High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 28th April 2014.

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Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton 6:41 pm, 28th April 2014

No, as I have given way once and many Members want to speak in this debate.

There are people with genuine and serious constituency interests in this debate, but some of the interests lined up against the project are vested interests. Referring back to what Mr Burns said, I wrote an article recently about HS2 in which I guessed that when the railways started, in the early and mid-19th century, they would have been opposed by the stagecoach owners and bargees at that time. The editor of the journal I wrote the article for found a cartoon of the 1830s depicting horses that were unemployed queuing up. So there are vested interests against this project, as well as constituency interests.

My second point is about capacity. The point has been well made that this project is driven by capacity issues and it will have economic benefits. The question that people who want to stop this project have to answer is this: are they really saying to our country that, by the middle of this century, we are going to be relying on railways that were built in the middle of the 19th century and motorways that were built in the middle of the 20th century for our transport infrastructure? There has been very little investment in any of our transport infrastructure—motorways, roads and airport runways—over the last 30 or 40 years. That would be a disgrace to the United Kingdom and it would mean that we fell further behind our competitors.

The final point I want to make has two aspects. I sympathise with the arguments made by those Members who have constituency interests and are opposing this Bill, and I hope the Secretary of State will listen carefully, because my experience of being involved in more than one major infrastructure project is that if we pay more and earlier in compensation, we save in the long term and the projects happen more quickly. A lot of the resistance comes from people who think they are being treated unfairly. So I hope the Secretary of State will listen.

The other side of the coin has already been referred to. The Higgins report calls for the project to be speeded up and I agree with that, but I think we can do still better. Building north to south as well as south to north and speeding up the project would bring more immediate benefits. Whatever we say about the cost-benefit analysis, all the analysis shows it is not the actual quantum of money—£25 billion, £30 billion or £40 billion—that counts; it is that we will get more economic benefit back than the money we put in. So the quicker we do it, the better.