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Peers give Broads Bill fair wind

PUBLISHED: 09:05 12 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:00 03 July 2010

A BILL to improve the safety and management of the Broads sailed through a critical stage in the House of Lords without significant alteration yesterday.

A BILL to improve the safety and management of the Broads sailed through a critical stage in the House of Lords without significant alteration yesterday.

The chief executive of the Broads Authority, John Packman, hailed “a brilliant result”, and said he was all the more confident that the legislation would get on the statute book by April.

A Lords committee which has been examining the Broads Authority Bill proposed a few amendments to it after receiving evidence from the authority and petitioners opposing the legislation. But Dr Packman said that none of them was “significant”, and that comments made by the peers on the committee were “helpful”.

The bill was introduced to Parliament, in the Commons, in January 2007, and the slowness made since then has been despite its having the support of the government.

No boating body gave evidence against the bill to the Lords committee - which began its scrutiny of it in the middle of January - and the only organisation to do so was the Norfolk Association of Parish and Town Councils.

Dr Packman said that £400,000 had so far been spent on the process of trying to get it through Parliament, and that the final bill was expected to reach half-a-million pounds. Had there been no petitioners against it, the cost would have been about £150,000 less, he continued.

The original estimate for drafting the bill and taking it through Parliament was £200,000. Half of that was provided by the government and the remainder was covered by a national park grant. A report will soon be submitted to the Broads Authority on how meeting the final costs should be divided between a further national park grant and the use of toll money held in reserves.

Mid-Norfolk MP Keith Simpson said that the increase in costs had been caused not only by objectors but also by the Broads Authority and the government changing the legislation.

“This is part of the democratic process,” he said. “People had a right to question and challenge the legislation. Some of them did not obtain everything they wanted, but we should get a better bill.”

The chairman of the Broads Authority, Stephen Johnson, said: “We now look forward to the final stages of the bill's passage at Westminster and will continue to work hard to make sure that it is passed so that we can make the Broads a safer, more enjoyable place.”

The bill has yet to complete its Lords stages, and will have to return to the Commons. But it is not expected to encounter any further major obstacles.

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