One of the surprises in the Queen’s Speech is something called the Draft Governance of National Parks (England) and the Broads Bill. Unless you live in a National Park or the Norfolk Broads, you may struggle to muster enthusiasm, but the reason this surprise is an interesting surprise is that it tells us something about the way the Coalition works.
This bill, which will provide direct elections to National Park authorities in England, was, as I understand it, an important Lib Dem policy and a Coalition commitment. I’m told that Nick Clegg requested it, and this legislation may well have taken the place of a Forestry Bill to establish a public body to manage the forests. Campaigners had been pressing for this Bill as a way of burying the hatchet of the great forest sell-off row, and an impressive list of them wrote to the Telegraph last week saying it would ‘enable the public forest estate to contribute fully to a bright new future for the environment, people and the economy’.
Choosing National Parks over forests seems even stranger when you consider that Dan Rogerson is the Liberal Democrat minister for, er, forestry. But it makes a little more sense when you factor in another campaigner: Lib Dem party president Tim Farron, whose Lake District constituency would benefit from the bill that the government plumped for in the end.