High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 8:26 pm on 28th April 2014.

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Photo of Natascha Engel Natascha Engel Chair, Backbench Business Committee 8:26 pm, 28th April 2014

I am saying that the people who are affected will be given an incredibly narrow window between tomorrow’s date, 29 April, and 23 May, but for my constituents this may not happen until the process is further down the line. Those constituents who are affected will have a very narrow window in which to respond and they will have to pay, individually, a cost that may be too high for them. They will also have to submit the petition in person after filling in forms from a petition kit. The process is so complicated that, rather than encouraging people to get involved in the consultation process, it will stop them doing so.

I am really concerned that the whole project has been run along those lines. It has excluded the voices of those people most severely affected by it. It excludes those whose homes and communities will be destroyed, and it does not give a real opportunity for their concerns to be heard. It does not bring them any benefit and it takes away what they already have, and for that privilege we are asking them to pay £50 billion through their taxes. At the same time, local regeneration projects that have been blighted for years will continue to be blighted while all the economic regeneration gets sucked back into the cities again.

The true reason those people are not being consulted and nobody is trying to make the case to them is that the financial and economic case is so weak. The large majority with which this Bill will be passed tonight will tell the large number of people who have concerns that we think we know what is better for them. They disagree and we are denying them a right to say so.

In conclusion, the case for HS2 is no more sophisticated than saying, “We need to do something to improve our transport infrastructure, and this is something.” That is not a strong enough argument to destroy the lives, homes and local economies in the areas, towns and villages—like mine in North East Derbyshire—that are most deeply affected, and that is why I will oppose the Bill’s Second Reading.