‘(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a report on vocational qualifications obtained in each financial year in connection with HS2 construction.
(2) Each such report must contain an account of vocational qualifications gained by individuals employed in constructing the network referred to in section 1(1), in preparing for such construction, and in connected and ancillary activities, broken down by type of qualification and activity.
(3) Each such report must contain an overall assessment of the costs of vocational training for relevant qualifications and by whom such costs were incurred.
(4) In this section, “financial year” means—
(a) the period beginning with the day on which this Act is passed and ending;
(b) each subsequent period of 12 months.
(5) The Secretary of State must lay each report under this section before Parliament as soon as is reasonably practicable after the end of the financial year to which it relates.”— (Mr Goodwill.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
‘(1) The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Transport shall conduct an assessment of costs incurred by local authorities that arise directly and indirectly from the construction and future operation of HS2, including staff costs, and shall ensure that such additional funding as is required to reimburse local authorities for those costs is made available.
(2) To the extent that such additional funding is not made available through service level agreements, the Secretary of State for Transport shall make the additional funding available through other means of local authority funding within six months of the end of the relevant financial year.
(3) The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government shall appoint an independent auditor to assess the extent of any shortfall in local authority revenue attributable to closure of or movement of businesses and consequential diminution in business rates.
(4) The Secretary of State for Transport shall establish a mechanism whereby any such shortfall shall be made good within six months of the end of the relevant financial year.’
This new clause is intended to give statutory enforceability to the Department for Transport’s intention to reimburse local authorities for costs consequential on the construction of HS2, and to ensure that there is compensation for lost business rate revenue.
New clause 2—Reimbursement of local authorities for damage to highways resulting from HS2 construction—
‘The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Transport shall conduct six-monthly assessments of the amounts required to repair and make good highways in each county following construction of HS2 Phase One, and shall ensure that such additional funding as is required to meet those amounts is made available to local authorities.’
This new clause is intended to give statutory enforceability to the Department for Transport’s intention to reimburse local authorities for highways repair costs consequential on the construction of HS2.
New clause 3—Amount of funds allocated to the Business and Local Economy Fund and Community and Environments Fund—
‘The Secretary of State for Transport shall allocate a sum of £150,000,000 to the funds established to support business and local economy and community and environment initiatives to mitigate and address the effects of HS2 construction.’
This new clause is intended to increase the amounts allocated by the Department for Transport to the Business and Local Economy Fund and the Community and Environment Fund from £30m to £150m.
New clause 4—Compensation procedures—
‘(1) The Secretary of State for Transport shall ensure that included within contested valuation procedures for claimants under statutory or discretionary HS2 compensation schemes are processes for valuation by a valuer with knowledge of local markets.
(2) The Secretary of State shall ensure that all compensation applications are acknowledged within a period of two weeks and responded to substantively within a period of ten weeks, failing which the application will be deemed accepted.’
This new clause is intended to insert procedures for valuation by local valuers in disputed compensation cases, and to seek to ensure timely responses to compensation applications.
New clause 20—Public Sector Operators—
(a) which relates wholly or mainly to the provision of one or more Phase One of High Speed 2 passenger services, or
(b) which relates wholly or mainly to the provision of one or more other services for the carriage of passengers by railway where—
(i) the services run wholly or partly on the route of Phase One of High Speed 2, and
(ii) the services are likely to be subject to substantial disruption because of the construction of Phase One of High Speed 2.
(2) The following may in particular be taken into account in determining whether, for the purposes of subsection (1)(b), services are likely to be subject to substantial disruption—
(a) the frequency with which the services are likely to be disrupted,
(b) the duration of the period in which the services are likely to be disrupted (and, in particular, its duration relative to the length of the franchise term),
(c) the severity of any likely disruption.
(3) In this section—
“franchisee”, “franchise agreement” and “franchise term” have the meanings given by section 23 of the Railways Act 1993 (designated passenger services to be provided under franchise agreements).’
New clause 21—Financial Reports—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a report on expenditure under this Act in relation to each financial year.
