High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Select Committee

Business of the House (No. 1) – in the House of Commons at 12:52 pm on 29th April 2014.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons 12:52 pm, 29th April 2014

We come now to the four motions on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill, which it is appropriate to debate together—[Interruption.] I wondered whether guidance was being proffered, but it was merely an expression of interest, in the form of a genuflection, from the Clerk at the Table. The four motions will indeed be debated together. I hope that I have enlightened the Clerk in that regard and satisfied any curiosity on the part of anybody else.

Amendments have been tabled to motions 3, 4 and 5. The selection of amendments is available from the Vote Office and in the Lobbies. I have selected amendments (b) to (j) to motion 3, amendments (a) to (e) to motion 4 and amendments (a) and (b) to motion 5. Members will be invited to move selected amendments formally at the end of the debate as we dispose of each motion in turn. The debate may range across all four motions, so it can be a seamless debate—I am confident that it will be—addressing any amendments that have been selected to any of those motions. To move the first motion, I call the aviation Minister no less, Mr Robert Goodwill.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 12:54 pm, 29th April 2014

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am also the Minister for phase 1 of HS2.

I beg to move motion 3,

1. That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee.

2. That the following Members be appointed as members of the Select Committee: Mr Henry Bellingham, Sir Peter Bottomley, Ian Mearns, Yasmin Qureshi, Mr Robert Syms and Mr Michael Thornton.

3. (1) That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee

(a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office between 29 April 2014 and the closing date (inclusive), during the hours specified in a notice published by the Private Bill Office, and

(b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office during such hours and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Select Committee, being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through Counsel or Agents.

(2) The closing date for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(a) is-

(a) in a case where the Petition is that of a local authority (except a parish council) or a business, 16 May 2014, and

(b) in any other case, 23 May 2014.

4. That, notwithstanding the practice of the House that appearances on Petitions against an opposed Private Bill be required to be entered at the first meeting of the Select Committee on the Bill, in the case of any such Petitions as are mentioned in paragraph 3(1)(a) above on which appearances are not entered at that meeting, the Select Committee shall appoint a later day or days on which it will require appearances on those Petitions to be entered.

5. That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of that person’s Petition, be entitled to be heard in person or through Counsel or Agents upon that person’s Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard through Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition.

6. That in applying the Rules of the House in relation to parliamentary agents, any reference to a petitioner in person shall be treated as including a reference to a duly authorised member or officer of an organisation, group or body.

7. That the Select Committee have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place and to report from day to day the Minutes of Evidence taken before it.

8. That three be the Quorum of the Select Committee.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

With this, we shall discuss the following:

Amendment (b), at end of paragraph 3(1)(b), insert:

‘(c) any other Petition, which, while initially not conforming to the rules for Petitions, has been resubmitted within seven days of the Petitioner receiving notice and explanation of any defect in their Petition,’.

Amendment (c), leave out paragraph 3(2)(a) and (b) and insert ‘10 June 2014.’.

Amendment (d), at end of paragraph 3(2)(b), insert

‘3A. For the purposes of petitioning on the Bill, electronic deposit of petitions shall be permitted.’.

Amendment (e), at end of paragraph 3(2)(b), insert

‘3B. For the purposes of petitioning on the Bill, the £20 fee shall be waived.’.

Amendment (f), at end of paragraph 3(2)(b), insert

‘3B. For the purposes of petitioning on the Bill, electronic money transfer for payment of petitioning fees shall be facilitated.’.

Amendment (g), in paragraph 5, after ‘in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House’, insert

‘and shall be given six weeks’ notice of the date on which the Committee shall hear their Petition’.

Amendment (h), at end of paragraph 5, insert:

‘5A. That each Petitioner whose Petition has been referred to the Select Committee shall be consulted on whether they wish to be heard at Parliament or in the parliamentary constituency in which they reside, and that the Select Committee shall seek to accommodate all requests to be heard in the relevant parliamentary constituency.’.

Amendment (i), at end of paragraph 5, insert

‘5A. The Committee shall visit each parliamentary constituency on the proposed route to look at the route so proposed.’.

Amendment (j), in paragraph 8, leave out ‘three’ and insert ‘four’.

Motion 4—High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Instruction—

That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is committed to deal with the Bill as follows—

1. The Committee shall, before concluding its proceedings, amend the Bill by

(a) leaving out provision relating to the spur from Old Oak Common to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and

(b) making such amendments to the Bill as it thinks fit in consequence of the amendments made by virtue of sub-paragraph (a).

2. The Committee shall not hear any Petition to the extent that it relates to whether or not there should be a spur from Old Oak Common to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

3.–(1) The Committee shall treat the principle of the Bill, as determined by the House on the Bill’s Second Reading, as comprising the matters mentioned in sub-paragraph (2); and those matters shall accordingly not be at issue during proceedings of the Committee.

(2) The matters referred to in sub-paragraph (1) are:

(a) the provision of a high speed railway between Euston in London and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Handsacre in Staffordshire, with a spur from Water Orton in Warwickshire to Curzon Street in Birmingham and intermediate stations at Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange, and

(b) in relation to the railway set out on the plans deposited in November 2013 in connection with the Bill in the office of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons, its broad route alignment.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

Amendment (a), after paragraph 1(b), insert:

‘(c) making such amendments to the Bill as are necessary to provide complete protection to any areas of outstanding natural beauty, classified ancient woodland, sites of special scientific interest and national monuments.’.

Amendment (b), at end of paragraph 1(b), insert

‘1A. The Committee shall consider whether the statutory and non-statutory provisions for compensation available to those who may be injuriously affected by the exercise of the powers conferred by the Bill merit any change.’.

Amendment (e), in paragraph 2, leave out from ‘whether’ to ‘Link’, and insert

‘the spur from Old Oak Common to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link referred to in the Bill; but the Committee is not prevented by this instruction from hearing any Petition relating to the need for the Bill to:

(a) include an alternative to the spur;

(b) facilitate the provision at a later date of the spur; or

(c) facilitate the provision at a later date of an alternative to the spur, by reason only that (a), (b) or (c) shares some of the same characteristics as the spur or would encompass facilitation of the spur referred to in the Bill.’.

Amendment (c), leave out paragraph 3.

Amendment (d), at end of paragraph 3(2)(b), insert:

‘4. The Committee shall comment on and report to the House for its consideration any issue relating to the environmental impact of the railway transport system for which the Bill provides that is raised in a Petition against the Bill, including whether alternative or additional environmental protections and mitigations should in the Committee’s opinion be further examined.’.

[Relevant document: Thirteenth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, on HS2 and the environment, HC 1076.]

Motion 5—High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Carry-Over—

That, notwithstanding the practice of the House, the following provisions shall apply to proceedings on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill:

Suspension at end of this Session

1. Further proceedings on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill shall be suspended from the day on which this Session of Parliament ends (“the current Session”) until the next Session of Parliament (“Session 2014-15”).

2. If a Bill is presented in Session 2014-15 in the same terms as those in which the Bill stood when proceedings on it were suspended in the current Session–

(a) the Bill so presented shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time;

(b) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee of the same Members as the members of the Committee when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in the current Session;

(c) any Instruction of the House to the Committee in the current Session shall be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill in Session 2014-15;

(d) all Petitions presented in the current Session which stand referred to the Committee and which have not been withdrawn, and any Petition presented between the day on which the current Session ends and the day on which proceedings on the Bill are resumed in Session 2014-15 in accordance with this Order, shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2014-15;

(e) any Minutes of Evidence taken and any papers laid before the Committee in the current Session shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2014-15;

(f) only those Petitions mentioned in sub-paragraph (d), and any Petition which may be presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any proposed additional provision or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Committee in Session 2014-15, shall stand referred to the Committee;

(g) any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in Session 2014-15 shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of that person’s Petition, be entitled to be heard in person or through Counsel or Agents upon the Petition provided that it is prepared and signed and in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard through Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition;

(h) the Committee shall have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from day to day Minutes of Evidence taken before it;

(i) three shall be the Quorum of the Committee;

(j) any person registered in the current Session as a parliamentary agent entitled to practise as such in opposing Bills only who, at the time when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in the current Session, was employed in opposing the Bill shall be deemed to have been registered as such a parliamentary agent in Session 2014-15;

(k) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the current Session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in Session 2014-15.

Suspension at end of this Parliament

3. If proceedings on the Bill are resumed in accordance with paragraph 2 but are not completed before the end of Session 2014-15, further proceedings on the Bill shall be suspended from the day on which that Session ends until the first Session of the next Parliament (“Session 2015-16”).

4. If a Bill is presented in Session 2015-16 in the same terms as those in which the Bill stood when proceedings on it were suspended in Session 2014-15–

(a) the Bill so presented shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time;

(b) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the current Session or in Session 2014-15, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in Session 2015-16; and

(c) the Bill shall be dealt with in accordance with–

(i) paragraph 5, if proceedings in Select Committee were not completed when proceedings on the Bill were suspended,

(ii) paragraph 6, if proceedings in Public Bill Committee were begun but not completed when proceedings on the Bill were suspended,

(iii) paragraph 7, if the Bill was waiting to be considered when proceedings on it were suspended,

(iv) paragraph 8, if the Bill was waiting for third reading when proceedings on it were suspended, or

(v) paragraph 9, if the Bill has been read the third time and sent to the House of Lords.

5. If this paragraph applies–

(a) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee of such Members as were members of the Committee when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in Session 2014-15;

(b) any Instruction of the House to the Committee in the current Session or in Session 2014-15 shall be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill in Session 2015-16;

(c) all Petitions presented in the current Session or in Session 2014-15 which stand referred to the Committee and which have not been withdrawn, and any Petition presented between the day on which Session 2014-15 ends and the day on which proceedings on the Bill are resumed in Session 2015-16 in accordance with this Order, shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2015-16;

(d) any Minutes of Evidence taken and any papers laid before the Committee in the current Session or in Session 2014-15 shall stand referred to the Committee in Session 2015-16;

(e) only those Petitions mentioned in sub-paragraph (c), and any Petition which may be presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any proposed additional provision or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Committee in Session 2015-16, shall stand referred to the Committee;

(f) any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee in the first Session of the new Parliament shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard in person or through Counsel or Agents upon the Petition provided that it is prepared and signed and in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard through Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition;

(g) the Committee shall have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place, and to report from day to day Minutes of Evidence taken before it;

(h) three shall be the Quorum of the Committee;

(i) any person registered (or deemed by paragraph 2(j) to be registered) in Session 2014-15 as a parliamentary agent entitled to practise as such in opposing Bills only who, at the time when proceedings on the Bill were suspended in Session 2014-15, was employed in opposing the Bill shall be deemed to have been registered as such a parliamentary agent in Session 2015-16.

6. If this paragraph applies, the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from the Select Committee and to have been re-committed to a Public Bill Committee.

7. If this paragraph applies–

(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from the Select Committee and from the Public Bill Committee; and

(b) the Bill shall be set down as an order of the day for consideration.

8. If this paragraph applies-

(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been reported from the Select Committee and from the Public Bill Committee and to have been considered; and

(b) the Bill shall be set down as an order of the day for third reading.

9. If this paragraph applies, the Bill shall be deemed to have passed through all its stages in this House.

Other

10. The references in paragraphs 1 and 3 above to further proceedings do not include proceedings under Standing Order 224A(8) (deposit of supplementary environmental information).

11. That the above Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

Amendment (a), in paragraph 2(i), leave out ‘three’ and insert ‘four’.

Amendment (b), in paragraph 5(h), leave out ‘three’ and insert ‘four’.

Motion 6—Positions for which additional salaries are payable for the purposes ofsection 4A(2) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009

That the Chair of the select committee appointed to consider the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is specified for the purposes of section 4A(2) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Yesterday the House voted comprehensively in favour of the principle of a high-speed railway between London and the west midlands. Today we turn to the practicalities of how the parliamentary process for the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill will work. We have four motions before us this afternoon. The first is a motion to establish a Select Committee to hear petitions against the Bill; the second is an instruction to that Committee to clarify the principle of the Bill for its purposes; the third is a motion to allow the Bill to be carried over into the next Session, and also into the first Session of the next Parliament in 2015-16; and the fourth allows the payment of a salary to the Chair of the Select Committee, in the same way as for any other Select Committee Chair.

The second motion refers the Bill to a Select Committee of six members, as nominated in the motion. The motion also sets the period in which petitions against the Bill need to be submitted to be heard by the Committee. The period starts today and concludes on 16 May 2014 for petitions from local authorities, other than parish councils, and businesses.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

Having spoken with the Public Bill Office earlier, I understand that the petition period starts tomorrow, not today, because there was some query about the length of the debate on Second Reading of the hybrid Bill.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

If that is the case, I stand corrected. The petition period will then be extended by an additional day. I had not been made aware of that by the House authorities. Of course, the way the petitions are controlled and the way the Committee carries out its work is a matter for the House; it is not one over which Ministers can have any influence.

The period closes on 23 May 2014—or perhaps 24 May—for members of the public, parish councils and other groups or organisations. Such an approach of having different periods for different types of petitioner is standard for hybrid Bills, having been used for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 and the Channel Tunnel Act 1987. That allows 16 days and 23 days respectively for petitions, which is longer than most other hybrid Bills to date.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

My hon. Friend and I go back a long way, and I know him to be a true Yorkshireman who will look after money well. On a practical point, where does the £20 fee for petitions go, what is it used for and can it be presented only in cash, or can payments by cheque or credit card be accepted?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

That will be a matter for the House authorities, but I am sure that it would be acceptable to pay the £20 in cash. I know that one of the amendments refers to electronic payments and tabling, which we will resist. The money will ultimately go to the taxpayer, as the House is a taxpayer-funded authority. We do not believe that a fee of £20 would be prohibitive for any organisation or individual seeking to petition the Committee.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

Can the Minister explain why there is a £20 fee? HS2 Ltd, which is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on consultants, does not have to make any contribution to the cost of running the House, so why should individuals? Certainly, for some of the individuals in my constituency who will see their homes demolished, £20 is a rather large part of their weekly income.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

HS2 itself has spent considerable taxpayer funds on trying to mitigate many of the environmental implications of the line, which might well head off petitioners. Indeed, I was speaking with representatives of the Ramblers Association only the other week, when we went on a 10-mile ramble in my constituency. They told me that they were hopeful that, because of the engagement with HS2, they might not have to petition, as their concerns had been answered. HS2 has been engaging with a number of potential petitioners, including local authorities, to try to allay some of their concerns and fears without the need to petition. That money has been well spent in addressing those issues.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

Does the hon. Gentleman not think that it would antagonise the public more if, when their house was threatened with demolition, they were charged £20? Does he not see that that could have an adverse effect?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We do not believe that the £20 fee is prohibitive. Of course, if some of the amendments were agreed to today, we could have a situation in which e-petitioning was allowed, and at the same time no fee was payable, and we could find the work of that Committee being frustrated by large amounts of electronic petitioning, perhaps done in a vexatious way designed to hinder the progress of the Bill, rather than to improve it, as the petitioning process is designed to do.

Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight

Could such complaints from a number of sources be combined and presented with one £20 note, or would a £20 note have to be submitted for every person involved?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I can allay my hon. Friend’s concerns. Yes, a group of people can petition together and only one fee is payable. The people who petition can appear at the Committee, and they can be represented by an agent or by a number of people from that group. I do not feel that the fee is prohibitive. It is set by the House and has not increased since 1988. It is a matter for the House to administer these costs, not a matter for the Government. Members might like to raise the question with Mr Speaker, as it is a House matter.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

On a matter for which the Minister may be responsible, how long does he expect the Committee to sit? When does he expect its life to end?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We have already made it clear that we do not expect the Committee to conclude its work, which must be done thoroughly and in a way that we believe responds adequately to concerns raised in petitions. The Secretary of State indicated that he expects it to continue after the next general election, which is why there is a double carry-over motion before the House. That means that the Committee can continue its work not only into the next Session of this Parliament, but beyond the general election. It is a matter for the Committee how it organises its work and how it considers the petitions. That is not a matter for me as the Minister.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I think the Minister just said that he does not expect the Committee to conclude. In other words, it will go on for ever and ever. That is what the motion allows for, yet later today we will be asked to contribute to the pay of the person who is to chair the Committee. We are going to be paying this person in perpetuity, yet it seems that the Minister has nothing to account for.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Any motions passed in the House today can be amended in future by the House. If, for example, the Committee was not sitting and it was felt that the Chairman therefore did not deserve his fee, that could be revisited by the House. In view of the precedents of previous hybrid Bills, we believe that the period of time needed will take us past the next general election—I hope not far past the next general election, but given the number of petitions that we expect and the work that the Committee will have to carry out, it has the possibility of sitting during the recess to try to improve the speed at which it can carry out that work. This is a reasonable way of going forward and of giving that Committee the resources and the time it needs to do its job thoroughly.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Before the hon. Gentleman intervenes, let me say that I feel sure beyond doubt that the Minister was trying to be helpful to the House, but in a similar vein perhaps I ought to emphasise to colleagues that in respect of the matter of fees or charges, appertaining as they do to a private Bill, such matters would ordinarily be raised by right hon. and hon. Members with the Chairman of Ways and Means, who oversees such matters. A visit even to the Private Bill Office might be beneficial to Members. What I am saying politely to colleagues is that there is no great merit in raising the matter with me, notwithstanding the good intentions of the Minister’s intervention.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I have almost forgotten what I was going to ask after that rather lengthy—but welcome—contribution to the debate. The Minister has already said that the Committee that we are appointing—we are naming the members of the Committee in the motion before the House—will continue after the general election. It is quite clear that this is providing a safe berth for a Conservative Member of the House. When we win the general election next May, will the Committee membership and the chairmanship automatically change party?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The membership of the Committee is a matter for the House. When after the next election we have a majority Conservative Government, if necessary we could revisit that. It is a matter for the House. We are voting on it today and there is nothing written in stone today that cannot be changed in future by a further motion put before the House and voted on.

