Speech

HS2 closing speech for second reading

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Summaries the way we are dealing with the cost, environmental and property impacts of HS2 and calls for parliamentary support for Phase One.

HS2

This debate has highlighted, not only the need for HS2, but also the importance of getting it right.

This is a scheme that will play a vital role in creating the necessary conditions for economic growth.

But that doesn’t mean we should press ahead unchecked.

We must be clear about the impacts.

And we must act responsibly in addressing those impacts.

By providing appropriate mitigation for any adverse environmental consequences.

And fair compensation for those affected by the new railway.

Let me summarise how we are responding to these crucial issues.

Firstly, there is the question of cost.

Let me say that we have been clear about cost.

It is a considerable investment, but it is spread over 10 years.

Delivering benefits over decades.

Perhaps even centuries.

This is a project that will stand the test of time.

And it is not at the expense of other investment.

It is alongside high levels of investment in roads, in the existing rail network, and in local transport schemes.

This is one part of a rounded transport strategy.

It is, of course, incumbent on us to ensure this scheme sticks to its schedule and budget.

So that tax payers get value for money.

And they will.

To assist us, we have recently appointed leading experts Sir David Higgins and Simon Kirby to lead the delivery and construction of the scheme.

Following his recent review, Sir David Higgins confirmed that the scheme is on track for construction to begin in 2017.

Secondly, is the question of how we are addressing the impacts on the environment.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to construct a project like this without having some impacts on the environment.

However, since the very beginning, identifying those impacts and developing proposals for appropriate mitigation have been key priorities.

We have carried out environmental assessments.

And we have proposed mitigation measures.

We are committed to no net loss of biodiversity.

We are replacing habitats for wildlife.

We are generally tunnelling under, rather than travelling through, the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty.

We are integrating the railway in to the landscape, hiding much of it from view.

We are incorporating natural and man-made barriers to reduce noise and vibration.

And we have set binding commitments to control the impacts of construction.

On all this, we have consulted extensively. We have taken on board suggestions for improving the scheme.

And, prior to the Easter recess, the House has received an independent report, summarising consultation responses, to inform its decision tonight (28 April 2014).

Thirdly, let me turn to the measures to support those whose property may be affected.

People living near the proposed route are understandably worried.

They deserve generous assistance.

And they will receive it.

We have already helped over a hundred households under the current exceptional hardship scheme.

We have now launched an express purchase scheme for land safeguarded for Phase One – helping owner-occupiers sell quickly and with less fuss, regardless of whether their property is needed for HS2. They get the full unblighted open market value of their property, plus 10%, plus reasonable moving costs – including stamp duty.

Later this year we will launch an enhanced need to sell scheme to help owner-occupiers who need to sell their property, but cannot because of HS2 – there is no distance test to pass.

We will also launch a voluntary purchase scheme – giving owner-occupiers in rural areas up to 120 metres from the line the choice to sell their property and receive its full un-blighted market value. We will also consult on offering them a new choice of a cash alternative.

And we will consult on new home owner payments, for owner-occupiers in rural areas between 120 metres and 300 metres from the line, to help share more of the expected economic benefits of HS2 with rural homeowners –not just helping those who want to move, but also those who need to stay in their homes.

We appreciate that, for some, no amount of money or help will be enough.

And we don’t pretend that these proposals will satisfy everyone.

But we believe they are fair and represent the best possible balance between properly helping people and providing value for money for the tax payer.

I come now to some of the comments made in the debate.

I thank Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition for their support.

It was their idea after all.

As a fellow Yorkshire MP, the shadow Secretary of State recognises the benefits to the north, and we also agree that the project should be delivered in a cost-effective way.

Indeed, another Yorkshire MP, the shadow Chancellor, agrees with us that it is absolutely right - possibly for the first time.

The shadow Secretary of State is correct in holding us to our word on the environmental mitigation included in the scheme.

She asked me about the response to the HS2 phase 2 consultation. We will respond in the autumn and make further decisions following that.

The shadow Secretary of State also mentioned resilience in the south-west and we will certainly not ignore other parts of the country.

I was recently in Dawlish and saw the work carried out there.

I also drove on the A30 and A303 in the west country between Stonehenge and the Blackdowns, which is an important route, as mentioned by my Honorable friend the member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile).

Who could not have been impressed by the enthusiasm of my Hon friend the member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) for HS2 and for the advantages for God’s own county?

He said that Yorkshire could aspire to have a second London, but I think we could do better than that.

My Rt Hon friend the member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) is a stalwart campaigner on the behalf of her constituents and raises concerns about the cost of the project.

She cannot have it both ways.

One reason why costs have increased is due to the unprecedented environmental mitigation, including the more than 9 of the 11 miles of the line in her constituency that is in either a tunnel or a cutting.

She is perfectly entitled to her own opinion of the project, but she is not entitled to her own facts.

I thank the Hon member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), the Chair of the Transport Committee, for her support.

I see the Select Committee as a critical friend and look forward to its future reports.

My Rt Hon friend the member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) drew attention to the struggle to build projects such as HS1, which spanned generations, and the need to reduce overcrowding by not only increasing capacity on the new north-south railway, but also freeing up capacity on existing lines for passengers and freight.

The Rt Hon member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) welcomed the scrapping of the HS1-HS2 link, but not much else.

I can assure my Hon friend the member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) that the excavated material from the tunnel in the Chilterns will not be disposed of in his patch.

The Hon member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) outlined the advantages for Manchester and the north-west, as did the Hon member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), and drew attention to historical objectors to rail projects.

I was reminded that the east coast main line would have gone through Stamford were it not for Lord Burghley’s interests in the coaching industry.

Instead, the line went through a little-known place called Peterborough and look at the benefits it brought there.

The Hon member for Blackley and Broughton said that the quicker we do this, the better, and I say “Hear, hear.”

The Hon member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) outlined the advantages to Birmingham and its airport, and I heard her concern about the properties of the National Trust, with which we are working to protect the setting of Hartwell house.

The Rt Hon member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) described how HS2 will bridge the north-south divide, as did my Hon friend the member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw).

I understand the concerns of my Rt Hon friend the member for Eddisbury (Mr O’Brien) about construction in his constituency.

He suggested that double-decking could be a solution, but that would not only be just a stop-gap but result in years of weekend engineering closures and replacement buses on the west coast main line.

For their supportive comments, I thank the Hon member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) and my Hon friends the members for Northampton South (Mr Binley), for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), for Redditch (Karen Lumley), for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), for Warrington South (David Mowat), for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) and for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), who stressed the importance of the project to Leeds.

The Rt Hon member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) supports the scheme, but I understand his concerns about the Washwood Heath maintenance depot.

I agree with the Hon member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) that it is wrong to brand people with genuine concerns about the line’s impact as nimbys.

Tonight (28 April 2014) the House faces a great decision, one of national importance that will profoundly affect the way our economy develops for generations.

The House must be satisfied of the need for HS2.

And it must be satisfied that the appropriate measures are in place to deliver this scheme in a sustainable way – both economically and environmentally.

HS2 will help drive this country forward.

It will create new capacity and enable better use of existing transport corridors.

It will join up our cities and strengthen our economy.

And as a result, it will help open up opportunities, currently held back by lack of investment.

And, along the way, it will be subject to careful, detailed scrutiny.

Tonight’s (28 April 2014) vote is an important step in taking HS2 forward.

And I urge Rt Hon and Hon members to support this bill for Phase One.

Published 28 April 2014