(2) Each report must contain details of—
(a) expenditure incurred during the financial year to which the report relates (with capital and resource expenditure specified separately in relation to construction and other activity under this Act and in respect of each head of expenditure referred to in section 1(4)(a) to (c) of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013);
(b) the extent to which expenditure incurred during that year represents an overspend or underspend as against the budget for such expenditure for the year;
(c) the likely effect of any such overspend or underspend on a total budget of £55.7 billion in 2015 prices (which includes construction and the cost of rolling stock);
(d) total expenditure incurred under section 67 up to the end of that year;
(e) sums or assets received in that year in connection with expenditure incurred under this Act, including in relation to section 48.
(3) In this section, “financial year” means—
(a) the period beginning with the day on which this Act is passed and ending;
(b) each subsequent period of 12 months.
(4) The Secretary of State must lay each report under this section before Parliament as soon as is reasonably practicable after the end of the financial year to which it relates.’
New clause 26—Protection of business continuity by extended notice of entry in the case of vulnerable businesses—
‘(1) If an operator of a business or undertaking believes that the business or undertaking’s continued operation or profitability would be vulnerable if inadequate notice is received of the planned exercise of powers under sections 4, 5, 6, 12 or 15 of this Act and the associated schedules, the operator may notify the Secretary of State of this belief.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), “inadequate notice” means a period of notice that would not provide a reasonable amount of time for the business or undertaking to relocate to a new premises and refit that premises to a reasonable standard before the exercise of the powers.
(3) Upon receipt of such notification, the Secretary of State must facilitate a dialogue with the operator in relation to timing and funding of business relocation, and required notice periods, and shall consider the reasons for the operator’s belief.
(4) Unless the dialogue provides a satisfactory resolution within three months of initial notification—
(a) a 12-month minimum notice period shall apply for the exercise of powers mentioned in subsection (1) in relation to the relevant business or undertaking; and
(b) the early compensation payable to the operator shall be 100%, not 90%, of the estimated relocation costs, and such compensation shall be payable in full, nine months before the anticipated relocation date notified by the operator.”
New clause 27—Report on classification of HS2 as England-only project—
(a) the classification of HS2 as an England-only project for the purposes of Treasury expenditure, and
(b) how much extra money Wales would receive in terms of Barnett consequential money as a result of such classification.’
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to produce a report on reclassifying HS2 as an England-only project for the purposes of calculating Treasury expenditure through the Barnett Formula and how much more money Wales would have received as a result.
New clause 30—Community detriment fund—
‘(1) The Secretary of State must establish a community detriment fund.
(2) The community detriment fund will provide an additional source of funding to communities, supplemental to that available through the community and environment fund.
(3) The community detriment fund will be available to address adverse impacts of HS2 construction on communities, including but not limited to impaired accessibility, diminution in availability of community amenities, and physical effects of construction.
(4) A principal objective of the fund will be to remove the need for formal compensation claims and to provide an expedited means of claiming funding for detriment.
(5) The fund will be available only to address adverse effects on communities, not impacts on individual households, businesses or undertakings.
(6) Among the measures that may be considered as available for funding to address detriment shall be transport facilities such as shuttle services.’
New clause 32—Review of fairness of rural support zone compensation—
‘The Secretary of State must conduct a review of the reasons for situating the boundary of the Rural Support Zone in west London which shall be laid before both House of Parliament within three months of this Bill receiving Royal Assent.’
New clause 33—Compensation—
‘(1) Within three months of this Bill receiving Royal Assent, the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a report responding to a review of compensation applicable to those affected by HS2 Phases One and Two which shall by then have reported in accordance with directions already issued.
(2) The review shall consider the following—
(a) whether a compensation framework based on a property bond system could be an equally or more effective means of compensating those affected by blight from HS2 construction and operation while maintaining a functioning property market, having due regard to demands on public expenditure and investment;
(b) whether the current rateable value limit for compensation and blight claims by owner-occupiers of business premises should be abolished or amended;
(c) whether loss payment ceilings are fair and appropriate;
(d) whether a higher proportion of advance compensation for relocation than the current 90% should be payable in certain instances;
(e) whether the time limits for claiming compensation where no land is taken should be re-evaluated;
(f) the position of those affected by blight caused by HS2 whose property is subject to mortgage and who may find themselves unable to remortgage or in a position of negative equity as a result of such blight;
(g) whether those considering a claim for compensation should receive advance payment of fees for professional advice.’