The motion sets out that anyone who submits a valid petition is entitled to be heard by the Select Committee, either in person, or thorough a parliamentary agent or counsel. The motion gives some latitude to organisations petitioning to authorise different officers as their representative before the Select Committee, should they need to do so. The motion provides for the Committee to meet during recess should it wish to do so, and also to hold its hearings away from Parliament if it so wishes. I know that one of the amendments tabled refers to its meeting in other parts of the country. It would be for the Committee to decide if it would be useful to do so.

However, our hope is that people will not feel the need to petition. HS2 Ltd has produced a significant number of information papers which are published on its website. These attempt to address the key concerns that people have about the project, such as the impacts of construction and noise. I encourage hon. Members and their constituents to read those papers, as this might stop unnecessary petitions.

It is established practice that the Select Committee cannot hear petitions against the principle of the Bill. That principle was agreed by the whole House on Second Reading yesterday, and it would not be appropriate for a Select Committee to consider changes that might undermine the decision made by the whole House. This instruction, therefore, sets out the principle of the Bill for the Select Committee: the provision of a high-speed railway between Euston and a junction at the west coast main line at Handsacre in Staffordshire, with a spur from Water Orton in Warwickshire to Curzon Street in Birmingham. The principle also includes the intermediate stations at Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange located near the airport, and the broad route alignment set out in the plans and sections deposited with the Bill. This principle should give the Committee sufficient scope to address the issues of petitioners without sacrificing the desired capability of the railway to give the benefits expected.

The instruction also addresses the Secretary of State’s decision to remove the HS1 link. The removal of the link was agreed as part of Second Reading yesterday. The instruction, therefore, requires an amendment to be made to remove the link and then treats the Bill as though the link were not included in the principle. Therefore, there is no need for people opposed to the link to petition against the link, as it will be removed. It is also not possible for the Committee to hear petitions in favour of a link, in the same way as it is not possible for the Committee to hear petitions in favour of an extension to Newquay, for example, or anywhere else. That is beyond the principle of the Bill.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Transport)

I agree that it should not be for the Committee to devise an alternative link, but can the Minister clarify whether the Committee could hear petitions for passive provision, which would future-proof the project if a link were deemed desirable at a future date?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady makes a very good point. Indeed, there is already passive provision in the first phase to allow the Heathrow spur to be constructed, should it be decided to go forward in that way. From an engineering perspective, it would be very expensive and disruptive to try to join that link. Similarly, in relation to the passive provision for the HS1 link, it is ultimately for the Committee to decide whether or not a petition should be heard. The Committee may choose to hear petitions relating to a future link not being precluded, but the work of the Committee is about the railway before it and it cannot get bogged down considering the merits of links that may or may not happen.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

Much as I welcome the dropping of the preposterous HS2-HS1 link, as do all the people whose lives would have been ruined by it, in view of the fact that until about three weeks ago HS2 was saying that there was no possibility of dropping the link, no one in the area believes a word that HS2 says. I warn the Minister of that. The motion says that the Committee shall not hear a petition if it relates to the link. That is fine, because the link has been dropped. Supposing that, after the Committee stage had concluded, the House as a whole decided to reinstate the link; would people then be allowed to petition? If not, they would think they were being swindled by officialdom, as would indeed be the case.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I hope that, following the decision to scrap the link, I have a few more friends in Camden than before. If the Committee were to decide to make changes to the Bill that affected potential petitioners who were not affected before, there would be another opportunity for them to petition, and a similar period would be allowed for that to happen.

Let me underline that for a whole variety of reasons that I will not go into but the right hon. Gentleman will understand, we do not believe that the HS1-HS2 link represents value for money or that it is practical. There are all sorts of logistical problems. From a security perspective, the journey would have to be designated as international because we could not have a situation where some people on the train had gone through passport control and some had not. There might be rather frugally minded Yorkshiremen like me who decided that, rather than buy a through-train ticket to Paris, they would buy two tickets and make the short stroll between Euston and St Pancras, or get the underground, or even use some other means such as a travelator, which could transport people quickly and easily between those two locations.

Photo of Mark Reckless Mark Reckless Conservative, Rochester and Strood

I am pleased to hear the Minister refer to a travelator for efficient and easy travel. He said that the HS1-HS2 link would be an international route and everyone would have to go through passport control. Will he consider the possibility of domestic services regarding a future link? Research from Greengauge 21, paid for by Kent and Essex county councils, among others, suggests that demand for those services would be very substantial and potentially much higher than for international travel.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. However, having analysed this carefully and brought in Sir David Higgins, who did the work for us and has a wealth of experience in major projects of this sort, we concur with him that the link does not represent value for money and we have therefore scrapped it; the House voted last night to do so. Although there may be an opportunity for the hybrid Bill Committee to consider passive provision so as not to obviate any potential future link, it is certainly not in our plans at the moment—nor, having heard the comments of Opposition Front Benchers, would Labour wish to press for it, should there be, God forbid, a change of Government at the next election.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

About 20 years ago, I chaired the Committee on the hybrid Croydon Tramlink Bill. At that time, we accepted that there could be changes to the Government’s proposals and recommendations could be made. Is the Minister saying that no changes are going to be allowed if people want to introduce a spur or different forms of link?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am saying that if the hybrid Bill Committee proposed changes that the Government agreed to, there would be a further opportunity for people who are directly affected by those changes to petition. The Bill cannot be changed in a way that affects people without their getting a second bite of the cherry, because they may not have considered petitioning in the first place.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

The hon. Gentleman is getting himself back on to my Christmas card list, from which he was rejected last night. Are the Government completely closed to the idea of a different, better HS1-HS2 link than the one we rightly rejected last night?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Any link between HS1 and HS2 is not part of the Bill that was before us last night or the provisions we are considering today, and we as a Government are certainly not planning to look at it in the near future. This project will be in operation for many centuries, we hope, and who knows what might happen in future? At the moment, the Government’s position is absolutely clear: we have abandoned the link—we voted on that in the House last night—and we do not wish to revisit it. We will be looking into making it easier to get across from Euston to St Pancras. Although it is not a long walk and there is an underground train service, there may be better ways of dealing with the situation, and HS2 is looking into that.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

I will not pre-empt what I have to say when I move my amendment, but will the Minister clarify what he meant when he talked about passive provision and referred to Heathrow? Is he saying that passive provision is already in existence, or would it have to be made?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The passive provision for the Heathrow spur is included in the first phase. That is because if the spur goes ahead—it is already part of the second phase that is being consulted on—breaking into the line to put in a link would be very expensive and disruptive. The spur—the passive provision for the Heathrow link—is part of the first phase. We are consulting on the second phase, part of which is the Heathrow spur.

I must point out that the first phase of HS2 includes a very good connection to Heathrow airport via Old Oak Common, with up to eight trains an hour and 11 or 12-minute journey times. That is a very good way of getting to Heathrow and to other stations served by Crossrail. Old Oak Common is currently a little-known backwater, but very soon, I promise, it will become as famous as Waterloo, St Pancras or Victoria stations and be an integral part of this country’s and this capital’s transport system.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

May I make this clear? The passive provision for Heathrow is already in place, and passive provision to provide for a potential HS1-HS2 link could be put into the legislation as it is now. It would have to be put in because it is not there by virtue of the Heathrow passive provision, and it could not be added by dint of the Committee deciding to do so.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Yes, I think the hon. Lady has got it right. There is an opportunity, should anyone wish to take it, to petition the Committee to put in some passive provision for a future connection. We have commissioned HS2 Ltd and Network Rail to look at options for better connecting the rail network to HS1, but any conclusions that require powers would not be taken forward in this Bill.

On the carry-over motion, hybrid Bills can be carried over Prorogations because Standing Order 80A does not apply. This is a completely standard part of the process for hybrid Bills, as they generally take longer than public Bills.

Photo of Mark Reckless Mark Reckless Conservative, Rochester and Strood

Is one study taking place or two? There is the question whether we have a travelator-type arrangement to connect Euston and St Pancras for passengers going from HS1 to HS2, but is there a separate question of how we connect HS1 to the broader railway network, which may be a case of a train-in-a-tunnel HS1-HS2 link for the future?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Those are two separate matters that are mutually exclusive. We are looking at whether better provision can be made for the short journey between Euston and St Pancras for those who wish to continue their journey internationally, or indeed to use King’s Cross or St Pancras for domestic journeys. A separate process is going on whereby HS2 Ltd and Network Rail are looking at how we can better improve the connectivity of HS1. That is being done in the light of the decision to abandon the HS1-HS2 connection, which was very popular in places such as Camden.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill was carried over two Prorogations. The Crossrail Bill was carried over two Prorogations and a Dissolution for a general election. The House is due to prorogue shortly for the Queen’s Speech—

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I haven’t a clue. Even when I was in the Whips Office, we did not get to hear about that.

Because of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, we know with a degree of certainty when Parliament will be dissolved for the next general election. Although we had hoped that the hybrid Bill would secure Royal Assent before the next general election, I am clear that in all likelihood it will not do so.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The Select Committee that was appointed to consider the Crossrail Bill had 10 members, so why has the Committee under discussion got only six and, therefore, a different quorum of three?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

To be absolutely honest with the hon. Gentleman, many people who volunteered to consider the Crossrail Bill did not realise what a commitment it would be. We have found six Members—some of whom have been volunteered—who are prepared to put in the time and commitment to do this, and I think we will be well served by them. We are very grateful to them for putting their names forward. It would be a big ask to find a large Committee to do this work, given the large amount of time those Members will have to take out of the other parliamentary duties they carry out on their constituents’ behalf. We are very grateful that they are volunteers rather than pressed men.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee

As I understand it, this is a general debate about all the issues, as encapsulated in the motions and the various amendments. Next week will be my 30th year in Parliament and, having spent a lot of my previous life dealing with hybrid and other Bills, I entirely concur with my hon. Friend on the burdens involved in the privilege of being given the opportunity to take such an active part in the Select Committee stage. Does he accept that there is recognition in one of the Bill’s schedules for property bonds, and does he agree that the Select Committee should take that issue into account when it decides what kind of compensation should be paid?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the compensation package at this stage, given that consultation is still taking place, but we recently announced a package that I believe to be generous, particularly in rural areas. It also has to be fair to the taxpayer, who will ultimately pick up the bill, and the compensation is in marked contrast to that which other people around the country might receive if a bypass, new railway spur or goods marshalling yard were to be built in their area.

The carry-over motion reflects the certainty provided by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. It allows the Bill to carry over into the fourth Session of this Parliament and the first Session of the next. That will avoid the need unnecessarily to use up the House’s time with another carry-over motion later in the year when it is clear to everyone when the general election will take place and that this Bill will not have secured Royal Assent by that point.

The motion provides for suspension of the Bill from the end of the Session, but that will not prevent the depositing of petitions after Prorogation should it precede the end of the petitioning period. The motion also provides for the continuity of the membership of the Select Committee and maintains any instructions given to the Committee by this House, the standing of roll B agents and all the elements of whatever progress the Bill has made from each Session into the next. In providing for carry-over into the next Parliament, the motion caters for the fact that the Bill could have reached a range of different stages by that point. In each case, the motion provides that the progress made up to the end of the fourth Session be carried over into the next Parliament.

As the House is aware, the Chairs of departmental Select Committees are paid for the additional responsibilities the role brings, as allowed under section 4A(2) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009. The role of the Chair of a hybrid Bill Select Committee is no less demanding —indeed, in some cases it may be more demanding—and the Chair of the Crossrail Select Committee was paid a salary equivalent to that of a departmental Select Committee Chair. The motion allows the Chair of the HS2 Select Committee to be paid an equivalent salary, and I am sure the House will agree that that is appropriate, given the significant responsibility the role carries.

In conclusion, I commend the motions to the House. HS2 is a vital national project and it is important that we make swift progress. However, it is equally important to ensure that those affected by the railway have appropriate opportunity to have their say. I believe that the motions strike the right balance. They establish a Select Committee with the flexibility to hear and deal with the concerns of those directly and specially affected, but they do not import unreasonable delay. Everyone wants certainty—petitioner, promoter and the general public—and I believe that the motions provide that certainty and that they will allow people to have their say, have their issues addressed and get on with their lives. I think that everyone in the House wants to see that, and I hope they will support the motions.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Transport) 1:24 pm, 29th April 2014

Last night the House gave its clear endorsement to the principle of building a new, high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham. We urgently need that additional track capacity to meet the growth in passenger numbers, to enable new commuter services and to provide the basis for a high-speed network to connect the great cities of the midlands and the north. The case for building a new north-south line was robust when the previous Labour Government launched their Command Paper in 2010, and it remains robust now, especially in the light of the continued growth in demand for rail travel.

Although the principle of the Bill was endorsed by the House last night, it is right that more time has been allocated to debate the various motions before us today. Hybrid Bill procedures put major rail projects through a very intensive process of scrutiny—much more so than in many other European countries—and I know that veterans of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and

Crossrail Bills would attest to that fact. Those procedures mean that there will be opportunities to put in place additional mitigation measures through the petitioning process. It is vital that, where there are remaining environmental challenges or concerns over the impact of construction work, those petitioners receive a fair hearing.

This House has now voted in favour of the principle of building HS2 from London to Birmingham, but, given the Government’s rather leisurely pace in introducing this Bill, there is now no prospect of it receiving Royal Assent before the election. It therefore makes sense to vote on the carry-over motion now, so that the process can continue into the next Parliament. That will also ensure certainty for people along the route who are getting ready to submit their petitions.

We are also being asked to vote on the Select Committee motion. I want to put on record the gratitude of, undoubtedly, the whole House to the hon. Members for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham) and for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), my hon. Friends the Members for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) and for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), and the hon. Members for Poole (Mr Syms) and for Eastleigh (Mike Thornton). This represents a major personal commitment, but the process should also deliver a railway that will be used by millions of passengers a year and more equitable treatment for those affected by construction.

It is a point of principle that hybrid Bill Committees are able to manage their own affairs, beyond the normal limits of deviation. However, given the sheer volume of this Bill—including the environmental statement, it is reckoned to be the most substantial piece of legislation ever produced—it is also common sense to minimise the burdens on the Committee. A number of amendments have been tabled that would restrict its ability to hear petitions in the way it thinks most effective. As I said yesterday, I think the Committee should hear petitions in the constituencies affected by construction, including Euston. Indeed, the House is familiar with the issues in that area, thanks to the tireless campaigning of my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson.

There are similar issues to be considered with regard to the instruction motion, which sets out the limits of deviation for any changes made by the Committee, as is usual with a hybrid Bill. The motion also includes instructions for removing the planned link to HS1 from the Bill. It may be worth briefly describing how flawed that proposal was. It would have involved running trains on a single track over the north London line, which is an important passenger and freight route. Earlier this year, I saw for myself the disruption that could have been caused in Camden Town. The link was always an inadequate compromise that pleased no one, and Labour listened to Birmingham, the northern cities and organisations such as Transport for London that had called for a rethink.

That is why we said last August that the link should be reviewed, and it is absolutely right that David Higgins has looked at the proposals and found them wanting. HS2 Ltd and Network Rail have now been asked to look at other options, and I hope the Minister will tell the House when he expects that report to be published.

We have to recognise that amendment (e), tabled by my hon. Friend Ms Stuart, is not connected to that process. If passed, it would allow for a new link to be put in, even if it did not adequately meet the country’s strategic needs. To quote the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire chambers of commerce submission to the environmental statement consultation:

“It is important that this stage of the planning”— process—

“does not build a ‘weak link’ into the overall intentions for HS2.”

Given the strategic importance of such proposals, they should have the support of the Government of the day and must be properly evaluated. It is difficult to see how the petitioning stage could be an appropriate process without such input. Although I understand why amendment (e) has been tabled, I hope that the Government will engage positively with Centro and other transport planners in the west midlands and, indeed, further north. I thank the Minister for his clarification that the instruction motion will not prevent the Committee from discussing options for future-proofing the project to ensure that putting in a link remains feasible.

Amendment (d) has been signed by several members of the Environmental Audit Committee. They raised several points in their recent report, some of which were also made in a Westminster Hall debate secured by Michael Fabricant last year on the impact of HS2 on ancient woodlands. The Committee already has the power to make changes to mitigate the environmental impacts of the proposed route, but the amendment would require it to prepare a report for the whole House on any petition that raises any environmental issue. We have concerns about the cost and time implications that that requirement might impose, especially as some petitions could be resolved by relatively minor and straightforward changes to the scheme and, in such cases, it would not be necessary to involve the whole House. I note that when previous instructions were agreed, Standing Order 224A was not in place. That Standing Order provides for an independent assessment of responses to the environmental statement consultation, which has now been published as the Golders report, and it will not be necessary to have two separate reporting processes.

It is important to retain the Committee’s ability to exercise discretion in such circumstances and to ensure there is no infringement on its right to issue a special report to the House, as happened during the passage of the Crossrail Bill, but that should remain the Committee’s choice. We want the Government to take a more effective approach to environmental mitigation than they have done so far, but we have concerns about the additional burdens that the directions in the amendment would impose on the Committee.

