MPs explain Broads bill move

LORNA MARSH Broads officials last night welcomed the transparency that a debate over its private bill will offer following surprise objections in parliament.The Broads bill, designed to improve safety on the waterways and streamline its administration, was unexpectedly blocked in the House of Commons by Norfolk Tory MPs Keith Simpson and Richard Bacon in the hope of sparking a full debate.

LORNA MARSH

Broads officials last night welcomed the transparency that a debate over its private bill will offer following surprise objections in parliament.

The Broads bill, designed to improve safety on the waterways and streamline its administration, was unexpectedly blocked in the House of Commons by Norfolk Tory MPs Keith Simpson and Richard Bacon in the hope of sparking a full debate.

Mr Simpson told the EDP yesterday that the intention was to secure open scrutiny and transparency as the bill went through the legislative procedure following complaints and petitions from boat users.

Boating interests have been wary of the bill, which seeks to update the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act of 1988, give the Broads Authority new power to make the Broads safer to navigate and facilitate funding.

Richard Williams, of Salhouse, who was the Broads Authority's first navigation officer when they were introduced in 1988 and is a regular Broads boater, said the bill was an unnecessary act of bureaucracy.

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He said the rights it would give officials without a warrant to inspect boats that were deemed unsafe would effectively legalise breaking and entering.

A spokesman for the Broads Authority said the block was not a surprise and that officials still expected the bill to go through parliament by the end of this year in readiness for new safety requirements in April 2008.

She said: "Going onto boats suspected to be unsafe to inspect them would only be done in exceptional circumstances.

"People are very suspicious and protective of their rights, but the bill is being introduced for the safety of all Broads users."

Four people have petitioned the authority against the bill.

Norwich Labour MP Ian Gibson, who was taken by surprise at the last- minute blocking of the bill, said: "As MPs we have all had letters from a number of individuals, but there seems to be no concerted effort.

"Most people are happy that boats are going to be insured and for the safety the bill will offer.

"Some people just don't like the Broads Authority, but it is good to see open scrutiny in practice."