Tory MPs block Broads Bill

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor A bill to improve the running and safety of the Broads has been unexpectedly blocked in the House of Commons.Norfolk Tory MPs Keith Simpson and Richard Bacon formally objected to the legislation in the chamber today in a move aimed at securing a full debate.

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor

A bill to improve the running and safety of the Broads has been unexpectedly blocked in the House of Commons.

Norfolk Tory MPs Keith Simpson and Richard Bacon formally objected to the legislation in the chamber today in a move aimed at securing a full debate. But Mr Simpson insisted that “we are not out to destroy it”.

Their action “shocked and surprised” Norwich Labour MP Ian Gibson, who described it as “an ambush”. He was not in the chamber and was expecting that the bill - which he had been asked to support by the Broads Authority - would get a second reading “on the nod”.

By shouting “object” Mr Bacon and Mr Simpson prevented the private bill from proceeding, and they intend to repeat the ploy next week if they have not received a promise of a debate in which they can put the views of anxious constituents.

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 for maintenance.

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Easy passage for it through the parliamentary waters seemed guaranteed last week when the Broads Authority signed binding legal agreements on its contents with the Yachting Association, British Marine Federation and Inland Waterways Association.

But Mr Bacon, the South Norfolk MP, said there was local concern about the powers the Broads Authority would be given by the bill, and about the level of consultation that had taken place.

“This bill should not go through on the nod. It is too important”, he said. “I want to ensure it is adequately debated and not rubber stamped.” Both he and Mr Simpson said they were confident that the government would eventually agree to a debate in its own parliamentary time.