The motions represent the Government’s admission of the realities that the Opposition have frequently pointed out and that Ministers had long denied: first, that the proposed link to HS1 was utterly inadequate; and, secondly, that there was no prospect of the Bill receiving Royal Assent before the election, which they had previously insisted would be achieved. It will therefore fall to the next Parliament—and the next Labour Government—to deliver this nationally important project. That is why the motions as they stand represent the best balance between allowing the Committee a free hand and ensuring an operationally effective route, alongside value for taxpayers’ money.

The case for HS2 is clear. The railways cannot go on as there are: without more capacity they cannot grow, and if they cannot grow they will decline. Local services have already been cut back in the north and in the west midlands to make way for faster, more profitable trains to London. Without a substantial increase in capacity, which can effectively be achieved only through a new line, our commuter economies will suffer. We want both inter-city and branch lines to thrive, and we have reached the point at which we need serious investment in new track if that is to be achieved. The project is vital to the country as a whole. That is why Labour supports the Bill, and why we want the motions to be passed.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham 1:34 pm, 29th April 2014

I shall deal with my amendments to the motions. As I am following Lilian Greenwood, who speaks for the Opposition, I can tell her that although the principles of HS2 were agreed by the House last night, 50 Members voted for the reasoned amendment to deny the Bill a Second Reading and many others abstained, so this Government and their successors have not been given carte blanche to ride roughshod over the views of the people who do not think that the project is the best solution to our transport problems.

Today we are dealing with the process, and it is important to probe the process and make sure that it is fit for purpose. Through the medium of the amendments, I hope to gain some insight into Front Benchers’ and the House’s thinking about how we should handle such matters. The amendments are designed to probe and, for the comfort of the House, I can say that I do not intend to press any of them to a Division for the simple reason that I hope Ministers and the House might take them away and consider them. I think that will make things more comfortable, certainly for the Whips Office, which always seems very concerned to know what I am up to.

In amendment (a), which was not selected, to the committal motion, I sought only to restrict the number of members of the Select Committee. It is important to point out that if the Government wanted to add members, that would disturb the dynamics of what will be a very complex Committee that has to sit in judgment on the project. We need to maintain the same membership for as long as possible, notwithstanding what may happen with the electorate if the Committee continues its work after the next general election. We need the Committee to have a stable membership, and I do not think that any chopping and changing would benefit the House, the scrutiny of the Bill or confidence in the House and our processes.

I want to ask what training will be given to the six brave Members of Parliament, whom I certainly congratulate on their appointment to the Committee? Mike Thornton is very new—he came in only in February last year—and I do not know what experience he has of such projects, but I am sure he would benefit from any training that is provided. The hon. Members for Bolton South East

(Yasmin Qureshi) and for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) entered the House in 2010. In my hon. Friend Mr Bellingham, we have a man of great experience, who has served as a shadow Trade and Industry Minister, which will be particularly useful. Of course, the longevity in the House of my hon. Friend Sir Peter Bottomley—since 1975—is not to be underestimated. He has the great advantage of having served as an Under-Secretary of State for Transport between 1986 and 1989, and that experience is relevant. My hon. Friend Mr Syms was a distinguished member of the Transport Committee, and was a shadow Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions spokesperson. With his former managing directorship of a plant hire firm, he brings with him a great deal of relevant experience.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

I am interested in what my right hon. Friend is saying, but does she not think that one merit of such Committees is having a broad spectrum of people—not necessarily all experts—who can give a common-sense view and, in that way, listen to petitions almost like members of the public?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

The five men and one woman—I apologise to the hon. Member for Bolton South East—have been chosen well and will bring an objective view to the project. However, they will have to get to grips with some pretty complex technical information on local geology, hydrology, construction details, logistics and operations. Even the Clerks of the House, who are very helpful and very good on procedure, will have to get to grips with that information. I want to know what training will be provided, when it will start and who can attend it.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. As she was talking, I was wondering whether, when previous important Committees were formed to deal with the hybrid Bill process and Members were chosen, she expressed such concerns as a member of the Whips Office?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

As a former Whip, my right hon. Friend will know that he and I may not discuss in public matters that were discussed in the Whips Office. I am rather surprised at him for laying such a puerile trap at this stage, when I am trying to be helpful and to elicit information.

I am concerned about who will provide advice to the Committee. As all of us who have sat on Select Committees and Public Bill Committees and who have been Ministers know, the technical and professional advice that is given to the Committee will be important. I want an assurance that people will be available to provide technical advice to the Committee who are not on the payroll of the Government in one way or another. We have a finite number of engineering companies, most of which seem to be employed by the Department for Transport or other Departments. It is a valid point that we need to know that the Committee will be able to draw on independent technical advice. I want to know how many advisers to the Committee there will be, what their qualifications will be, how they will be chosen, how much they will be paid and who will vet them.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Perhaps it is inappropriate for me to offer my services free, but if there are any questions on the environment or on wildlife, I will be happy to assist the Committee on a no-fee basis.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I am grateful for my colleague’s offer. I am sure that the Minister will have taken it on board. What worries me is that so many members of environmental groups have been insulted so often in the course of this project that he might have to provide his services, because people might be unwilling to come forward if they are going to be treated so roughly.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I apologise for missing the first part of the right hon. Lady’s speech. I agree with her strongly about the advice of technical experts. However, even technical experts have views. Is it not important to ensure that we hear a range of views about the project and that we get honest technical advice on all the detailed points?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, which extends the point that I am making without labouring it. The members of the Select Committee will bring common sense and the view of the Member of Parliament to the Committee, but they will still have to rely on the people who have the expertise to take them through the detail.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way today. The advice that the Committee takes and the expertise that it chooses to draw on will be a matter for the Committee itself. Of course, the expertise of HS2 will be available to the Committee, should it wish to avail itself of that. Many of the petitioners may well be experts, in particular the environmental non-governmental organisations that wish to petition. I do not think that there will be a shortage of offers of advice to members of the Committee. However, that is a matter for them as they conduct their work and not for Ministers.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I am grateful for that intervention. I am using this debate as a vehicle to raise these questions. They might not all be directed at the Front Bench, but I am raising them in this forum because I see no other opportunity for Members to raise them. I take on board what the Minister has said.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

Does the right hon. Lady recognise that some of the organisations that are said to have advised the Department or HS2 are not necessarily on quite the same lines as the Department or HS2? For instance, we were told that the Institution of Civil Engineers had provided advice on the HS1-HS2 link. It had indeed, but it turns out that it advised against the link. That bit was not mentioned.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

One has to be very careful in this game and read the fine print. Even when one reads the fine print, one can be surprised about what one discovers.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

Before the right hon. Lady moves on from this point, will she comment on the intervention by the Minister on the powers of the Select Committee? He said that it will be possible for the Select Committee to take the action it needs to take. Is it not important for there to be an instruction from Parliament on what its remit should be?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

That is another valid point. The hon. Lady and I would agree that we want to ensure that the Committee is not irrationally constrained or affected in any way if it looks as though it is moving towards decisions that HS2 Ltd and the Department do not like. We need to ensure that the Committee is independent and that it is not constrained. While I am responding to her intervention, may I say that I was very grateful for the detailed and thoughtful work that was carried out by the Environmental Audit Committee? It was very helpful and was much appreciated by my constituents and a large number of people beyond my constituency.

It strikes me with horror to hear that the advice of HS2 will be available to the Committee. I have this thought about the fox getting into the chicken house. However, I know that it is essential that HS2 advises the Committee. It will need to reveal more about its plans. That leads me to my next point.

Will the reports of the Major Projects Authority be available to the Committee? Ministers have seen the MPA reports into risk, which have categorised the project as amber-red. Those documents have been withheld from general release, despite the decision of the Information Commissioner that it was in the public interest for them to be released. My understanding is that the Information Commissioner will look for a review of the Government’s decision to block the publication of the reports.

It would be unacceptable to me if the Committee that scrutinised the project did not have access to the reports, which must contain facts that the Government do not want to be in the public domain, when deciding on the project. I ask the Minister once again: if he could not make the reports available to this House before the vote yesterday and if he cannot make them available to the wider public, can he make them available to the Committee on a confidential basis so that we know that the representatives of this House who are scrutinising the Bill will not be hoodwinked and will not have information withheld from them?

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

I am following what my right hon. Friend is saying and I share her disappointment at the blocking of the reports. However, am I not correct in saying that if they were going to be delivered to us, it would have happened before yesterday’s Second Reading debate? This matter will not impinge on the Committee’s work. We must not impugn the members of the Committee who, as she said, are excellent people, by saying that they will be hoodwinked in any way.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I am sorry if I gave that impression. I do not entirely agree with my right hon. Friend, but perhaps he did not understand fully what I said. I know that Members of this House and people beyond it cannot see the reports by virtue of the veto that has been brought to bear by the Secretary of State for Transport. I am not challenging that and it is not for me to do so any more. I have challenged it on many occasions.

I think that we should have seen the reports before yesterday’s debate. However, I want to ensure that the Committee has access to them because I believe that the only reason for their being stopped is that they contain information that would reflect adversely on the project. I think that the Committee that scrutinises the project on behalf of the House should have access to the reports. I am asking whether it can have privileged and private access to the reports so that it is fully apprised of what the MPA has said about the project.

Will the costings on the tunnelling, which HS2 has so far refused to disclose, be published for the Committee? I cannot see how the Committee can look at tunnelling processes and options without knowing the costs that HS2 Ltd has calculated. It has not made those available to any of the engineering or environmental teams that have looked at better and preferred options for protecting the area of outstanding natural beauty in my constituency. I appreciate that that will be difficult, because there may be a conflict with government procurement rules. However, I need to know whether the Minister is thinking about that problem and whether there is any way around it. I do not believe that the Committee will be able to make a judgment on the tunnelling options unless they can see the full facts and information on the tunnelling proposals that have been put forward by HS2 Ltd.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

If somebody presents a petition for extra tunnelling, presumably HS2 will have to present how much it would cost if it opposes it. Therefore, those facts will presumably be available to the Committee.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I have learned that making a presumption about this project is always dangerous. I, too, would have presumed that, but I also would have presumed that when engineering experts asked for the calculations and costs associated with the tunnelling that was being promoted by HS2 Ltd, they would have been made freely available. The reply has always been that they are commercial in confidence, and I am trying to get around that, because it is important to ensure that the Committee has access to the costs. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would support me on that, but I would not make the mistake of presuming.

On amendment (i), I want to know how often the Committee will sit. I appreciate that it could sit through the recess, and I am grateful that the motion states that it may adjourn from place to place. I believe that it will need to visit the areas affected and publish the details of its sittings, and it should confirm when and how there will be public access to its meetings.

I would also like to know whether Committee members will fly the whole route of phase 1 of HS2. When I was looking at what National Grid was doing across Wales when it was building the gas pipeline, I found it of great advantage to go up in a helicopter and look at the work along the whole route. While I am on the subject, I must say that National Grid did a fantastic piece of work in negotiating with more than 80 landowners with very little trouble. It also did fantastic environmental reinstatement work across some sensitive land, including the Brecon Beacons national park. I was impressed with its operations, and I wish I could say that I had been as impressed with HS2’s negotiations with property owners and landowners so far.

On amendment (c), the petitioning process will be open from tomorrow at 10 o’clock. The Minister will know that we have to get our facts right, and the parliamentary website, in a section entitled “How and where do I present my petition?”, states:

“Petitions will be accepted from 10am to 5pm on 30 April—not on 29 April”, as the Minister said earlier,

“as the House will not consider the petitioning motion setting the petitioning dates until the afternoon of 29 April.”

There is some useful information on the Parliament website under the title “FAQs on the High Speed 2 Hybrid Bill”, and I recommend that anybody who is watching these proceedings and wishes to petition has a look at that excellent document, which the Clerks of the House have produced.

Is three weeks really long enough for the petitioning process? May the House have confirmation that if I receive any petitions in my office in Amersham, I can seal them in an envelope with the £20 cheque or payment and then bring them here for the convenience of my constituents? Will handing them over to staff of the House in that way be sufficient, and will I be able to get a small receipt so that I can confirm to my constituents that that has happened?

There has been some confusion about the deadlines for petitioning. I should like the Minister to make it absolutely clear that town councils have the same deadline as parish councils, 23 May, whereas there is an earlier date for county and district councils.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I will give way to the Minister, and I would also like to know why county and district councils have been given a week less. The reason is not obvious to me, but maybe I am just missing something.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

May I confirm to my right hon. Friend that town councils are in fact parish councils? The councils that do not have the longer deadline are borough and district councils.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I am most grateful. Does the Minister also want to tell us why there is a week’s difference in the deadlines? Why could we not just have one deadline?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We are just following previous practice. My right hon. Friend will be aware that many local authorities have been preparing their petitions for many weeks and months, so the focus on the timeline for delivering them is rather a spurious argument. The project has been known about for many months and years, and she will know that many petitions have already been prepared.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

That is all well and good, but the process is complex and I was just seeking to simplify it by having one closing date rather than a tortuous process of two dates. Frankly, I would have thought that we should set new precedents on such a large issue rather than rely on old ones.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

We ought to stress that the dates set are deadlines, not dates on which all petitions have to be deposited. As somebody who has never been very good at doing stuff before deadlines—I think I still have a couple of university essays outstanding—I believe that we should press the case that we do not want all petitions to be submitted at the last minute.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

That is a valid point, and I appreciate what my right hon. Friend says about deadlines, because sometimes I am not too good at them myself.

Amendments (e) and (f) are about the transfer of money for petitions. I do not believe that electronic payment for petitions is currently possible, but that would be good. At the moment, if Members of Parliament are asked to deliver a petition to the House of Commons on behalf of their constituents, they handle money or cheques, which is not a particularly good system.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

I think I have a common-sense answer to that, which probably means that it cannot happen. It is for the House to open a PayPal account, which would avoid a lot of the rigmarole involved in taking credit or debit card payments by other means. It is quite simple.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I will go with the flow on that, because I think PayPal is very good, particularly for buying stuff on eBay and so on.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Oh, I don’t know about that. Go to your high street.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

PayPal is good, but I must admit to my right hon. Friend, who has a small interest in the retail sector, that the high street is also good.

I disagree with the Minister and others, because I believe that the £20 fee should be consigned to the dark ages. Opposition Members have made good points about it. It might not seem a lot of money to some people, but let us put it in perspective. It is just under 20% of the basic weekly old-age pension, which is a lot of money. People who will be affected by HS2 will want access to the petitioning process, but £20 will be a lot of money for them to find for the privilege of defending their own house and their own territory.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Again, I have a possible solution. Obviously, the reason for the fee is to prevent vexatious petitions, and I think we all agree that that is preferable for the sake of the Committee getting its job done efficiently and quickly. Perhaps people should put down a £20 deposit, and then if the petition is accepted the deposit should be returned. If it is seen to be vexatious, the House authorities should keep the deposit.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

My right hon. Friend is leading me down a path that I do not really want to go down. I appreciate what he says and I like the way he is thinking, but I do not want to put the House authorities in the position of deciding whether a petition is vexatious. Some of my constituents know the disregard that is being shown to their views about HS2. They are not vexatious people in any way, shape or form—they are people speaking up for their locality, their homes and their environment—but they are sometimes referred to in derogatory terms by both officials and Ministers.

Amendment (b) is about the ability to amend petitions if someone has made an error in them. We have a complex format for our petitioning process, even in its simplified form compared with when I came into the House some 22 or 23 years ago. It is still complex and daunting, and I need some undertaking that if a mistake is made in the formatting of a petition, that will not be held against the potential petitioners and there will be a mechanism whereby they can be informed of the irregularity and have the opportunity to correct it. In other words, we need the assistance of the House to ensure that people who wish to get their petition in order can do so easily.

If the Committee is to last for two years, some of the petitions may not be heard for a long time. A petition is, after all, a gateway document, and I want to ensure that there is a facility for people to make changes to it. Two years is a long time for a document to be set in stone. I would therefore like reassurance that perhaps over a two or three-year period, there would be the possibility and leeway for amendments to be made to those petitions, and a mechanism whereby petitioners could contact Parliament to make those changes.

Amendments (g) and (h) are about listening to people and how easy we make that process. I know this is a matter for the Committee, but I hope it will hear what I have to say. Hearing people in their own constituency and location could make it a great deal easier for those who want to come forward. The type of questioning we see on our televisions from some of our more tenacious members of Select Committees can look pretty intimidating. I am second to none in my admiration for the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, but I want to ensure that my constituents who come forward to defend their property will not be submitted to that type of aggressive interrogation. They are trying to protect their properties and elicit information, and to give information to the Committee; they are not being held to account by the Committee, which I hope will be borne in mind.

In addition to hoping that some petitioners can be heard in their constituencies and closer to their homes, I also hope we will give people a decent period of notice about when their petition is likely to be heard. I appreciate that the detailed workings of the Committee will set out how and when it will hear which petitions and at what stages, but it is important that people have at least six weeks to make their arrangements. We are not talking about Members of Parliament who are used to being summoned in; we are talking about people who are sometimes in care or who care for others, or who have children or other responsibilities. A decent period of six weeks to let petitioners know when they are due to be heard would be acceptable.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

My right hon. Friend raises an extremely important point because clarity and giving people time to rearrange their affairs is important. Does she agree that rather than setting in stone the period of six weeks and defining a term, it might be sensible to operate a system such as that in a long-running court case, and the way that potential witnesses are informed of the time scale in which they may expect to be called to give evidence or make their contribution?

