Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 9:47 pm on 28th April 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Conservative, Tamworth 9:47 pm, 28th April 2014

This debate is hugely important to the country, but the proposals put forward by the Government are of huge concern to many of my constituents who face the prospect of both phase 1 and phase 2 of HS2.

I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State say that he does not believe that those who have shown their concern are nimbys, because others have taken a rather different view, as he will know. If he looks at the report of proceedings in Westminster Hall on 31 March 2011, he will read some very disobliging comments about people concerned about HS2.

My constituents are not nimbys. They tell me that if the business case stacked up, if the mitigation was right and if the compensation on offer was fair, reasonable and quick, they would accept the proposals. They would not like them, but they would accept them in the national interest. The problem is that the business case does not stack up, the mitigations are not right and the compensation is not fair, reasonable or quick.

We have already heard concerns about the business case. I will not recapitulate them here, but suffice it to say that I am concerned that the connection between our vital airports does not seem to be there; the proposals for the funding do not appear to stack up; and the route around Birmingham goes west, not east, and therefore through virgin countryside rather along than existing transport corridors. In my judgment, the business case does not stack up.

Even if it did stack up, the mitigations in my part of the world are nowhere near adequate. I was pleased to hear from my right hon. Friend Sir John Randall that in his constituency HS2 will be tunnelled. Mitigation in Tamworth extends to a few trees, except around the village of Hints, where the ancient woodland will be demolished to make way for the line. We will gain a few saplings, but we will lose a lot of ancient oaks, because HS2 will not build a cut-and-cover tunnel.

In Knox’s Grave lane and Flats lane, an innovative proposal from the residents has also been rejected so far. The local housing stock is so overcrowded in the community that there is nowhere for them to move to, so the compensation simply will not help them. They want to rebuild their homes nearby, but thus far, HS2 has said no. All it has offered to those people is the prospect of living in caravans. That is a bitter twist of the knife for them to bear. Indeed, every mitigation proposal in my constituency—in Drayton Bassett, Swinfen, Hints and Flats lane—has been rejected by HS2.

The Secretary of State made great play of the compensation proposals that he has tabled. A couple of weeks ago, I listened to those proposals being adumbrated by the Under-Secretary of State, and they are an improvement, but the fact remains that not a single constituent of mine will benefit from those proposals. The village of Hints lies 400 metres away from the proposed route. In the past four years, not a single home has been sold in Hints, except four that have been sold to the state through the exceptional hardship scheme. The people in that village are blighted now: they cannot move, they are trapped and they have lost their liberty. The only way that we can get the property market moving in those places, so that people can realise their aspiration to move if they want to, is by introducing a property bond. I hope that the Secretary of State or the Select Committee, or a combination of the two, will accept the need for such a bond.

My right hon. Friend Mr Burns, in a passionate and personal speech, said that when we are building infrastructure, the needs and demands of the country must be addressed. We would all accept that, but the needs and demands of the people who are affected by the proposals that we are foisting on them also need to be properly and effectively met. It is my judgment that, although the Secretary of State has been solicitous and patient with me—I am grateful for his help and concern, and I trust they will continue—the proposals do not stack up. For that reason I shall, with regret, oppose the Government tonight.