Broads law heads for choppy waters

Legislation to improve the safety and management of the Broads seemed to be heading for choppy parliamentary waters last night despite clearing its first Commons obstacle.

Legislation to improve the safety and management of the Broads seemed to be heading for choppy parliamentary waters last night despite clearing its first Commons obstacle.

The Broads Authority Bill was given an unopposed second reading on the principle of its provisions. But it may face amendments in detailed debate in committee after a wave of questions from Norfolk and Suffolk MPs.

Environment minister Barry Gardiner and Norwich North Labour MP Ian Gibson, who is sponsoring the Broads Authority's private bill, were grilled on the legal status of agreements reached by the authority with the Yachting Association, the British Marine federation and Inland Waterways Association; representation on the authority's board; and on the board's funding.

Mid-Norfolk Tory MP Keith Simpson and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb both made it clear that they were not satisfied with answers given, and that they would pursue the matters as the bill proceeds.

Both pressed the case for parish and town councils to be given representation on the authority's board, and both asked for an examination of arrangements in Scotland by which there is direct election to the committees of national parks.

When Mr Gardiner argued that such a step could lead to the introduction of “party politics”, Mr Lamb told him that “he seems to be presenting a case against democracy by warning against the dangers of electing people”.

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After the debate Mr Lamb said that “there are issues to be resolved”. And Mr Simpson said that the minister and Dr Gibson had been defending “weak ground” and the points of controversy would have to be looked at further in committee.

Mr Gardiner said the government was supportive of the bill. It would be recommending two changes at the committee stage but was confident of “a satisfactory outcome”.

He congratulated the Broads Authority on its skill in managing the expectations of a wide range of people who all thought their particular activity should have precedence over any other.