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

My right hon. Friend knows that it is a long time since I was familiar with what goes in on court cases, but if that mechanism gives reasonable flexibility to anybody seeking to petition, I could support and endorse it. My point is that we are dealing with members of the public who have complicated and complex lives, and we must appreciate that. We are not dealing with people who have been called before a Select Committee to be held to account; people are petitioning us and we must treat them with the respect they deserve and give them the time they deserve.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

May I reassure my right hon. Friend? I have some personal experience of this procedure, having up to that time served on the second longest Select Committee, which was ironically to do with placing the railway station for the London end of High Speed 1. The attitude of hon. Members on that Committee was that it was not a court of law in which one intimidated witnesses. Members of the Committee were there to help witnesses to develop their arguments so that the Committee was better placed to reach a decision on the merits of the petition and the arguments put forward.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

That is helpful of my right hon. Friend and I am sure his experience of these matters will be taken into account. It is worth while airing such issues at this stage because if we do not discuss them now, there will be little opportunity for any Members of the House to make their feelings known. It is also important that petitioners know how long their hearing could last. If it is a long, complicated or difficult case, perhaps people will need to come back again after the Committee has taken expert advice, and knowing how much time they need to give up is important.

Amendment (j) has been referred to by others and there are subsequent amendments to it. I think that six members is a good number for the Committee—if I were able to, I would restrict it to six and keep it to those same six people for continuity. However, I am worried about the quorum of three and have suggested that it be increased to four. We in the House set a great deal of store on the balance of Committee membership. When there is a Committee of six and a quorum of three, and three of those members are from the Conservative party, it will be possible for the Committee to sit with only Conservative members. If the quorum was four, we would always ensure a cross-party membership of the quorate Committee. I would like Ministers and the House to think about that issue because a quorum of three would be inequitable. If the Bill is to be scrutinised properly, it must be scrutinised—as other Bills are—with membership from both sides of the House. The danger is in the maths. We are still in the early stages, but I hope that the Committee will let us know how it will divide up the work and update Members who have not been able to attend the sessions, and how it will co-ordinate and ensure continuity between individual Members.

I have tabled amendments (a) and (c) to motion 4 on instruction to the Committee. If the Government are willing to accept amendment (a), that will go a long way to repairing the damage I referred to earlier, which has been done by insulting campaigners, environmentalists, and even MPs alike. That has seemed to be the hallmark of some of the engagement up and down the line, and it is certainly not confined to Chesham and Amersham. We need an understanding of how passionately people feel about these subjects. Indeed, some have engaged experts to provide advice and offer alternatives to the

Government on how to do the project better. Those include the new tunnelling proposals that were launched by Chiltern district council, Buckinghamshire county council, Aylesbury Vale district council and the Chiltern Countryside Group last Friday. I know those proposals will be considered very seriously at the highest level, and I hope within HS2 Ltd and by the Committee.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

On that important point, if someone whose views are different from one’s own is abused, that is not the right way to approach politics. We should address the arguments and not commit sins by making ad hominem attacks, to use the Latin phrase. When people have serious concerns about their lives or the environment, they should not be abused. They should be listened to and perhaps if their arguments are wrong they can be countered, but they should not be abused.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

It must be said that there is no better practitioner of that principle in this House than the hon. Gentleman. Whatever is said about anything else, I feel sure that his proposition will command universal assent.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I agree with the hon. Gentleman and I am grateful for that support and endorsement. I probably fail on many occasions, but I will try to live up to his high standards. It is important because the smallest, least significant person in some people’s eyes is probably the most important in a process such as this. We must remember that and certainly not insult people.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

May I put on the record our gratitude for the way that the current Secretary of State is doing exactly that? In his comments yesterday on Second Reading he went out of his way to say that the views of those who object or have a problem with this proposal are valid, even if he disagreed with them. There has perhaps been a change, but it is very positive.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I would agree with that. I have known the Secretary of State for a very long time. Indeed, my mother was on his selection committee—[Interruption.] It is not my fault at all; I assure the House that I was not on his selection committee. He has always treated me with respect, and certainly he would do that. I think he understands quite clearly the difficulty and problems that I, my right hon. Friend Sir John Randall, and many other colleagues have with this project, but there has unfortunately been some history to it, and remarks have been attributed to people in high places—such as saying, for example, that the Chilterns is “not exactly Constable country”. This is not a good basis on which to form a relationship when we are looking to protect the countryside. It is important to listen to everybody and to treat them with respect. Let us face it, we have just heard the Government admit that, after four years, their HS1-HS2 link was rubbish. It has taken them four years to get there. We have been telling them it is rubbish, but they have not until this stage admitted that and cancelled the project.

I am coming on to my closing remarks. I apologise to the House for going on for so long, but I did have rather a large number of amendments selected. It is an embarrassment of riches. Amendment (c) raises the question: what more can be added to the instructions to the Committee? Can the Government restrict and issue more and more instructions at any time? What safeguards do we have, if the Committee heads in a direction that officials, HS2 Ltd, the Department or the Treasury get nervous about? Can the Department just add an instruction, or edict, and rule out all the options that can be considered by the Committee? We need to know. If there is to be a war of attrition and an eye cast over the Committee on a constant basis by HS2 Ltd and the Department, and then instructions change through the medium of this House, that would worry me. I am sure that that is not the case, but I look to the Minister for that important reassurance.

I have a couple of questions about the carry-over motion. I do not understand why the Government ruled out a Joint Committee with another place. If time was of the essence and there was a possibility of getting this through before the general election, I would have thought that a Joint Committee with the other place might have been considered. I am not sure why the Government—they have always carried a huge majority—did not consider that. The former Minister may be about to inform me—it is a genuine question.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. Certainly, when I had anything to do with this issue, nothing would have given me greater pleasure than if we had been able to do what she suggests. Unfortunately, because of the way that both Houses operate, it just was not possible within the rules, however we looked at it, to be able to come to that conclusion, even though we would have loved to have done so.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

That is an interesting response because we have changed Standing Orders for this process and for HS2. I am sure the other place would have looked at it. If not, I would be very interested to see the paper trail and what was pursued. Perhaps we could ask the Minister to place that in the Libraries of both Houses, so that we can see what the problems were. Phase 2 and the route to Crewe is about to come up and we need to see whether there are ways we can facilitate the process. Otherwise, it could be very arduous for our people, and others, who are petitioning.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

When the Convention on the Future of Europe was set up, we did have a Joint Committee between the Commons and the Lords. New rules were found to make that possible.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

The hon. Lady has taken the very words out of my mouth. I was going to say that it has happened before and it would be interesting to consider that, because we need to learn for the future processes associated with this major infrastructure project.

Why do we have the carry-over motion here and now? To bind the next Parliament, assuming that all the Committee members are re-elected, and, in effect, to rule out the Committee stage having any chance of finishing before the general election, seems a bit short sighted. I think it is premature: we do not know what could happen between now and then. It would have been advisable to keep the carry-over motion for another day, when it became obvious what was going to happen. There must be an explanation, because the Minister is leaping to his feet.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

No one would be more delighted than I would be if the Committee concluded its work by the next general election. However, in the likelihood that it will not, the motion will facilitate its work to carry on past the election.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I understand that. I cannot say that I would want the Committee to conclude it work before the general election, but to rule it out at this early stage and give the impression that the Government have given up on it, is not a particularly good tactic.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

This gave rise to an animated conversation in the Tea Room yesterday from some of the proposed Committee members, who thought that the carry-over might be some form of endorsement for the outcome of the general election—that it was tantamount to a commitment not to stand candidates against them.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I think that such a commitment should be reserved for Mr Speaker. Unfortunately, I did not manage to get to the Tea Room yesterday, but that is a good thought. I would, of course, hope all six members are returned safe and sound to the House after the next general election to serve under a good Conservative Government.

I am drawing my remarks to a close, Mr Speaker. I heard the Minister say that the process should enable the appropriate people who are affected by this project to have their say. That is very important. We may not have been able to stop the project being approved by this House, but we must ensure that the best possible mitigation to our environment, and the best possible compensation for our people, is obtained. I have always endorsed this twin-track approach. I meant what I said at the end of my speech yesterday: Members must follow the process inch by inch to ensure that fairness pertains, that people receive a good hearing and that this House does not put unnecessary barriers in the way of the people who will be pleading for their properties, their life and their environment.

I hope that not moving the amendments to a vote will provide the opportunity for those on the Front Bench, the whole House and the proposed members of the Committee to take on board my remarks. I hope some of the measures put forward in the amendments, which are supported by other people, will be incorporated. They may make the process just a little easier.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras 2:16 pm, 29th April 2014

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate as the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras. I think some people think that the St Pancras part of the constituency name refers to the station, but it refers to the parish of St Pancras, which has two St Pancras churches. We also have three major main line stations: St Pancras, King’s Cross and Euston. The history of what has been proposed for those stations over the years has to be borne in mind by anyone considering the current proposals. Ministers need to understand the background.

I have never questioned the integrity of the Ministers and I tell people that I do not question their integrity, but everyone questions the integrity of the officials that they have had to deal with over the years. The background is that the first proposal for a channel tunnel link to London was for it to terminate at a concrete box under King’s Cross station. We were told that there was no possible alternative to it; that it was “perfection”. Eventually, that daft idea was abandoned. An idea was then taken up—I was the first person to put it forward—for St Pancras station to be used as the channel tunnel link terminus. When I first suggested it, sneering remarks from all sorts of railway aficionados were the result. In the end, it went ahead and it has worked very well, as I think everyone accepts. Although it involved problems for local people, they went along with it because they could see the merits of it, both from their point of view and from everyone else’s.

Similarly, the recent improvements at King’s Cross were welcomed by virtually everyone, including the council, me and local organisations. That is not the case with Euston. We still need clarification to satisfy people in my constituency. When the proposal for the channel tunnel link was first put forward, I said to officials that it would need a great deal of engineering work to make it work and that that would be very troublesome for the people adjacent to the part of the line above ground. They said, “No, no, it won’t need major engineering works.” When I said that at a public meeting, one of the consultants—not an official—came along and said, “Oh no, no; we can assure everyone it won’t need major works.” Lo and behold, it was eventually accepted that major engineering works would be needed, because some new factors had arisen, including the need to widen the route. Somebody who thinks they can put a line across Camden town for an additional service without widening the route ought not to be allowed to advise the Government or anyone else.

Time and again, people said the proposition was ridiculous and they were sneered at and snarled at, as I am sure my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood, who speaks from the Front Bench, would confirm. I very much welcome the position taken by her and our hon. Friend Mary Creagh, as do people in my constituency, that we do not accept that the link is a good idea. It is a bad idea and it should, without a shadow of a doubt, be wiped out altogether. That is why I could not possibly support amendment (e), in the name of my hon. Friend Ms Stuart, which would raise the possibility of the damn thing being revivified. I could not bear the thought of that.

The other point I would like to make, before I come to all the amendments, is that the procedure that we are talking about is archaic, difficult for human beings to cope with and ridiculous. We might compare it with a public inquiry into a similarly large proposition, where people have the opportunity to make representations without having to engage with an A4 page of all sorts of archaic rubbish and ridiculous language before actually getting round to putting their point, and without time limitations on submitting their petitions, which are then vetted to see whether they are valid. For what might be described as normal human beings—or, for that matter, small businesses, which do not have a great secretariat or legal advisers and suchlike—the time limits proposed are already too short and ought to be extended. In relation to businesses, I have a query for the Minister that I hope he can clear up. As I understand it, the restaurants in Drummond street will, because they are businesses, have the short deadline for submitting their petitions. Is that right?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The small businesses along the route—shops or, indeed, farms—can petition either as businesses, in which case they will have the short deadline, or as individuals, in which case the longer deadline will apply. I hope that clarifies matters.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

The next question is this: does the business restriction apply to the association of businesses in Drummond street? The Minister might not know the answer to that—I would not necessarily expect him to know that.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I stand to be corrected by wiser authorities than me, but an association would be in the same category as businesses, some of the non-governmental organisations and larger local authorities. However, members of an association could collectively petition as individuals and then delegate one of their representatives or parliamentary counsel to speak on their behalf.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I am grateful for that clarification, but I am sorry about the direction of it.

Photo of Dan Byles Dan Byles Conservative, North Warwickshire

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that some very small businesses would have greatly benefited from being treated as individuals? Why someone running a very small business, going about their normal, day-to-day activity, should be considered a greater expert in the petitioning process than an individual is quite beyond me.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I entirely share the hon. Gentleman’s views about that. I am glad that Camden council is organising workshops for individuals and small businesses and making its best efforts to ensure that their petitions are in order and, in some cases, that the £20 is handed over and logged, and then passed to me, so that I can personally hand it in, in the hope that their petitions will be valid.

That leads me on to the £20 fee. It is said, generally speaking, that it is not a deterrent. Well, if it is not a deterrent, why do we have it? People do not have to pay a £20 fee to give evidence at a public inquiry. The fee will raise quite a trivial sum. Even if thousands of people submit petitions, at £20 each, the fee will not raise any worthwhile amount of money for the House of Commons. If the fee is not a deterrent, why do we have it? I think it will be a deterrent for the worst-off. As Mrs Gillan said, it is a fifth of a single pensioner’s pension, which is a lot of money for a pensioner—or some pensioners, anyway—to find. Whatever the outcome in this case, the whole hybrid Bill approach needs to be looked at. We talk about modernising, and by God there is some modernising needed for this hybrid procedure.

That takes me back to the instruction that the Committee

“shall not hear any Petition to the extent that it relates to whether or not there should be a spur from Old Oak Common to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.”

No one trusts the processes involved, so there is something that is still not clear to me. I am sure the Minister is trying to get the truth out, but to return to the proposition that I was trying to explain earlier, let us suppose that the Committee complies with that instruction—as it must—and cannot reintroduce the proposal for a spur from HS2 to HS1, but the matter returns to the House after the Committee has looked at it and made all its recommendations. As I understand it, the House could then reinstate the link, if it wanted to. If it did, would there be any procedure to enable petitions from those affected? If not, in effect we are banning people’s petitions from being examined now, while they might not be able to petition later if there were a further proposition.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

To clarify, if any changes that result from the Committee responding to petitions affect people who were not affected previously, a new petitioning period would be triggered. People who were then affected could petition, so they should not be frightened that something could be slid under the door without their having the opportunity to petition.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I understand that; my question is this. Let us suppose the matter comes back to the House and the House as a whole wishes to change things in some way that affects people. Will those affected then have the opportunity to petition against those changes?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I will correct this if it is not right, but my understanding is that if that happened—there are no plans anywhere at all to do that; I must make it clear that we have scrapped the link—that would initiate the whole process again. It would be a new process and a new Bill, and there would be a new hybrid Bill Committee, but that is not the situation. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman can allay the fears of his constituents, in that we have indeed abandoned the HS2-HS1 link as part of this project and the petitioning process could not resurrect it, because it is not within the scope of the Bill before us.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I thank the Minister for that; I am 99% reassured.

As the Minister knows, the Bill’s proposals for Euston have been abandoned—or are to be abandoned—and are to be replaced. The engineering and other studies have only just commenced. My next question to the Minister is whether he can confirm that when the new proposals for Euston are formulated, they will be subject to the usual procedures requiring HS2 to produce a new environmental statement, that there will be opportunities for people to respond to it and that people will then be able to submit new petitions against the new proposals that the Government wish to include in the Bill. Am I right about that?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I shall comment on that when I sum up at the end, so that I do not misinform the right hon. Gentleman. I rather suspect, however, that I will be able to reassure him that that is the case.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I welcome that reassurance.

I am particularly concerned, too, about the statutory and non-statutory provisions for compensation. Outside London, some people whose homes will not be demolished but whose property and general lifestyle will be adversely affected by a railway perhaps 50 yards away will be compensated, which I think is right. The situation in my constituency, however, is that people whose homes are 5 yards away from the line or 5 yards away from 10 years of engineering works will get no compensation. I hope that the Minister, the Department and HS2 Ltd are aware that the immediately preceding Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer, has given us an opinion that the procedure followed in respect of my constituency is actually in breach of the law. I therefore hope that at least the House will have an opportunity to review it, even if the Committee cannot. I view it as strange that we are talking about a Committee supposedly looking at mitigation and compensation that is apparently not allowed to look at compensation. That needs to be revised.

My last but one point is that I very much support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Joan Walley, the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. I hope that the Government, as well as our Front-Bench team, will go along at least with the spirit of it.

My final point is about the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston. I believe that if we are to have a High Speed 2, it is ludicrous for it not to be connected to High Speed 1. That does not mean that it makes any sense whatever to have the HS2-HS1 link that was originally proposed, which was crackers in practically every aspect and certainly does not go to the right place. I agree with those who believe that there needs to be a connection—and the best place to receive that connection, if that is the right word for it, is Stratford.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I hear my hon. Friend Lyn Brown. It has just occurred to me that if HS2 did that and it went to Stratford, the most famous Englishman of all time might have ended up in a different Stratford from the one in which he was born and brought up. I think that would be a welcome move. I would ask anyone who thinks that we are going to see successful use of a travelator between Euston and St Pancras quite where this “covered way” is to be constructed. The proposal has been suggested about 25 times in the past and it has always been rejected as absolutely loopy.

Going back to the original proposition for the channel tunnel to come into King’s Cross, I remember moving an amendment to the effect that provision should be made to go from King’s Cross to the west midlands, but it was duly voted down. I have always been in favour of having proper connections. When the preposterous idea of placing a travelator along Euston road was proposed, it was received with mockery and derision then and it is still being received with mockery and derision now. The only way to avoid using Euston road would be to demolish even more houses in my constituency or to drill a hole through the British Library or through the Francis Crick Institute that is currently being constructed. I find it most extraordinary that some people think that a satisfactory link can be constructed.

