Lords amendment: No. 21, in page 49, line 35, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert—
(2) When the Secretary of State is satisfied that all of those members have been duly appointed, he shall, if he has not already exercised his powers under sub-paragraph (2A) below, do so.
(2A) If the Secretary of State is satisfied that at least 27 of those members have been duly appointed, he may by order specify a date for the purposes of this paragraph.
(2B) The Authority shall be deemed to have been duly constituted as from the specified date, notwithstanding the absence of some of its members.
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
Amendment No. 21 is one of two amendments that are designed to facilitate the earliest possible establishment of the authority, by minimising the risk of delay in making appointments — particularly in regard to those about which my right hon. Friend will be required to consult interested bodies.
Amendment No. 21 will enable my right hon. Friend to make a commencement order, prescribing the date on which the new authority is to be established, as soon as 27 members — just over three quarters of the full membership—have been appointed, instead of all 33 of the members to be appointed by the local authorities and other appointing authorities — including my right hon. Friend himself. This seemed to us a wise precautionary measure, to guard against the possibility of delay in making even one single appointment — for whatever reason—preventing the establishment of the authority.
We are coming to the end of our consideration of the amendments. We welcome amendment No. 21 because we want the Norfolk Broads Authority to be established as quickly and effectively as possible. We want it to get on with the job that it has been given by Parliament. However, as Opposition Members have said throughout the proceeding on the Bill we shall watch carefully the body's work to try to assess whether it is as effective as the Minister claims it will be or whether our fears about the balance between navigation and conservation interests not having been properly established are justified. We fear that the commercial interests of those concerned with navigation have been given too much priority.
As I said on Third Reading, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We welcome the establishment of the authority as quickly as possible, but we are not convinced that it has all the powers that it needs and that the legislation has been drafted so as to make the body as effective as it should be. We shall examine developments carefully and return to the subject, bringing forward our own proposals to strengthen the legislation and the authority's powers if we discover that our fears are well founded.