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I oppose this Bill on national and local grounds. I pay tribute to the people of Stone, Swynnerton, Whitmore and Madeley for the meetings we have had to discuss these matters, and I also pay tribute to the Country Land and Business Association and Stop HS2 for the back-up they have given at these meetings and in consideration of all these matters.
I oppose the Bill for many reasons. The route will cut a swathe right the way through my constituency from top to bottom. I also agree very much with the comments of my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan and my neighbour and good friend Jeremy Lefroy. I do not need to repeat their points. They have made them forcefully and so have many others, and they are right.
The reality is that my constituents gain no benefit from this whatever. As has rightly been said, it is all pain and no gain. The unfairness of the current arrangements is so gross that it has to be rectified; there is a complete failure to understand that in the 21st century we must have a proper compensation arrangement if this Bill is to go through, as many predict.
I do not believe the comments of the Public Accounts Committee can be in any way disputed, and as for the question of the amount of money involved, that is the biggest white elephant of all time. As has been noted, the amount has already gone up to £50 billion-plus, and I will not be surprised if it is £75 billion by the time this is finished. The reality is that this is a very expensive operation that is blighting people’s homes already in a way that is completely unfair, and it deserves to be discarded.
On the question of compensation, the arrangements favour the acquirer so much against the claimant, and they do not even say how the compensation is to be calculated. As for the exceptional hardship scheme, three quarters of the applications have been rejected, as the Minister knows, and compensation is available only through a discretionary scheme.