Amendment 15, in clause 48, page 18, line 8, after “considers” insert
“having regard to the relevant development plan,”.
I must confess that feel like a queue-jumper, because I added my name and the Government’s support to new clause 19 and amendment 15 only last night. I will be brief, because I know that Andy McDonald will want to expand on them and to explain why his case was so convincing and compelling. It is another example of how our new railway will be delivered not only on a cross-party basis in this House, but with the support of the great cities of the midlands and the north.
I welcome new clause 19 on vocational qualifications. I strongly believe in the importance of ensuring that we utilise the opportunities that HS2 will create for skills and jobs, which is why we have invested in the National College for High Speed Rail. New clause 19 will further bolster the importance of delivering skills as part of the development of HS2. As such, the Government support it becoming part of the Bill.
Indeed, I look forward to being in Doncaster soon with Dame Rosie Winterton, the Opposition Chief Whip, to cut the first sod in that project. It is important that we look at skills across the board. The college’s hub and spoke arrangement will enable other educational establishments to engage fully and will allow for other qualifications.
Similarly, I welcome amendment 15 from the Opposition. It relates to clause 48, the purpose of which is to ensure that the regeneration opportunities presented by HS2 are maximised in a timely manner. It is a backstop power and we expect that local authorities will lead such opportunities using their existing powers, but in the event that development is impeded, we will have the ability to step in to ensure that development progresses. It is important that such development takes into account relevant development plans. I am grateful that Lilian Greenwood tabled the amendment, and I urge all hon. and right hon. Members to support it.
Turning to the other proposed changes, my right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan has proposed several new clauses and amendments. She has been a tireless advocate for her constituents affected by HS2. However, all her points have been considered before, at length, through the
Select Committee process, parliamentary debates, and the many parliamentary questions she has asked my Department. The process has delivered clear benefits to her constituency, including a 2.6 km tunnel extension, meaning that almost 86% of the route in her constituency is tunnelled with the rest in a cutting. Her constituency has also benefited from the removal of an area of sustainable placement at Hunts Green and more noise barriers along that cutting. I acknowledge the points made but do not believe that new clauses 1 to 4 should be added to the Bill.
New clause 20 deals with the nationalisation of rail services, an area of ideological difference between the Government and the Opposition. I am therefore unlikely to convince them on it, and, I suspect, vice versa. It is clear to the Government that the franchising process delivers better services, better value for money and a better railway. Since privatisation, the rail industry has been transformed, with the number of passenger journeys more than doubling over the past 20 years. We believe this remains the right approach overall for Britain’s railway.
In any case, the new clause is unnecessary, as under the existing legislative framework it is possible for the state to operate rail services, as happened temporarily on the east coast main line. It is possible, and indeed quite likely, that the state might run HS2 initially, to prove certainty on operation and passenger numbers, but for the long-term successful future of HS2, a privately operated franchise is the best way forward.
The Minister is giving a pretty fair assessment of how he sees this proceeding. The new clause provides for a permissive power, meaning that it would simply be available going forward. The proposal has been mirrored in previous pieces of legislation, such as that dealing with Crossrail, so what is the Government’s objection to a permissive clause of this kind?
I thought I just said that this power is already available and therefore this is a superfluous new clause and we do not need it to give us these powers. I very much doubt Opposition Members will agree with my view that nationalisation of the railways is not the way forward, so stuck as they seem to be in the 1970s, but I hope I may have provided sufficient explanation as to why this power is not required.
We have given consideration to the other proposed new clauses and amendments. Although I understand the importance of some of the issues raised, I do not believe they belong in the Bill, as they have already been considered during the Select Committee process. To conclude, in order not to take up any more time than is necessary, I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will be able to support the inclusion of new clause 19 and amendment 15, but I urge them to not to press the other proposals, which I do not believe are required.
