I will concede that if we chuck £50 billion of taxpayers’ money at anything, some of it will stick to the wall and we will get some result from that, but we could argue about whether that is the best way of spending £50 billion.
I echo the thoughts of the HS2 Action Alliance on the Government’s most recent statement on property compensation. People may well go to their graves having been locked into homes made totally unsaleable by the HS2 route. Then there are the environmental questions. The initial 60-day consultation period for a 50,000-page environmental statement, the equivalent of 40 versions of “War and Peace”, raises questions, as does the Environmental Audit Committee report, which recently uncovered the fact that 40% of the route has yet even to be examined.
The evasiveness of the Government on this matter has not escaped the general public, and no amount of expensive Government-sponsored reports into supposed benefits will convince them. A ComRes poll last month found that 52% of Britons oppose the current plans to build HS2, whereas only about 30% support the project. This confirmed the trend from previous polls: there is a solid majority of the public opposed to HS2.
We have a Bill before us today which raises far more questions than it answers, and a case built around PR and spin rather than evidence and a foundation of fact—suppressed reports, hurried consultations and unanswered questions. This is not the way to spend more than £50 billion of taxpayers’ money. I therefore urge all right hon. and hon. Members to vote against the Bill and to support the amendment.