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Activity centres welcome backing for Bill

Directors of outdoor activity centres across Britain this week welcomed the Government's decision to back a Bill for compulsory registration saying it would boost the industry and force cowboy operators out of business.

Steve Mitchell, director of Howtown Outdoor Centre, Ullswater, Cumbria, said many local authority-run centres had been under threat because of education cutbacks and competition from unscrupulous operators who compromised safety in order to offer cut-price holidays.

"I'm delighted that there is going to be a mandatory scheme. I have been advocating this for years," Mr Mitchell said.

John Pinder, deputy head of Shropshire Outdoor Education Centre, run by the county council, said: "This is a good thing for the industry. When something happens at a bad centre, everybody tends to get tarred with the same brush. It's good that standards are going to be brought up to the level of the best operators."

On Tuesday, education minister Eric Forth said the Government would support "in principle" a Private Members' Bill aimed at improving safety at outdoor activity centres in the wake of the Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy. The about-turn followed months of intense pressure and came ahead of a Health and Safety Executive report, which showed that most outdoor activity centres were well-run but about 10 per cent seriously compromised safety.

David Jamieson, the Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport who has been piloting the Bill through Parliament, said: "I'm very pleased the Government has finally come on board. It makes much more sense for us to co-operate with each other rather than argue."

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