I have noticed that the great hero of the hour is Sir David Higgins, so we are told that because he suggested the proposal, it must be a good idea. He suggested that the delay would be no more than that we experience when we have to go from one terminal building at Heathrow to another one. They are not quite the same. Not much rain falls on people when they travel from terminal 4 to terminal 1 at Heathrow, but Euston road really can get pretty wet. I thus very much support the spirit of the amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston, but I could not bear to support it in full because it still includes the possibility of facilitating

“the provision at a later date of the spur”, which has rightly been abandoned.

On all these issues, I urge the new Minister to bear in mind that every time local people—and me in trying to represent them—criticised the link and every time we criticised the design for Euston, we were treated, frankly, with contempt. Now the contemptibles have turned out to be right, yet the people who treated us with contempt are now being asked to come up with alternatives to meet the requirements that everyone thinks are needed. The Minister needs to keep an eye on them: if they are the same people, the chances of them getting it right now are no better than the chances of them getting it right before.

My final point is this. The original proposal for Euston was to cost £1.2 billion. Eight months later, before anybody had done a trial bore or anything, the project came up with a revised costing of £2 billion. That is why the Minister needs to be very careful in entrusting the future of this project to people who can get a costing for a station £0.8 billion wrong and have to correct themselves within eight months. I offer friendly advice to a fellow Yorkshireman: “Have a good look at ’em, mate; have a good look at ’em.”

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip 2:39 pm, 29th April 2014

It is always a pleasure to follow the Old Contemptible himself, Frank Dobson. I may be sitting on the other side of the Chamber, but I shall try to emulate the wisdom and greybeardedness that is associated with him.

Perhaps you should have been in the Chair earlier, Mr Deputy Speaker, when we were discussing what would be done with the £20 fee for the lodging of each petition, and Mr Speaker suggested that it would be down to the Chairman of Ways and Means to be in charge of all that. I suspect that you will need to read the report of the early part of the debate in order to be prepared to deal with some of what was discussed at that stage.

I think that those of us who voted against the motion last night knew that their actions would constitute one of those magnificent but futile gestures, rather along the lines of the charge of the Light Brigade—apart from not being a mistake. The British rather pride themselves on doing something that will be regarded as a great victory despite having been, in fact, a complete defeat. The real work, however, is just beginning. The new Select Committee will listen to the views of constituents and others who have presented petitions, which will form an integral and very important part of the whole process, and I thank those who volunteered to sit on it. Contrary to popular belief, such Committees are not punishment details. The Members of this Committee may begin to think otherwise, but I have been led to believe that they all volunteered freely.

The Committee’s members should be commended, because theirs will probably be some of the most difficult and time-consuming work that the House will have to do for a considerable time. I am sure that they will approach that work in an entirely fair-minded way. While I understood what my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan said about the composition of the quorum, I do not think there will be any question of party political partisanship. After all, as is clear from yesterday’s voting figures, all the political parties back the proposal; it is opposed by just a few mavericks with, perhaps, a bit more foresight.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I should remind the right hon. Gentleman that, although only 50 of us voted for the amendment yesterday, 150 Members were missing from the total vote.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

I am grateful for that intervention from another venerable greybeard. Something of a theme seems to be emerging. Yes, it is true that those Members were missing in action, but I am afraid that the figures on which we always work relate to those who actually go through the Division Lobbies.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

Does the right hon. Gentleman share my view that we can take some comfort from the thought that each of the 50 of us who voted for the amendment was voting against £1 billion?

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Personally, I would rather vote for £1 billion each, but that would probably be inappropriate.

Let me reiterate my thanks to the members of the new Select Committee, because they will be faced with a very onerous task. I am not sure whether it will be possible for the message that I tried to convey about the Heathrow spur during the five minutes that were allotted to me yesterday to be raised before the Committee, but I think that very few people, if any, still think it worth continuing with the spur, and raising that issue would help those of us who are petitioning for an extension of the tunnel beyond Ickenham.

I have a great deal of sympathy for the amendment tabled by Joan Walley, the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. Now that I have been released from the Whips Office, the House is perhaps beginning to recognise that one of my great interests is wildlife and conservation, and everything to do with the environment, and I hope we will do all that we can to ensure that the Committee considers the question of mitigation in that context. I mentioned corn buntings yesterday, but if I had had more time I could have mentioned a great many more species, and enlightened the House a great deal more about wildlife in the Chilterns.

This will be a long process, and there will be decisions for us to make. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham has raised some interesting points, and we have discussed them. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister has listened to what has been said, and will pass it on. I hope that the Committee will do its work so well that by the time we reach Third Reading, I shall find myself able to agree with the Bill, which would be far preferable to the position in which I find myself today.

I must say that I feel sorry for the members of the Committee. I have never had the good fortune, or possibly misfortune, to be a councillor, but I understand that members of planning committees never win friends, because whatever decision they make, they are bound to please one lot and annoy another. I am afraid that the Committee will be rather like a referee at a football match, or in any other sport: whatever decision it makes, someone will be upset by it. I therefore feel that we, as fellow Members of Parliament, should give it the fullest possible support.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 2:45 pm, 29th April 2014

The contrast between yesterday and today is huge. Yesterday the Chamber was packed, there was a five-minute limit on speeches and we had no real opportunity to say what we had come here to say, whereas today, we are considering the detailed instructions that we shall give to the new Select Committee. Yesterday I, at least, talked about the failure to organise a strategic environmental assessment of the Bill, whereas today we are considering the detailed aspects, and carrying out the equivalent of an environmental impact assessment. What Parliament does today will be very important, and I hope the Government will respond to the debate in a much more relaxed way.

My amendment gives me an opportunity to flag up issues relating to how HS2 Ltd will ensure that some of the worst environmental effects are mitigated. I see that the Minister is nodding. It is essential that we have robust procedures that Ministers and HS2 Ltd will follow, but given that—as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson—it seems impossible for anyone entirely to understand the strange creature that is a hybrid Bill, we should establish how it will work and what the role of the Select Committee will be.

The purpose of my amendment is to establish how we will deal with the environmental consequences of the Bill. It is not intended to be a wrecking amendment. My aim is to challenge the Government—and, for that matter, Opposition Front Benchers—regarding measures to mitigate the effects and to provide compensation. I should make it clear that mitigation and compensation are two very separate things. The Government must also be accountable to themselves, if not to the House, given that they set themselves up as the “greenest Government ever”. Again, the Minister nods, but to what extent is that put into practice?

Mrs Spelman, who is a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, has done tremendous work on natural capital, both in the Committee and in the natural environment White Paper. She has spoken of a huge ambition for the Government: the achievement not just of no net loss of biodiversity, but, where appropriate, biodiversity gain. The Bill needs to reflect that.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

In fact, the HS2 project will be the first and largest of the major infrastructure projects to which the relatively new concept of biodiversity offsetting will need to be applied. DEFRA has consulted on biodiversity offsetting, but we should not miss the opportunity to do something really good and significant in regenerating degraded parts of the environment.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right, and she did a great deal to advance exactly that thinking when she was Secretary of State at DEFRA. This project involves the biggest infrastructure investment that our generation is likely to see, and I do not think it is too much to expect that the environmental aspects be given equal importance to the transport infrastructure and investment ambitions.

It is not only the work that came out of DEFRA that is important; so is the work the Government did on the national planning policy framework. That set out clearly not just that there should be no net loss in biodiversity, but that there should be—although I accept with some qualification—where possible, a net gain. My amendment seeks to explore how that objective, which I think we share on both sides of the House—that was certainly the case with the Climate Change Act—can be put into practice as we go forward on the HS2 journey we are now all embarked upon. That issue has not been given sufficient attention so far, and perhaps the Minister can set out today how the concerns reflected in my amendment can and will be addressed. To do that, he must also address the detailed recommendations in the 13th report of the Environmental Audit Committee.

I want to go on a bit of a detour, if I may, because I think this issue is important. I was a Member of the last Parliament, when we had the Wright reforms, which looked at ways in which Parliament as well as Government could be more accountable. We are always looking at the role of Parliament and how people outside see us, and that is about not just what happens at Prime Minister’s Question Time, but the sort of detailed discussions we are having now. The Wright reforms set out that Select Committees should have a greater input into policy making and that Parliament itself should have a greater role, and that was in part about Select Committees having greater input into legislation. I very much support the Liaison Committee proposal that, where Select Committees have, on the all-party basis that we operate under, looked authoritatively at a matter in detail, and having taken expert evidence, they should be able to play a procedural part in the legislation in question going forward. I greatly regret the fact that the Government have not so far accepted the Liaison Committee’s recommendations.

All Select Committees have to report on how well we are scrutinising legislation. The Environmental Audit Committee produced a report entitled “HS2 and the environment” at great speed. We took a huge amount of evidence, including from Ministers, non-governmental organisations and HS2, and we came up with what we believe is an authoritative set of recommendations. For example, if what the Government and HS2 are doing does not match up with the work of the Select Committee to be appointed today by Parliament, the danger is that we will not cover to the necessary extent the environmental concerns we set out in our report. That is why our report made those recommendations, and I am happy that members of our Committee have added their names to the amendment.

Paragraph 86 of our report states the Government should

“not overly constrain the ‘principles’ of the Bill approved at Second Reading”, and that, through the motion, we should do what can be done to

“avoid, reduce or remedy environmental damage” through the environmental impact assessment process, or look at

“potential modifications to the route and its infrastructure and consequential environmental protections that might result”.

The real issue is that today, we are appointing the new Select Committee and establishing its remit, but we have not yet had the Government’s response to the Environmental Audit Committee report. I understand that the Government will say, “Well, actually we have already taken account of such concerns.” If they are going to quote Standing Order 27A which requires an environmental statement, and Standing Order 224A, which requires an independent assessor to produce a report on the consultation on the environmental statement, that will not address the question of how the new Select Committee should consider the environmental issues. What instructions will there be? How narrow or wide will the Committee’s brief be?

I believe that the Standing Orders I have just referred to came about as a result of the Crossrail Bill, although I am sure other Members will have far more information on that issue than I do. As far as I can see, the Government’s advice relates just to Second Reading, so in effect, the role that arises from the instructions in these two Standing Orders applies only up to Second Reading, and not to what subsequently takes place, which includes the new Select Committee.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

To support the hon. Lady’s point, the significance of a hybrid Bill is that it incorporates the planning process into the legislative process, which strengthens the democratic element of the way we go about this. Therefore, it is completely in keeping with the logic of the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee that we should be giving the communities that stand to lose biodiversity a greater say in how we offset that biodiversity loss. They would have an opportunity to do that if the Select Committee proposed in the motion were able to adopt the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

Once again the right hon. Lady is absolutely right and I value the work she does on the Environmental Audit Committee. When the Government have the report of the Select Committee that has been appointed today, they will bring forward environmental proposals on Third Reading. There is ample time for the Government to take account of how we can have something in place that makes up for the lack of strategic environmental assessment—we have not had that—and which could still look at the detail of the environmental impact assessments that we need. In the evidence that we received from many NGOs—from the wildlife trusts, the WWF and a host of other organisations—they all said how much they wanted to work in collaboration to find ways of having the mitigation that is needed, and also to look at implementing offsetting in ways that could be truly transformational. There are all kinds of implications for the detail of the engineering works on the route as well. If there is no way for all that to be brought together and taken on board, I think Parliament will be accused of having total disregard for the environmental aspects that should have been included and still need to be.

Finally, I want to refer to the Supreme Court. It made it clear that it is for Parliament, not the Government, to decide the parliamentary procedure for the hybrid Bill, and therefore for Parliament to decide what is reasonable and practicable when it comes to environmental protection, mitigation and compensation measures. It is entirely appropriate that the Select Committee should have the instruction to ensure that it is able properly to consider environmental issues and not leave what is “reasonable and practicable” to HS2 to decide, which in my book would be likely to mean a much lower level of environmental protection being applied than is required.

The cost of such environmental protections is a necessary cost if such a scheme is to go ahead. We heard about the huge ambition of HS2. That ambition needs to be equalled by environmental ambition. We should be doing everything to avoid impacts first, before we mitigate or compensate for them.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

People sometimes think that the environmental factors apply just to rural areas, but the environmental impact in my constituency will be dramatic; I am thinking of the effect on air pollution, noise, general filth of one sort or another, and disruption. I very much agree with the line my hon. Friend was taking in her last few words, because, for example, not only will people have to live next to the main site of the Euston development, but no fewer than 14 subsidiary depots are proposed, all of which will be damaging the environment.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I am most grateful for that intervention, as my right hon. Friend makes exactly the right point. The environmental aspects are not just about nature, biodiversity, natural capital or ecosystems; they are also about noise and air quality. This week we are already seeing the huge concerns that exist about air quality; in yesterday’s debate we heard the extent to which many Members are worried about the long-standing impact on it. How that is mitigated needs to be factored into the specifications of the work that is done, and the Select Committee appointed by this House will have an important role to play in that.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I commend the hon. Lady’s amendment, the work she has done and the way in which she is putting her argument forward. May I just make the point that this issue is important for individuals, too? A constituent of mine has an impaired lung function and if he is close to any construction works it will threaten his life. That is not taken into consideration. Air quality, among other things, is vital in this day and age, particularly where individuals have that sort of health problem.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right about that. We are increasingly understanding that environmental issues are cross-cutting and that public health concerns are at the core. All of those need, somehow or another, to be costed and factored into the decision making. It is incumbent on the Government to say how such issues will be taken forward at a later stage, given that no precise instruction is being given to the Select Committee on that.

Let me say a brief word about Crossrail, because we have heard a lot about how it had the best way of going about this and so on. We cannot compare the geographical scale of HS2 and Crossrail, as HS2 dwarfs it. We have just heard about the biodiversity and environmental impacts of HS2, particularly on ancient woodlands. My Committee received a lot of evidence about that, but it has not really been included in the debate. This is being taken forward as a hybrid Bill, with HS2 phase 1 and HS2 phase 2, and there has not been the opportunity to examine the overarching aspect, and what happens in phase 2 will be very much determined by what happens in phase 1.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

Does my hon. Friend agree that our Committee took a lot of evidence and information on surveys, particularly those of ancient woodlands, that one would perhaps expect to have already been done in the early stages if this were any other project? The emphasis should therefore be on how the hybrid Bill ensures that the things we would expect to have been done are done as part of the project, rather than in any new effort that we would expect to be undertaken outside any other project?

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, because he is not only a dedicated member of our Select Committee, but an incredibly knowledgeable one. The fact that we had so much evidence about the failure to map areas and the huge gaps in information shows how unfit for purpose the environmental assessment has been so far.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady is aware that in some cases we did not have access to land because the landowners would not give us that access. If they then petition, they can, presumably, bring forward the information as to the effect on the particular environmental habitat they are concerned about.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I am grateful to the Minister for that, and I absolutely agree with what he says. Indeed, we heard evidence from the Country Land and Business Association that there has not been the proper access to be able to survey, and without a survey and audit we cannot go on to monitor, mitigate and do all these other things. The issue at the heart of this is that that has not been done, yet we are being told—or I imagine we will be told—that we do not need my amendment because we already have Standing Orders 27 and 224A. They, however, go up only as far as Second Reading and do not continue through the work of the Select Committee. We have a huge gap in knowledge and people all over the country want to have cast-iron assurances that all the land that needs to be surveyed has been surveyed. That has not been done yet, and if we do not give a sufficiently flexible remit to the Select Committee, how is it going to deal with what has not already been done?

Although people will have opportunities to petition on this aspect, and that petitioning will now be coming forward at great haste, my amendment seeks to address the issue of who is going to take responsibility for the consequences of those petitions. So far we have had a summary of issues that people have raised and a commitment to consult on those, but we have not had a proper procedure of impact assessment to address how we deal with those issues that are raised. I would like the Minister to say how that will be addressed.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

My hon. Friend rightly referred to the fact that Crossrail is usually cited as an example of how things should be done, and I agree with that view. Crossrail runs across my constituency and its Tottenham Court Road station is in it. The original proposal was that the nearest depot to facilitate the building of Crossrail should take over the Phoenix garden behind St Giles’s church for about a decade, but I was able to persuade Crossrail that it would be better to knock down a couple of buildings in Oxford street instead. That is in marked contrast to the approach of HS2 Ltd, which proposes to take over and occupy for a decade every open space and play area within about 100 yards of Euston station.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

That is a point well made, and unless the current arrangements are changed HS2 Ltd will be able to give judgment on its own plans. It will be given carte blanche to do exactly what it wants if there are no means of scrutinising its proposals. I would hate to see all the areas of land that people value and want to see as part of their communities coerced into becoming depots or some such thing. Yesterday, on Second Reading, hon. Members raised transport issues and asked why the tunnelling spoil could not be transported away other than by road. All these aspects need to be looked at from the environmental perspective, not just on the basis of the bottom line of what the cost and engineering will mean. That is the equivalent of giving of HS2 Ltd carte blanche to set out its own policy.

