Oral statement to Parliament

HS2 opening speech for third reading

Concerns the third reading of the HS2 hybrid Bill.

The Rt Hon Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP

Madame Deputy Speaker, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

Our railways and roads power our economy.

It is almost 2 centuries since this House gave its backing to a pioneering railway from London to Birmingham.

A line which changed our country.

And on which many of our great cities still rely today.

Of course we could leave it as it is for another 2 centuries.

Congested and unreliable.

And suffer the consequences in lost growth, lost jobs, and lost opportunities.

Particularly in the midlands and the north.

But this House has already shown that it can do much better than that.

By backing a new high speed route alongside other transport investment in road and rail access across the country.

In 2013 Parliament passed the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act, paving the way for HS2.

Backed by welcome support and cooperation from all parts of the House.

For which I wish to thank all parties.

We have made outstanding progress since then.

British contractors are bidding to build the line.

British apprentices are waiting to work on the line.

British cities are waiting to benefit from it.

Which is why today’s vote is so important.

On what will be a great British railway.

Phase One will be the bedrock of this new network.

Phase 2a will take it further to Crewe.

And Phase 2b onwards to Manchester and Leeds.

Our trains are more than twice as busy as they were 20 years ago.

And growth will continue.

HS2 will help us cope.

It will work, it will be quick, it will be reliable, it will be safe, and it will be clean.

And when it is finished we will wonder why we took so long to getting around to building it.

I know many Hon Members will want to speak so I will keep my remarks short.

I will touch on the detail of the Bill.

I will also set out the work that has been done on the environment.

And then I want to describe what will come next including what we are doing to build skills and manage costs.

First, the Bill before the House today authorises the first stage of HS2 from London to Birmingham.

This Bill has undergone more than 2 years of intense parliamentary scrutiny since 2013.

Even before Phase One of the Bill was introduced, the principle of HS2 was extensively debated on the floor of this House.

In April 2014 we had the second reading of Phase One of the Bill.

Then there was a special Select Committee.

I want to thank all members of the Committee, particularly my hon Friend the Member for Poole, who chaired it so ably.

I also want to pay special tribute to my hon Friends the Member for North West Norfolk and the Member for Worthing West – who, along with the Member for Poole, sat for the whole of the Committee Stage.

The committee heard over 1,500 petitions during 160 sittings.

It sat for over 700 hours and over 15,000 pieces of evidence were provided to it.

It published its second special report on 22 February 2016.

The government published its response, accepting the committee’s recommendations.

Many of the changes made to the scheme in select committee were related to the environmental impacts.

Building any road or rail link has impacts.

But we will build it carefully and we will build it right.

For example, HS2 Ltd have today started work to procure up to 7 million trees to be planted alongside the line and help blend it in with the landscape.

Changes at select committee will mean less land take, more noise barriers, and longer tunnels.

We have done a huge amount of work to assess environmental impacts.

More than 50,000 pages of environmental assessment have been provided to the House.

We have produced a Statement of reasons’ setting out why we believe it is correct to proceed with HS2.

This information is important to ensure that the House makes its decision – to support this vital project – in light of the environmental effects.

I expect construction of HS2 Phase One between London and Birmingham to begin next year (2017).

To enable this HS2 Ltd have this morning announced that 9 firms have now been short-listed for the civil engineering contracts for the line.

Those contracts alone will create over 14,000 jobs.

And we want those jobs to be British jobs.

This is why the HS2 skills college, with sites in Birmingham and Doncaster, will open its doors next year to train our young people to take up these opportunities.

But it’s not just about jobs. It is also about materials too.

HS2 will need approximately 2 million tonnes of steel over the next 10 years.

We are already holding discussions with UK suppliers to make sure they are in the best possible position to win those contracts.

Later this year I will set out my decisions on HS2 Phase Two.

As this happens we must have a firm grip on costs.

The November 2015 Spending Review confirmed a budget for the whole of HS2 of £55.7 billion at 2015 prices.

HS2 is a major commitment of public money, but it is an investment which Britain must make. And can afford to make.

The cost of HS2 equates to around 0.14% of UK GDP in the Spending Review period.

Now, I respect the fact that there are those in this House who take a different view of this project.

But this is about the future of our nation.

A bold new piece of infrastructure that will open to passengers in just 10 years’ time.

This is about giving strength not just to the north, but also to the Midlands.

Today I can get a high speed train to Paris and other parts of Europe, but not to Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds or Scotland.

This is about boosting the links to the Midlands manufacturing heartland.

The connections to Leeds, York, the north-east and Edinburgh. To the north-west, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow.

It is about making HS2 part of our national railway network – such as at Euston.

Here we are not only building a world class high speed rail station, but we are also funding work by Network Rail to prepare a masterplan for Euston station.

An important step forward in our vision of an integrated hub that will enhance the area.

At Old Oak Common I have agreed to the transfer of land to the Development Corporation, paving the way for in excess of 25,000 new homes and 65,000 jobs.

High Speed 2 is a measure of our ambition as a country.

A measure of our willingness to look beyond the immediate to the future and to a hard-headed view of what we need to succeed as a nation.

This is a railway which will unlock that future.

I urge colleagues to support the Bill at third reading as they have done to date and for the carry over motion so that the Bill can continue its passage in the next session.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Published 23 March 2016