High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 9:13 pm on 28th April 2014.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 9:13 pm, 28th April 2014

Everything about my background, and recent history in Parliament in particular, suggests I should support HS2. I am the co-ordinator of the RMT parliamentary group and have supported every campaign for investment in rail over the last 17 years in Parliament. I have also used the argument about high-speed rail and taking capacity from aviation on to rail to obviate the need for a third runway at Heathrow. However, I cannot vote for the Bill tonight—I will be voting for the reasoned amendment—because I must be one of the few MPs who does not know what is going to happen in his constituency.

Initially, when high-speed rail was put forward, I was told first that there would be consultation on the main route and then, last autumn, there would be consultation on the link between the main route through my constituency to Heathrow. I was looking forward to that, because we were told that we would look at about nine options and have a detailed consultation, and that I would be able to organise community meetings and we would come to a view on whether or not we supported the link to Heathrow from the main route—or at least on what option we would support. My hon. Friend Mr Slaughter alluded to the fact that a grubby compromise was subsequently made, including across the Front Benches, whereby an Airports Commission would be appointed, in order to get every political party off the hook before the general election about deciding honestly what they supported on aviation expansion. Howard Davies’s commission has already confirmed that it could report by next January but has been told to go away on holiday between January and the general election and not report until after it.

Therefore, my constituents, like others, will not know what the political parties’ views will be about their options in respect of expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick or elsewhere. That has meant that the whole process of consultation about high-speed rail’s link to Heathrow has also been delayed. So I am the only MP in this place who cannot go to their constituents before the general election to explain to them what the implications of HS2 are. What does that mean? It means blight. It causes upset and distress for those people whose homes, businesses and community resources will be at risk, and it causes long-term blight in the area. My area is already blighted by the threat of a third or a fourth runway, but we are now blighted by the threat of a high-speed rail link that could go under us, over us or through us. We do not know which way it will go. That is just unacceptable politics.