For all those reasons, I shall be interested to hear the response to the concerns that we have expressed in the amendment about these environmental issues. Constituents and the country at large expect this Parliament to provide the highest level of scrutiny of this massive, £50 billion investment programme, and we need to be seen to be doing that. For that to happen, we require the instructions to the Select Committee to be unambiguous about its environmental responsibilities and those matters for which it has a responsibility to report back to the House.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford 3:10 pm, 29th April 2014

I do not wish to detain the House for long. I was interested to hear Frank Dobson say that it is strange that this House has not modernised its procedures for hybrid Bills. I have never considered myself an arch-moderniser, but I could not agree with him more. The whole process of dealing with major infrastructure projects in this country—including both the parliamentary processes in this House and the processes outside it—is outdated, antiquated and unacceptable in this day and age. The fact that it took 10 years to build terminal 5 at Heathrow and so much time to build some of the other major projects that this country has enjoyed in the past 20 years is ludicrous and we should deal with that.

I declare an interest, because I had the dubious honour of being a member of the second-longest running hybrid Bill Committee, which, again, had an association with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras, as the Government of the day had the idea that the London terminal for High Speed 1 was going to be at King's Cross. Man and boy, I went through that process and I was fascinated to hear my right hon. Friend the

Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) say that the members of these Committees are not pressed men. Things have changed, I suspect, in the processes of the House. The Committee had a fantastic cast. There were only four of us: Bob Clay, the former Member for one of the Sunderland seats; someone who has now reinvented himself in this House as George Galloway; Mr Neil Hamilton; and myself. I knew what they had done wrong, but I was not sure what I had done.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

I suspect that I was actually a sucker, because I had been a Member of this House for only 18 months and I believed what the Whips said when they invited me on to the Committee.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip

I am sure that my right hon. Friend was selected because he was marked for high office and they knew that that would be experience he would need later.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that comment, and flattery has got him a long way during his illustrious career, but I do not think that was the reason. I think I was a sucker.

Some serious points arise from my experience and I hope that they will reassure my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan about a number of interesting points that she raised. Although the Committee was not legally defined as such, we were told that we were a quasi-judicial body and we conducted our business as such. Obviously, we had been selected because we had no interest, either through our constituencies or whatever else, in the King’s Cross area. As we saw it, we were members not as, for example, the conservative Member for Chelmsford with no interest in King’s Cross, but to give an independent judgment on the facts. The whole proceeding was conducted with barristers present arguing the case for and against.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham rightly said that she hoped that the Committee that would deal with the hybrid Bill on High Speed 2 would not be like a Select Committee, interrogating the witnesses and the people who brought their evidence and views before it. That was certainly not my experience and I am sure that it has not been the experience since. Members of such Committees are there to analyse and listen to the arguments and to reach a decision based on the facts and the evidence they have been given, taking into account the best interests of the project and so on.

My right hon. Friend also raised the relevant and important issue of the mechanics of how the Committee will work. As she rightly said, people live busy lives—they work and do other things—and they need plenty of notice about when their turn is anticipated to come. That is why I said in my intervention that, although it will be up to the Committee and its members to organise how they will conduct their business, I hope that they will have a system like that for a long trial in court in which witnesses are waiting to be called to give evidence so that people can have the maximum amount of time to put their affairs in order before they are expected to appear before the Committee with their petition and their points.

I am not in favour of my right hon. Friend’s amendment to raise the quorum from three to four, because, as she rightly said, my hon. Friends and the hon. Members who will be members of the Committee will face an onerous task as they will potentially be sitting three days a week, mornings and afternoons, and during parliamentary recesses. I know from experience that it can be a very long day. I do not share her concern about the fact that there might be a day on which there might be only three members present who were all Conservative Members, given that we are the largest party in the House. I do not think that the members of the Committee will have that mindset or thought process. They will not be Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat members of the Committee. They will be virtually independent members reaching decisions on the merits or otherwise of a case based on the evidence. Personally, I am not attracted to the idea of changing the quorum.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

My right hon. Friend makes a valid point and I follow his argument. For me, it was slightly anathema that the quorum should be only 50% of the Committee. I felt that with such an enormous project, with effectively £50 billion in question at the end of the road, the quorum should be more than 50%. The members will have to sit for very long hours and the subject will take over their lives much as it has taken over my life over the past few years, so it is important that a larger number of them share that burden. I thought that pushing the quorum up to four out of six would be a better way of doing it, but that is just a point of view.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

I understand. I would be very surprised, given the nature of these Committees, if the number of members present each day was not far higher than 50% and if the full complement of six members were not present most of the time.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We could also have the situation that happened to me when we had a Regional Select Committee in Barnsley town hall. When one member had to pop out to answer a call of nature, the Committee had to suspend. If we had a bigger quorum, that could happen and that would be rather embarrassing for the Committee.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for the tactful way in which he makes his point. I am almost certain that the Committee on the King’s Cross Bill, which had only four members, had a quorum of three. That put a strain on the Committee, particularly when situations arose such as the one that he describes.

I also do not share the concern of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham, expressed in her amendment, about the ability to carry over the Committee into a new Parliament. I think that this is the appropriate time in which to make that point and enshrine it in the rules governing how the special Committee will work. In many ways, it would look rather ridiculous not to have that provision, given that we all know—because of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011—that we will have an election at the beginning of next May.

I am also not so concerned about the fact that, after the election, for a variety of reasons, there might be some changes to the Committee’s membership. There are many examples of changes of personnel in Public

Bill Committees, which do equally significant work in studying line by line some very important legislation. Sometimes, if it is the wrong time of year or of the cycle, Ministers taking a Bill through Committee can suddenly disappear and be replaced. The strength of this House is that the sum total of knowledge that Members bring to subjects and Committees means that there would not necessarily be the problem and hiatus that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham fears. Of course, she is right that mechanisms must be there to assist the Committee, in an independent manner, to brief Members who, for whatever genuine reason, have been unable to attend a sitting.

I was also interested in my right hon. Friend’s amendment about the Committee going out to areas that will be affected by HS2. That is an interesting concept. It brings closer to the public the workings of Parliament, particularly on a matter that is so sensitive because it has such an impact on people’s lives. Raising that in an amendment is extremely valid as we all seek to make Parliament more relevant and closer to the people we represent. However, that must ultimately be a matter for the Committee to determine when it forms and decides how to conduct its business.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I am grateful for the acknowledgement that some of my amendments meet my colleague’s approval. It is difficult because this is the only forum in which we can examine the matter in detail. Even though it is not a matter for Front Benchers but for the Committee, it is important to get it on the record in Hansard because, like my right hon. Friend, I am worried that we will pull the House into disrepute with the general public if our processes are not transparent at every stage on a project as contentious as this one.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

My right hon. Friend is correct, though of course the day-to-day business of the Committee will be very transparent because it will be open to the public so that those who are interested can go and see the workings, particularly when any petitions are being dealt with that are directly relevant to certain communities, groups or organisations. It is not beyond the wit of this place to hold those proceedings in a room that has a television facility so that they can be televised in the same way as Public Bill Committees and Select Committees. The general principle of transparency so that people can see the workings, and follow and monitor the proceedings is crucial.

It was a little unfair of some hon. Members to question paying the Chair. Frankly, given what they will give up, I would not mind if every member of the Committee were paid rather than just the Chair. Serving on it is quite a sacrifice in many ways. We also have a precedent in that the Chair of the Crossrail Committee was paid, as are the Chairs of Select Committees. Having served on three Select Committees, I know that the work of one of them is very brief. When I served on it for a year, it met once a week late on a Wednesday afternoon, and it usually sat for about eight minutes. It always amazed me that the Chair of that Committee was paid the same as the Chair of the Defence Committee or the Chair of the Treasury Committee. It is known in the trade as a very cushy number. However, the job of this Committee’s Chair will not be cushy, and serving on it will be onerous for all the members. One therefore wonders whether it is fair to restrict payment to the Chair.

The amendments that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham and Joan Walley have tabled and the debate today have given us an opportunity to consider ideas about how to improve the Bill. Many of the decisions are to do with the day-to-day running of the Committee, and they must be left up to it when it starts its work. As we heard from previous contributions, other subjects are in the remit of the House of Commons authorities, and are therefore matters for them. However, I believe that, ultimately the House must examine the legislative process for such projects because it is deeply flawed.

I was told at the Department for Transport that the basis of the legislation—I assume this is correct because, unlike some people, I believe what civil servants tell me; I may not always accept it, but I believe it—is the legislation in the 16th century that established tollbooths, and that the Victorians thought that it was suitable legislation for granting the permissions to build a railway. Since the railways began, they have always had to have planning permission through legislation in Parliament. Of course, the Victorians were very different. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said in the past, when the concept of building a railway from London was dreamt up in the early 1830s, it took from 1832 to 1837 to think about it, legislate for it, build it and get it running. Clearly, using a premise based on tollbooths is totally out of sync with building high-speed rail, Crossrail, an airport or an extra runway, wherever—if ever—there is going to be one. We should consider that carefully and modernise as a matter of urgency so that this country does not lose out on badly needed infrastructure because of the sheer length of time it takes to get it.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North 3:28 pm, 29th April 2014

I will not speak for long and I apologise for not being here at the very beginning of the debate. I was a member of the Crossrail Committee for two years and, contrary to what some have speculated, the Whips put me and some of my colleagues on it as a punishment. We had voted against some civil liberties legislation and one of my colleagues, who is no longer in the House, remonstrated with our Whips and was told, “You’re staying on—get on with it.” It was definitely seen as a punishment. However, the Whips did not appreciate that I am a railway enthusiast. I know a lot about railways. I do not want to seem immodest, but I also know a lot about the engineering of railways, and I receive advice from a series of friends, colleagues and acquaintances who are skilled in engineering and running railways. I therefore had something to offer that Select Committee and I enjoyed my two years on it. It was quite onerous—two solid days a week and so on—but it was a nice experience, and I like to think that I made some positive contributions.

That brings me to the important point about skills. It is important for Committee members to have engineering advice at their disposal so that they know what they are talking about and what other people are talking about. Barristers will appear before the Committee, and other people will give evidence, but it is important to develop the expertise of Committee members. They are fine Members, but as there are six of them, they will have a hard job for quite a long time. If they are not interested in railways and do not receive skilled advice, they will find it even harder. I hope that that point will be taken care of.

I think that the House has become more democratic in the way in which it appoints people to Select Committees. My hon. Friend Joan Walley talked about the modernisation of the House and the Wright Committee. I served on the Select Committee on Public Administration under the chairmanship of Tony Wright for several years. I still serve on that Committee—it is an interesting Committee, now chaired by Mr Jenkin, and I really enjoy that work. We are constantly looking at the way in which government operates and the way in which the House interrelates with government, and we try to raise the status and effect of the House in holding the Government to account. That is what we are about.

Previous Governments, both Tory and Labour, have not paid sufficient heed to the House of Commons, and have adopted a rather high-handed manner. I was kept off Select Committees for a long time, perhaps because I was regarded as a radical person of the left. For five years, I tried to serve on every Select Committee, but the Whips would not hear of it. Now, the process is much more open, and anyone with any particular view in the House can become a member of a Select Committee, provided that there is a vacancy. That is a great advance. Two Members made that advance: Tony Wright and, before him, Robin Cook, who should be praised for his work in trying to improve Parliament’s control over the Executive. I want that process to continue and become more significant.

A number of points have been made about the project by hon. Members, particularly my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson. My view is that the Euston terminus is complete nonsense. It would be horrendously expensive, and it is in the wrong place. If the railway stopped at Paddington or even Old Oak Common, and linked directly to Crossrail, people would use Crossrail to go straight through to the City and Canary Wharf. There is a lot of talk about business links between the centre of Birmingham, our second city, and the City of London, and being able to make an easy trip from Birmingham to the City, particularly Canary Wharf, is a sensible way forward. Going to Euston would be expensive, and it would require at least two tube journeys to get to Canary Wharf. All the time that might be saved by a slightly faster train to Euston would be lost, given the time taken for those journeys from Euston to Canary Wharf.

The Euston terminus is nonsense, and it is my belief—and people have said this to me—that it is really about property development and making money out of such a development at Euston. It is not really about transport needs. I have criticisms and reservations about the whole project, as my vote indicated last night. Unfortunately, I was unable to speak in the debate yesterday; otherwise I would have made some serious points. If Old Oak Common or Paddington were the terminus, that would save billions and would immediately—

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

Well, Stratford possibly. That would save money and would put people straight on to Crossrail. I supported Crossrail, which was a difficult, expensive project, but we improved it as a result of careful analysis by the Crossrail Bill Committee. We drove certain projects. For example, we proposed that there should be a station at Woolwich, and we managed to get that into the Crossrail Bill. There will be a Crossrail station at Woolwich, which is a valuable improvement.

There are environmental problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North chairs the Environmental Audit Committee. It is important to know how we will overcome such problems. One problem with Crossrail was that it went under Soho, where there are a lot of significant and economically important recording studios, which are sensitive to vibration and noise. I know from friends and advisers that one can do various things to tackle such problems, including the use of floating slab track. Not every Member will know what that is, but it is a way of insulating the track from the concrete channel on which it runs, thus avoiding vibration. Builders do not want to know about that, because it costs more money, although not very much more. If that option had not been proposed, such a measure would not have been included. It is therefore important that expert advice to Committee members is provided by engineering specialists who know what they are talking about.

I have friends who criticise the route of HS2. It seems that, in the first instance, the route was created by non-engineers drawing lines on maps. As a small child, my son used to take Ordnance Survey maps, and used a felt-tip pen to draw railway lines across them. It ruined the maps, but the method used to determine the route of HS2 was not far from that. Even now, there are serious criticisms about the precise route, even from those who go along with HS2.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

The hon. Gentleman is making some valid points. I am sorry that he did not manage to speak at great length yesterday.

It is important that there is flexibility in the way in which the project is considered, because the route was just a straight line drawn on a map for speed purposes. Many reasons for sticking to the original route design have now gone. What gives me heart is the fact that the Government have made much of the £14.4 billion contingency fund. We must ensure that if that fund is available, it is used to get the best possible mitigation, whether environmental or urban, as in the case of the recording studios in Soho. There is capacity in the budget to afford those protections and include them, and it is important that we secure them.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I agree, and I very much appreciate what the right hon. Lady said in her speech.

There are measures to deal with environmental damage. I mentioned floating slab track to deal with vibration, but there are also noise barriers disguised by foliage and tunnelling where necessary. All sorts of things can be done: they cost a bit extra, but they make the project much more acceptable. Getting the line right in the first instance is absolutely fundamental, and many of my good friends tell me that the line is not right, especially north of Birmingham, but also between London and Birmingham. All sorts of details need to be argued, which will take the Committee a long time. HS2 is a much bigger project than Crossrail, and the Crossrail Bill Committee took two years. We met every week, and there were lots and lots of petitions. There will be many more for HS2, so we are looking at a big job.

Mrs Gillan mentioned speed, and recently there was talk about reducing the maximum speed from 250 mph to 183 mph—or 300 kph—and going at the speed of HS1. It was an arbitrary decision—“Oh well, let’s just reduce the speed”—which changes a lot of suggested journey times. I have spoken in the House about journey times, and criticised the project in that regard, as it seems that someone can just make a quick decision—“Oh well, we won’t go there. We’ll decide to change the speed.” There is a problem with high-speed trains, which cannot go round tight curves as they would fall off the track. Curves have to be gradual and of a large radius, which causes all sorts of problems. That does not apply to trains on standard rail, with a speed of up to 125 mph or 135 mph.

Raising the speed from 300 kph to 250 mph demands a tremendous increase in energy. Energy costs are much greater at higher speed, and extra emissions from power stations required to drive electric trains are disproportionately increased. Optimum railway speeds are much lower—

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Chair, Panel of Chairs, Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. Quite a few more Members want to speak and I do not want to allow the hon. Gentleman’s speech to turn into a Second Reading speech. I would have thought that the motions are more important at this stage.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

I shall conclude in a moment as I have basically made my points.

I would be happy to support all the amendments of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham were they ever put to a vote, but I hope that the Government will take them into account. I am also in favour of the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North, who is not her place, and all the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras. I hope that we see some common sense in the long run.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston 3:40 pm, 29th April 2014

I rise to speak in support of amendment (e) to motion 4 on the Order Paper, which is tabled in my name and that of five other hon. and right hon. Members from the west midlands representing the three main political parties. It is quite useful to have learned that to be on the Committee that will consider the Bill requires not only persistence, but also continence—in every sense of the word.

In speaking to the amendment, I am trying to prove a theory, namely that the greater and more significant the issue under debate, the fewer words will be used to discuss it. Debates about £20 fees and the Committee’s quorum may take up more inches in Hansard than this amendment. The amendment is quite simple and tries to suggest that when planning massive investment that will last for decades, it is foolish to constrain the project unnecessarily. Some 12 years ago, I was in Birmingham to discuss the revamping of New Street station and a question was asked about high-speed rail. Everybody around the table said, “You’re never going to get high-speed rail so you might as well forget about it.” We decided, however, that we ought to keep the corridor, so that high-speed rail could happen should it ever be cleared. The amendment asks that although the Committee will not be permitted to hear any petition to the extent that it relates to the “the spur from Old Oak Common to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link referred to in the Bill”, it should not be

“prevented by this instruction from hearing any Petition”— and this is important—

“relating to the need for the Bill to:

(a) include an alternative to the spur;

(b) facilitate the provision at a later date of the spur; or

(c) facilitate the provision at a later date of an alternative to the spur”.

