to learn that those denying the involvement of Canal & river Trust in the 'Get Freeman' farce, were correct!

    I can categorically tell you that the organisation had no part in that ridiculous debacle whatsoever—other than unknowingly being used in that letter to Ralph's marina.

    One person

    No dear friends, it was the work of one person who has an almighty grudge against narrowboatworld and its ever growing number of contributors 'telling it like it is'. That this person may be acting alone or with an accomplice—willing or unwilling—we know not..."

    My analogy to parking wardens was in the context of cars being parked on the street (I understand C&RT as part of their licence enforcement activities keep records of boats on the canals - the public streets of the waterway) not cars parked on private land as used in your quote from NBW.

    Finally I agree with you that some of C&RT's actions are not perhaps the first priority most of us would like to see. On those occasions they deserve to be held to account to justify their actions. In the 'Freeman' issue (if C&RT had been responsible) then are actions were reprehensible, but not illegal, and that was my point.

  2. Ahem, me thinks your other blog reader hasn't got a clue what he / she is talking about!


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