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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 18:41 GMT
MPs fail to block boatmen changes
River Thames
Training would be reduced from five years to two-and-a-half
Attempts to revoke new laws governing the way boatmen on the River Thames work have been defeated in the Commons.

A cross-party bid to block new licensing rules for boatmen failed following a government majority of 62.

Ministers passed an order last month cutting the length of training needed before boatmen gain their licences.

The change - which bring the rules in line with EU standards - has been strongly opposed by boatmen, trade unions and campaigners.

The parliamentary revolt was spearheaded by the Liberal Democrats and backed by the Tories and a handful of Labour MPs. It was defeated by 295 votes to 233.

Little experience

Instead of requiring a five year apprenticeship, the new licence allows an individual to become a captain after two years plus six months of local knowledge training on the tidal Thames.

Boatmen, who will be re-tested every five years, can now also captain a barge or commuter vessel at 18 years of age instead of 21.

Speaking outside the Commons after the vote, party spokesman Simon Hughes, the MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, said: "We all have to hope that the new rules do not allow people with too little experience to be in charge of vessels on the Thames leading to an increase in risk."

But ministers said the changes would harmonise rules nationwide and allow UK boatmen with the relevant licence to operate on the continent and vice versa.

Thames boatmen in licensing row
09 Jan 07 |  London

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