I was not born in this country. I was born in a city called Munich, which, when it was awarded the Olympic games, was synonymous with traffic jams. London transport engineers moved to Munich and managed to design an integrated transport system that is still serving its purpose 50 years later. The main thing was that Munich had planning laws that allowed for big decisions to be made. We should not have a high-speed rail line that has speed and ease of access, both national and international, as its whole purpose and that then asks passengers to get out of one train halfway through the journey, move across London and then go somewhere else. That may be how it is done in Paris, but it is still not a good idea. I want Ministers to consider the matter, because it is not just the Mayor of London who thinks that it is a bad idea. Birmingham city council’s view is that it is important not only for the region, but also for its provisions and planning for Curzon Street station and the international link.

Accepting the amendment or elaborating on what the Minister means by passive provisions would not close the door on something that it is so essential to the success of high-speed rail. I urge the Minister to ask himself why we are spending massive amounts of money so far into the future. We want to increase not only capacity, but also interconnectivity, both within the United Kingdom and with the rest of Europe. The Minister should consider the amendment with great care. If he can come back with the some proposal that proves that the door has not been closed on what is an enormously important debate, I will be happy not to press the amendment to a Division, but he must be quite specific about what he means by passive provisions and how the link will be considered. That does not mean a specific link; it means linking HS1 and HS2 in a meaningful manner. If we do not do that, the whole purpose will be defeated.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

As I hope I have already explained to my hon. Friend, I would happily accept paragraphs (a) and (c) in the amendment, but were the proposal to

“facilitate the provision at a later date of the spur” accepted, we would create a situation in which people would be able to petition in favour of the abandoned spur, but the people affected by it would not be able to petition against it.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

I fully accept that that is an argument. The main thing, however, is that I do not want the decision not to consider a link simply to be in the hands of the Secretary of State and Sir David Higgins; I want the decision to be made in a democratic way. I therefore want the doors to be kept open for the Committee to consider petitions to provide such a link. That is really the only point that I wanted to make today.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden 3:46 pm, 29th April 2014

I rise to speak to the amendments to motion 4 to which I have lent my name as I have some particular local and regional reasons to support them.

Although I did not lend my name to amendment (a), it contains a regional aspect that is important in my constituency. My right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan seeks

“to provide complete protection to any areas of outstanding natural beauty” and areas of special scientific interest. The first interchange station outside London is proposed on green-belt land in my constituency at the juncture with Birmingham international airport. It is perhaps not an area of outstanding natural beauty, but the Meriden gap is the green land that holds the cities of Birmingham and Coventry apart. Throughout my 17 years as an MP, there has been constant pressure to build in that gap, which is only 5 miles wide at its narrowest point but contains a lot of transport infrastructure.

Right at the centre of the gap is something known as the golden triangle, which comes under the auspices of the Solihull planning authority. Great concern has been expressed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England that the imperative of this infrastructure may lead to the loss of green-belt land in that triangle without due consideration. My local authority, which supports high-speed rail in principle, with certain conditions attached, very much wants me to put on the record that it wants to maintain control of carefully planning what comes into that most sensitive of green spaces. In respect of amendment (a), the Select Committee needs carefully to consider what happens when green-belt land is at stake.

I put my name to amendment (b) to motion 4 specifically because I want the Committee to consider the statutory and non-statutory provision for compensation. As I said yesterday, I welcome the fact that the Government have produced a revised compensation package. To be perfectly clear, it is a significant step forward from the statutory compensation currently available, because constituents really only get compensation one year after a project is finished. Considering that this project is expected to end in 2026, folks would be waiting an awfully long time without the revised package, which successive Secretaries of State have worked towards.

However, the revised compensation package contains an important omission: compensation for people affected by construction works. The revised package represents a step forward, because the area of eligibility has been extended beyond 120 metres from the tracks to a taper of 300 metres in rural areas, but construction compounds and sites might not be adjacent to the tracks, so they slip through the net of the revised compensation package.

Significant parts of the route, at both the London and the west midlands ends, will see many years of extensive construction work. The environmental statement highlights that around the interchange station at Birmingham airport we can expect construction work to continue for over five years. People are every bit as blighted by being opposite a construction compound or next to a spoil heap as they are by being 60 metres from the tracks. That is why I have put my name to the amendment.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

It has been a great pleasure working with my right hon. Friend on this subject, and I think that, together, we have made some progress. The situation she describes also applies in Buckinghamshire. In the course of preparing for yesterday’s debate, I discussed it with colleagues in Buckinghamshire, including John Bercow, who told me that he had a group of houses near a construction site where no anti-HS2 campaign was active, and the residents did not realise until recently that they would be so badly affected. In fact, HS2 Ltd had not contracted them. If that can happen in the fairly immediate past, we must be very careful about who will be affected.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

I agree, and I hope that when the Minister responds to the debate he will mention the impact of construction works.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

Does the right hon. Lady agree that one of HS2 Ltd’s favourite words is “temporary”? It only meets the ultimate dictionary definition of “not permanent.” The temporary use of a depot next to a school, for example, would last longer than the average time a child is at the school. If it is next to a quiet, little garden where old people like to sit, most of them will not be alive at the end of the temporary period.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

The right hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. In fact, the blight applies from the moment people are made aware that construction sites will be located next to their properties. Since March 2010, people have been waiting for over four years and are unable to sell, so we know that construction works have exactly the same impact on the need to get on with their lives.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I hope that I can allay some of my right hon. Friend’s fears by explaining how the Committee can address issues about the compensation package. Let me state for the record that anyone “directly and specially”—the wording used in the Bill—affected who feels that the available compensation does not address the impact on them is free to petition the Committee and ask for additional compensation. The purpose of the Committee is to hear these petitions, but not to review the national compensation code.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

I think that is a very valuable outcome, because it helps Members to understand that we can assist individuals and groups in our constituencies who are blighted by the construction works but ineligible for compensation in preparing a petition to which we can lend our names. Although we cannot petition as MPs, we can lend our support to such petitions. I think that everyone affected by the project has learned something important today.

That brings me to an important remark made by the Minister’s predecessor, my right hon. Friend Mr Burns, when he took through the paving Bill. He frequently stated that compensation would be fair and generous. With regard to construction compounds, at the moment no fair or generous compensation is available. I hope that the House will understand why I lent my name to amendment (b) to motion 4.

The next amendment to which I shall speak briefly as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee is the important one that takes the recommendations of the inquiry by the Select Committee and turns them into an instruction to the Select Committee when it takes the hybrid Bill through Parliament to pay close attention to the environmental consequences and to the Government’s stated aspiration to be the greenest ever, and to give expression to that through something new in law—biodiversity offsetting. The key words in amendment (d) to motion 4 are

“alternative or additional environmental protections”, because there is more than one way of providing environmental protection, and we should seek to do that to the highest possible standard. That aspiration is shared by the National Trust.

In the natural environment White Paper published during my time as Secretary of State, we set down a clear commitment to achieve net gain. Overall, we are going backwards in terms of loss of species and loss of habitats. Inevitably, this large infrastructure project will result in the loss of habitats, because it will be necessary to dig up green spaces and displace species, some of them vulnerable, from those areas. I urge the Minister to take seriously the exhortations of my friend, the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, Joan Walley, and to give the House an undertaking that should something come up during the Select Committee stage which pertains to environmental protections, the Government will make time on Third Reading to enable us all to debate those significant points. I hope the Minister will be able to give me that undertaking later today.

Finally, I shall speak in support of Ms Stuart, who has led the charge from the west midlands over the importance of not precluding the link between High Speed 1 and High Speed 2, which is all-important for the west midlands and regions outside London. The regions—not just the west midlands, but the east midlands, the north-west and the north-east—were all led to believe when High Speed 2 was first mooted in 2010 that there would be through-trains. That is undoubtedly what other non-London-based Members like myself will have mentioned to our constituents at the time, as part of the expectation of what HS2 will deliver. There is not a little disappointment about the fact that that is to be precluded from inclusion in the hybrid Bill as it stands.

To me it is unacceptable that in the 21st century an American passenger can land at Birmingham international airport, clear customs, get on a high-speed train by which they aspire to arrive on the continent, have to get off on the east side of Euston station and schlep their luggage in our rather indifferent weather to St Pancras station, pass immigration control again, and board another train to the continent. I am convinced that in the 21st century we can do better than that.

Inextricably linked to the question of the link is the Euston problem. Euston is a problem, but it was clear from the paving Bill that there is more than one model for solving the problem. In defence of Frank Dobson, the difficulty for his constituents is that every time we publicly change that model, more and more properties are blighted by that effect.

We in the west midlands are keen to see a through link. For us that is integral to the project. As I mentioned yesterday, Birmingham airport will be 31 minutes from London on High Speed 2. If there is a stop at Old Oak Common, as the Prime Minister observed on visiting Birmingham international airport and opening its extended runway, he could get to Birmingham airport from Notting Hill as quickly as he could get to Heathrow. The under-utilised runway at Birmingham would become competitive given that faster running time, but much of the competitive benefit is lost if the interchange to a high-speed service by train to the continent is not achievable. I urge the Government to heed this very important point, which is not just about the west midlands.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

The right hon. Lady reminds me of an anecdote that Birmingham city council told us when Deutsche Bank was negotiating about its relocation. The board members went back home, some to London and others to Frankfurt, and the ones who went back to Frankfurt got home quicker than the ones who went back to London.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

That is a very telling point. Deutsche Bahn aspires to run through trains from Frankfurt to London, and we should have the same aspiration to run through trains from Birmingham to Paris. In the 21st century, that should not be beyond the wit of man. At the same time, it would resolve the serious problems that beset the constituency of the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras. It would also address the salient issue raised by Camden council at the time of the paving Bill—that back in the 19th century the local community was severed by the west coast main line. A remodelling of Euston and a linking of High Speed 1 and High Speed 2 has the potential to heal that fractured community if it is done in the right way.

I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to reconsider the exclusion of considerations on the link as part of this hybrid Bill. After all, the link is integral to the project for all of us who live outside London.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) 4:01 pm, 29th April 2014

It is an absolute pleasure to follow Mrs Spelman; I agree with much of what she says. I hope that she has more purchase with her own Front Benchers than I might, and that they have listened very carefully to her speech and to those of others who have talked about the HS1-HS2 link. I rise in support of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend Ms Stuart.

I want to reflect on the link between the existing route for High Speed 1 from St Pancras to the channel tunnel and the proposed High Speed 2 link. I am a supporter of HS2, but the proposed link, as my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood rightly stated, would not have provided an adequate service. I was therefore happy to support its deletion from the Bill yesterday. It was to be a single track shared between international, freight and domestic passenger services, with limited potential to maximise the growth and regeneration benefits that high-speed rail could bring to the UK. It was not adequate to address anticipated demand. It would have allowed for just a small number of international services and created a conflict between those, freight and London orbital services, with limited potential for further inter-regional and intra-regional ones.

Recognising the shortcomings of that link route and removing it and its safeguarding from the Bill does not, of course, remove the strong arguments in favour of a good-quality link between the UK’s two high-speed lines and between the UK and the European high-speed rail network. Indeed, as I said yesterday, Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure at KPMG, is quoted in the engineering press as saying that it is a “great tragedy” to scrap the link and “complete nonsense” not to have the two lines connected. I absolutely concur with his judgment. Clearly, at some time in the future we are going to need a much-enhanced capacity such as a dedicated twin-track line capable of working as a dual-purpose line for international and domestic services. We therefore need to look at the physical alternatives to the proposed and now rejected link, including the possibility of tunnelling to provide a connection with the west coast main line and HS2. We need to start that discussion and evaluation now.

I really urge the Minister to reconsider his position, because such a link also opens up the possibility of inter-regional and intra-regional services, as well as international links. We know there is demand for direct rail services from the midlands, the north-west and Yorkshire to east London, Essex and Kent without having to go through central London.

I reiterate the tribute I paid yesterday to colleagues across the political spectrum from Kent and Essex county councils who have collaborated with my own borough of Newham to demonstrate that demand through research published in the 2013 report, “Travel market demand and the HS1-HS2 link”. It concluded that potential increases in domestic demand enabled by an HS2-HS1 link of adequate capacity would bring significant benefits and, therefore, strengthen the business case for HS2 overall. Consultants commissioned by Greengauge 21 research highlighted an historic lack of long-distance, cross-London connectivity, only some of which will be addressed by the additions from Thameslink and Crossrail. The net effect is that many journeys end up being made by car, making use of the busy M25 simply to avoid the difficulty of cross-London transfers. I have to admit that I am guilty of making such journeys.

The report discerned in particular seven inter-regional domestic service markets that would benefit from a transfer to rail from other modes—especially car journeys on the M25—if there were an HS2-HS1 link. It concluded:

“The increase in rail share is between 7% and 23%, which is a remarkably high transfer”, such that a

“new geography would get direct benefit from HS2 services: Essex, East/South East London, Kent, parts of Suffolk and East Sussex”.

Five of the seven inter-regional services include a focus on Stratford and enable connections to the west midlands and the north-west, the west of England and south Wales, the east midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, and north-west London and Milton Keynes. The report aggregates that increase in domestic inter-regional demand as equating to 45% of demand emanating from central London, or 25% of the whole demand from Greater London. Along with increases in international demand from the link, those benefits will justify investment in the HS2-HS1 link and add significantly to the core business case for HS2. It will be seen that Stratford would play a key role in such substantial service development.

It strikes me as a great pity that there has not yet been any work to give a financial value to the opportunities to run those inter-regional services, even though the demand is clearly there. The Government must surely take note of that: the interconnectivity cannot be denied and the common sense of the link is obvious. The time to act is now and I seek an assurance today from the Government that they will commission a further examination of the demand, assess the economic benefit and put that into the mix when reviewing the potential for a future link between HS1 and HS2.

Although I am conscious of and totally support the need to contain the costs of HS2, I am also conscious of the old maxim, “penny wise, pound foolish”. We must take care not to take decisions now—indeed, we should avoid them—that would create obstacles down the line to securing maximum growth in the economy, particularly in regions to the north of London and in the midlands, as well as in east London.

The current approach also fails to recognise the environmental advantages, including reducing car travel on crucial networks such as the M25 and relieving pressure on central London interchanges and termini. We know that connectivity and capacity are far and away the most important issues for travellers—more important even than speed. Stratford International has both in spades, and I make no apology for reminding the House of that fact yet again.

We are discussing investment for a high-speed railway network designed to last until the next century. We must be strategic in our approach, squeeze value from every pound of spending and not overlook the opportunity to strengthen the business case for the entire network. Dragging our suitcases along streets in London, however desirable those streets may be, is not a 21st-century solution to the issue of connectivity.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

Does my hon. Friend accept that the proposed walk is along Euston road, which has the worst air pollution in London, and for which the Government are presently being prosecuted under European air quality legislation?

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for supporting my case in his speech and in that intervention. Frankly, the Stratford option would help us enormously with the difficulties in his own area, which he has raised.

Above all, we need to consider how we can, in the not-too-distant future, secure an improved, fully integrated, robust link between HS1 and HS2. The link should be available for international and domestic services routed through Stratford at the heart of the growing east London economy, and benefiting economies in the midlands, in the north and indeed across the whole country.

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 4:11 pm, 29th April 2014

I apologise for arriving late for the debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you for your leniency in allowing me to speak for one minute.

Before the Bill goes into Committee, I just want absolute clarity. Last night, I asked the Minister a question about the Heathrow link. Clause 50 refers to the ability to extend the scheme under a Transport and Works Act order, without the full legislative scrutiny that would be required if a further Bill was introduced to deal with the Heathrow link. I want absolute clarity about whether my interpretation of clause 50 is accurate: could the Secretary of State use the provision to make a Transport and Works Act order to introduce a Heathrow link without full legislation? I ask that because many of my constituents want to petition against the Bill, and we need absolute clarity on which clause we are petitioning against and about whether we should petition against the whole Bill because of its failure to address the Heathrow link as part of a comprehensive package of railway network development.

In addition, I have been through all the inquiries for terminals 4 and 5, as well as various other inquiries, and I was a petitioner in relation to Crossrail the time before last. We found that there was a great inequality of arms in making representations, particularly for small community groups. Will the Government look at whether there is an opportunity for better resourcing not local authorities, which can stand on their own feet, but smaller community groups that represent individual facilities or individual communities? They need assistance of some sort to ensure that they can draw on the full expertise they need during the petitioning process.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:12 pm, 29th April 2014

With the leave of the House, I will start to bring this two-day process to a close. Over the course of more than 10 hours, several right hon. and hon. Members have set out the compelling case for building a new north-south line. Passenger demand has doubled during the past 20 years, and in the west midlands demand has more than trebled. Every day, tens of thousands of commuters are left standing on the approaches to London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. All too often, cities in the midlands and the north have relatively good links to London and relatively poor links to each other. That holds back economic growth and prevents regional commuter economies from developing. On the west coast main line, the busiest and most complex line in the country, the scope to run more trains is almost exhausted.

If we are to achieve balanced economic growth, we must invest in 21st-century transport infrastructure for the midlands and the north, just as successive Governments have done for London and the south-east. I very much hope that in 20 years’ time we will see an extensive flow of high-speed services extending beyond the west midlands as part of a fully integrated inter-city network. To achieve that, we need to enable the new Select Committee to proceed with hearing petitions on the phase 1 route, and that means agreeing to the motions.

Right hon. and hon. Members have made important points in the debate. Mrs Gillan said that agreeing to the Second Reading has not given this or any future Government carte blanche to ride roughshod over individual concerns. I agree with her. The Committee should listen closely to every petitioner’s individual concerns. That is precisely the point of the forthcoming stage in the hybrid Bill process.

My right hon. Friend Frank Dobson has been incredibly tenacious in raising the concerns of his constituents. I was privileged to visit his constituency and to meet some of them. I was pleased when the Government finally conceded that the proposed HS1-HS2 link is wholly inadequate and should be withdrawn. I am also pleased that they have recognised the need to revisit their proposals for Euston station. I hope that, in doing so, they will listen much more carefully to Camden council and the local community, who have, as my right hon. Friend said, responded positively to the outstanding redevelopments at King’s Cross and St Pancras.

Sir John Randall paid tribute to those who will serve on the Committee. He asked that they have due regard to the impact on wildlife and the environment. Those themes also formed the basis of the contribution of my hon. Friend Joan Walley, who called on the Select Committee to mitigate the environmental consequences of the new line. I hope that in his response to the debate, the Minister will acknowledge that many people inside and outside this House share her concerns about the impacts on biodiversity. I hope that he will reassure Members that those will be fully considered as the Bill proceeds and confirm that the Select Committee may amend the Bill to mitigate the environmental impacts in response to the cases that are made by petitioners.

Mr Burns has been a staunch supporter of the high-speed rail project. He brought his detailed knowledge of it to bear in his contribution when he called for the modernisation of the processes for dealing with infrastructure developments of this scale. My hon. Friend Kelvin Hopkins also demonstrated his long interest in rail issues in his remarks.

My hon. Friend Ms Stuart made a compelling case for an integrated network that serves the long-term interests of her city and the wider west midlands region. I hope that the Minister will confirm that future-proofing is within the remit of the Select Committee.

Mrs Spelman made many important contributions in the Committee stage of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013. She again raised valid questions today.

My hon. Friend Lyn Brown is rightly proud of her constituency’s Stratford international station and is ambitious for its future role in our rail network. I know that, like me, she is keen to see the report that HS2 Ltd and Network Rail are producing on the options to better connect the line to High Speed 1. I again ask the Minister to clarify when we can expect that report.

Finally, I trust that the Minister will address the questions that my hon. Friend John McDonnell raised on behalf of his constituents who will be affected by the Bill.

It is important that the Committee’s work can begin in earnest because the west coast main line is almost full. There are also capacity constraints on the midland main line and the east coast main line. Although some incremental work can be done to boost seat numbers in the short term, that will not meet future demand or enable new services to be run. There is already a train lengthening programme, but it is worth noting that there are hidden costs to that approach because platforms have to be lengthened and longer depots have to be built. It can also reduce the number of trains that can stop at platforms, so there limits to how far that approach can be pushed. In just a decade, a new line will have to be in place.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Transport referred to the building of the original railways almost 200 years ago, which still form the backbone of our network. It is fair to say that the original railways did not always enjoy a good press either. It is worth quoting the words of the promoters of the Liverpool and Manchester railway—the world’s first inter-city line—to Parliament in 1825:

“All I ask you is, not to crush it in its infancy.”

After last night’s vote, I am glad that the first phase of HS2 can go forward with confidence, although much work remains to be done. No one would pretend that the proposed route of HS2 is in its final form. It must be refined where needed and the environmental impact of its construction must be mitigated wherever possible. Labour will keep up the pressure on the Government to ensure that the spending is better managed and the costs brought down wherever possible. The hybrid Bill process has an important part to play in achieving those objectives. We will return to close line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill once the petitioning process is complete. I hope that the House will pass the motions and let that work begin.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:20 pm, 29th April 2014

I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions to this important debate. I do not know whether other constituency MPs often feel frustrated, as I do, that many processes such as planning inquiries and the operation of health trusts and other bodies seem to be beyond the control of us as elected Members. In this case, the hybrid Bill Committee at least means that the process will happen within Parliament.

I thank Lilian Greenwood and her boss, the shadow Secretary of State, for the co-operative way in which we have been able to work together. It has been a little bit like Christmas day on the western front, but no doubt when we have Transport questions next Thursday the howitzers will start to roar again across the no man’s land between the two Dispatch Boxes.

Hybrid Bills come along rarely, and changes to their rules and procedures seem to be even rarer, so it is important that these motions receive the House’s full consideration despite the fact that, as my right hon. Friend Mr Burns said, they might seem arcane. Members have raised important issues about the Select Committee stage of the process, and I will address the amendments to the motions. I hope that I will allay many of the fears that have been raised, and that none of the amendments will be pressed.

I turn first to the points that John McDonnell made about the Heathrow link. I reassure him that Transport and Works Act orders can be applied only to extensions of under 2 km, so the Heathrow spur, which would be much longer than that, cannot be authorised in that way. I hope that sets his mind at rest.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We would need a very good lawyer to get that passed.

I was interested to hear that Ms Stuart came from Bavaria. I think a socialist in Bavaria is a very rare breed indeed. She talked about passing a provision for the HS1 link. As I said, it is ultimately for the Committee to decide whether a petition should be heard, and it may choose to hear petitions suggesting that a future link should not be precluded. Its work is on the railway proposal before it, and it cannot get bogged down in considering the merits of links that may or may not happen, but it could certainly consider ruling out any future provision should it choose to do so.

Joan Walley, who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee, made a number of points about the environment, and I share her ambition to ensure that the environmental impact of the project is minimised. Of course, she is aware that we published a 48,000-page environmental impact report. I recognise the Environmental Audit Committee’s intention, and we are seeking to have no net loss of biodiversity. It is a hugely ambitious scheme, equal to that on any comparable project worldwide. We are building 140 miles of railway, and in biodiversity terms, it will be as though it were not there. In many cases, of course, there will be biodiversity gains. As I think I mentioned to the Committee, in some places where there is arable farming and monoculture we will put in something better than the current oilseed rape or wheat crops, which have little biodiversity and offer little in the way of habitat.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

Does the Minister agree that what the Government and HS2 Ltd intend to do is one thing, but the instructions to the Select Committee on the Bill are a slightly different thing? I would be grateful if he addressed how the Select Committee can be given the flexibility in its remit that it needs.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Committee will certainly be able to examine how measures in the Bill and the project will affect individual petitioners, and non-governmental organisations and other groups will also be able to petition. The overall scheme itself will not be under consideration, however, because it was decided last night.

I reassure the hon. Lady that I am not being dragged kicking and screaming into giving environmental reassurances, and I am keen for us to leave something for future generations. I am very aware of the problems of trying to restore ancient woodland. Unfortunately, 36 hectares of ancient woodland will have to be removed, and we are doing what we can to try to replace that. We cannot replace ancient woodland straight away, but we can do whatever possible to ensure that it regenerates and, in the fullness of time, replace that environment. Indeed, there may be other opportunities. For example, as research goes on to produce ash trees that will be resistant to the big problem of ash dieback that is starting to develop in this country, there will be a good opportunity, as we carry out tree planting, to ensure that there is a new generation of ash trees to replace those lost because of that terrible disease.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

A point was raised about having time on Third Reading to discuss feedback on environmental issues from the Select Committee. Is the Minister able to offer some kind of commitment on that?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Certainly, regarding the hon. Lady’s amendment I can reassure her that that base is already covered. The introduction of Standing Order 224A, which she referred to, means that the amendment is unnecessary as it essentially copies part of the instruction given to the Crossrail Bill Committee at a point when there was no Standing Order 224A. The instruction to that Committee was to ensure that any environmental information in petitions that related to the principle of the Bill and therefore could not be heard by the Committee was reported to the House on Third Reading when the principle of the Bill was reconsidered. I hope that that allays her fears.

Standing Order 224A means that the amendment is not required because it introduces a process of consultation for any supplementary environmental information provided at the Select Committee stage. All consultation responses are summarised by an independent assessor in the same way as they have been for the environmental statement consultation. If a petition includes environmental information that does not touch on the principle of the Bill, it is wholly within the scope of the Committee to consider that. If the Committee considers that some reasonable and practical mitigation could be introduced to address the issue, it will amend the Bill to do so. That is a key part of its role and its conclusions will be included in its special report.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

What expertise and capacity will be available to the members appointed to the Select Committee to assist them in that?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Obviously, within the limitations of the resources made available by the House to the Committee, it can enlist whatever expert advice it wants, just as the hon. Lady’s Committee will have advisors who give it expert and scientific advice and so on. That is a matter for the Committee, but I hope it will enlist the best advice to assist it in its work. Indeed, many of the environmental NGOs that produce petitions might themselves be providing what they consider to be expert advice, and it will be up to the Committee to consider how much weight to give it.

We must also comply with directives such as the habitats directive. As a Member for five years of the European Parliament’s environment committee, I was involved in many such directives. Even if some aspects of the project do not come within the scope of the petitions, we must comply with environmental protections that we have agreed at European level.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Conservative, Meriden

The Minister mentioned that there would be an independent assessor. Who will that be, and will the Government make use of agencies such as Natural England to provide the kind of advice that the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee suggested would assist the Bill Select Committee in its work?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am not aware that an assessor has been appointed, and neither do we need to appoint one at this stage. Therefore, I am not able to tell my right hon. Friend who it would be, but under the definition of the word “independent” it would be a person not connected to any vested interest.

When we started this debate my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan touched on the Major Projects Authority report. As we have heard many times from the Dispatch Box, the MPA does not routinely publish its reports on the major projects it scrutinises, and a founding block of the effective function of the MPA is the confidential nature of the reports it produces and the way it can be used as a tool within government to ensure that projects are delivered efficiently.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I understand what the Minister is saying and it is absolutely accurate. What I asked was whether, for the purposes of examining the project in detail, we could treat the Committee members as Ministers and give them confidential access to the MPA reports, so that they can fully see the risks that have been identified by the very body set up by the Government to scrutinise such projects.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The work of the Committee will be done in public and I would be very nervous about giving confidential information of any sort to it. That would not be appropriate. The report that my right hon. Friend refers to is from 2011, so its relevance erodes by the day. I really do not think that it would bring anything to the Committee’s work.

My right hon. Friend mentioned electronic payments, and identified that Parliament’s website has much useful information for petitioners. This includes the information that payment can be made by cash or cheque, and by credit and debit cards except, I am told, American Express.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; it is good to be able to have a proper debate. He refers to the MPA report being from 2011, but he must appreciate that the costs being used on the project are also 2011 costs. He says that the Committee will sit in public and so he would be nervous about giving its members confidential material. Does that also mean precluding Committee members from having access to the financial information and financial calculations made by HS2 Ltd on, for example, tunnelling activities?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Committee already has the budget before it. I do not want to add anything to what I have said already.

My right hon. Friend talked about further instructions to the Committee. It is the case that further instructions to the Committee can only be made by a motion in the House. The Government believe that these instructions are correct and we have no plans to change them.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

The Minister is on weak ground if he does not make the MPA report available to Committee members and if the Committee does not have access to something so significant. Virtually every Select Committee I have ever been on has, at some stage or other, talked to Ministers and been shown confidential documents.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am sure that were the Committee to make a request for either this type of report or commercially confidential material it will be considered at that time, but at this stage the Committee has not been formed and no such request has been made.

Frank Dobson, as we heard from his contribution, is a man ahead of his time. His predictions have come to pass—at least the ones that he referred to; he may have made other predictions that have not. I would be keen to have dinner with him at one of the restaurants at Euston and see the problem first hand. Maybe I should go incognito; I suspect he is so well known he could not go incognito. As a fellow Yorkshireman, I suspect that there may be a problem at the end of the meal when we have to decide who is going to pay.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Labour, Holborn and St Pancras

I am very happy to take up that invitation. As a fellow Yorkshireman, I suggest we go at lunchtime when there is a brilliant buffet that costs a lot less than eating in the evening.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

How could I refuse such an invitation?

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we could confirm that any new Euston proposals would require a new environmental statement, consultation and petitioning period. The answer is yes. A consultation would be required by Standing Order 224A. The change would then be subject to a new petitioning period.

The right hon. Gentlemanalso talked about petitioning by business associations. I think I can go further than I did in my intervention. A business is defined in the terms of this measure as an organisation that exists to make money for its owners. A business association would not seem to meet this definition and so would have the longer deadline. I suspect that if he found a different lawyer he would probably get a different result, but that is the position of this Government at this Dispatch Box and I hope those associations will be reassured by that.

My right hon. Friend Mrs Spelman talked about the green belt. The Bill includes powers for local authorities to approve plans and specifications for the railway, which should ensure that any structures in the green belt are designed sympathetically.

This debate has been an important stage in the progress of this Bill for phase 1. I hope I have explained why many of the amendments are superfluous to the effective operation of the Committee.

Photo of Gisela Stuart Gisela Stuart Labour, Birmingham, Edgbaston

I may have missed the Minister’s—very brief—response to my amendment.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady’s amendment was about the link. I made the point that it would be possible to petition to ensure that a link was not obviated, but the link itself, whichever route it might take, was not covered. Therefore, in the same way that we have provision for the Heathrow spur in phase 1, it would be possible to petition to ensure that the construction of phase 1 would not rule out any future link. I thought that was one of the very first points I made—if the hon. Lady was paying attention then.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I have paid great attention to everything the Minister has said, both today and yesterday, and I cannot remember hearing the word “Stratford” come from him at the Dispatch Box. Given that I have listened to every word he has said, I am hoping I will be able to add him to my Christmas card list, as he now gives Stratford some confidence.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am certainly happy to mention Stratford, but Stratford is not within the scope of the Bill at this stage. I made it clear in my opening remarks that this is about constructing a railway from Euston to Birmingham, with the intervening stations and other works, and not, at this stage, about including Stratford. In fact, the Bill does not include Stratford, so perhaps she should get to work on her policy people in the Labour party. I am sure they will be beavering away, busy writing their manifesto, and she might be able to be slightly more persuasive.

It is interesting, because people in Sheffield were keen to make the point to me that they wanted phase 2, which is not within the scope of this Bill, to go into Sheffield city centre, because a station was needed there. I am now being told that stations are needed way out. The idea that we could be served by Stratford and Old Oak Common, without the need for a city centre station, is the exact opposite of what I heard in Sheffield.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Olympic games were held in Stratford in 2012? The idea that Stratford is “way out” shows that he is himself a little distanced from the reality of what London is. Stratford offers interconnectivity through the rail networks in the east of England and to the north. It also offers economic opportunity. The idea that we will be wandering down roads with our suitcases in the rain shows the limit of his imagination. I would ask him gently—because I like him very much—whether he would reconsider his position.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Lady makes some very good points, I am sure. I would merely make the point that the distance from Meadowhall station, outside Sheffield, to the centre of Sheffield is less than the distance between Stratford and the centre of London. It is interesting that when we talk to cities such as Nottingham, Sheffield and others that are served by parkway stations rather than city centre stations, they see the importance of having a station in the city centre. However, I understand the point she makes about Stratford.

Should the House approve the motions, the matter will move to the Select Committee to start hearing the petitions of those affected by the scheme. This is a crucial moment in the process and one that many have waited many years for. I therefore believe that the House has an obligation to ensure that we swiftly progress to that point. I believe that the motions as drafted provide a fair and reasonable framework for both petitioners and the Committee. As I have said, I do not believe that the proposed amendments would add to the Committee’s ability to hear petitioners or progress its work effectively. Indeed, in some cases the amendments seem to work against the interests of the petitioners and should be rejected. Indeed, as I read them, many of the amendments gave me the impression that they were designed to frustrate the Committee’s work, rather than facilitate it, but maybe that was one of the objectives.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am moving to my conclusion. My right hon. Friend was not very generous yesterday, but I will not reciprocate.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Conservative, Chesham and Amersham

No, I was not very generous yesterday; the Minister is right, but it was because I was trying to leave enough time for others to speak in the debate. Let me say to the Minister that none of my amendments was intended to delay. There is a four-hour limit on the debate and the amendments were tabled in good faith to try to elicit more information from the Government. Once again, I remind the Minister that people have been abused in the process to date and I do not want him to continue that from the Dispatch Box.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I merely make the point that if amendments were designed to waive the fee for petitioning while at the same time encouraging electronic petitioning, that could be used by some who seek to frustrate the Bill rather than to work with the Committee, using the provisions as a way of preventing the Committee from carrying out its work.

I commend the motions to the House and urge Members to vote in favour of them and against the amendments.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I understand that Mrs Gillan does not intend formally to press any of her amendments. Is that correct?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

1. That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee.

2. That the following Members be appointed as members of the Select Committee: Mr Henry Bellingham, Sir Peter Bottomley, Ian Mearns, Yasmin Qureshi, Mr Robert Syms and Mr Michael Thornton.

3. (1) That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

(a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office between 29 April 2014 and the closing date (inclusive), during the hours specified in a notice published by the Private Bill Office, and

(b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office during such hours and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the Select Committee, being a Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through Counsel or Agents.

(2) The closing date for the purposes of sub-paragraph (1)(a) is-

(a) in a case where the Petition is that of a local authority (except a parish council) or a business, 16 May 2014, and

(b) in any other case, 23 May 2014.

4. That, notwithstanding the practice of the House that appearances on Petitions against an opposed Private Bill be required to be entered at the first meeting of the Select Committee on the Bill, in the case of any such Petitions as are mentioned in paragraph 3(1)(a) above on which appearances are not entered at that meeting, the Select Committee shall appoint a later day or days on which it will require appearances on those Petitions to be entered.

5. That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of that person’s Petition, be entitled to be heard in person or through Counsel or Agents upon that person’s Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard through Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition.

6. That in applying the Rules of the House in relation to parliamentary agents, any reference to a petitioner in person shall be treated as including a reference to a duly authorised member or officer of an organisation, group or body.

7. That the Select Committee have power to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to adjourn from place to place and to report from day to day the Minutes of Evidence taken before it.

8. That three be the Quorum of the Select Committee.