I am pleased to be able to contribute to this important debate and play a part in this Bill’s progress. We fully appreciate the importance of this vital piece of infrastructure and the benefits it will bring to our country for generations to come. It is not common to find such consensus in this House, but I am pleased that both the Government and the Opposition understand the need for this high-speed railway. HS2 was, of course, the brainchild of the previous Labour Government, but I readily acknowledge the work that the current Government have done in progressing the project. It is to be very much welcomed for the country that we have such consensus across the House on such important national infrastructure projects.
In that same vein, I shall discuss new clause 19, which stands in the name of the Minister, as well as in my name, those of some of his colleagues and that of my hon. Friend Lilian Greenwood. It deals with vocational qualifications.
Just in case it might be thought that there is not still entrenched opposition to these proposals, may I say, speaking not only for myself but for many of my colleagues and for people in Staffordshire, where we get no benefit from this scheme at all, given the damage it is doing to our countryside, that I wish to register opposition to this in its entirety?
I think I used the word “consensus” not “unanimity”. I sincerely thank the Minister for his constructive approach to this issue and for adding his name to mine by way of support. There is agreement across the House that both jobs and skills are a core part of the case for HS2, and I note that the recent Shaw report calls for much deeper strategic engagement of trade unions across the rail industry. Accordingly, may I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister and HS2 Ltd for their positive engagement with the TUC in securing an agreement to make sure that trade unions, HS2 and its suppliers work together to maximise HS2’s economic and labour market potential?
Is the hon. Gentleman at all worried about the possible job impact on the existing railway, because most of the passengers for this line are going to come from journeys that would otherwise have been made on existing trains? Presumably, there will therefore be a decline in fares, revenue and job opportunity on the existing railway.
The right hon. Gentleman misses the point: this is about having a positive impact on capacity issues. That is the singular and most important purpose of this development.
In the words of the magnificent Frances O’Grady:
“It is clear that trade union engagement is vital to ensuring that HS2 is delivered to time and to budget—and that it is delivered in a manner that reflects the best of socially responsible development.”
The agreement contains the commitment to pay the voluntary living wage—and the voluntary London living wage—and to offer a minimum number of apprenticeships and workforce skills development, among other things. The agreement is an excellent example of how industrial relations should be approached from the outset in projects of this magnitude, and indeed throughout the construction industry, and I hope that it can be the template for good practice throughout industry. The construction of such infrastructure projects places demands on a nation to provide the necessary skilled workforce, creating opportunities for people, and younger people in particular, to equip themselves with not just the vocational qualifications to assist in the construction of this railway, but the tools necessary to forge careers that will be of benefit to both themselves and the nation long after the completion of HS2. Labour Members welcome the fact that, following on from the success of the Kings Cross construction skills centre, a National College for High Speed Rail will be located both in Birmingham and Doncaster, providing specialist vocational training to the next generation of engineers working on HS2 and beyond. We also welcome the fact that HS2 Ltd will provide £4.1 million towards a Euston construction skills centre.
I, too, am sorry to break the cosy consensus of the two Front-Bench teams, who seem to be conspiring to spend possibly £100 billion of taxpayers’ money on what I believe to be a white elephant. Does the shadow Minister have no concern at all about supporting the Government on a major infrastructure project where the cost-benefit ratio is as low as £1.40 for every pound spent?
Let me clarify that this is not about a cosy consensus; it is about rigorous examination. There has been a forensic examination of this matter through a lengthy Select Committee and a Bill Committee. The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong about the cost-benefit ratio. The correct figure is 2.3:1.
I have already given way and I must now make some progress.
The Government estimate that as many as 2,000 apprenticeship opportunities will be created by HS2, and there will be about 25,000 people employed during its construction. That is welcomed by Members from all parts of the House. Because of the importance of the creation of vocational qualifications in connection with HS2’s construction, we feel it is appropriate that Parliament is given proper oversight on progress in this regard. That is why we tabled new clause 19, which will impose a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare an annual report on vocational qualifications obtained in each financial year in connection with HS2 construction. It seems to us to be eminently sensible for the Secretary of State to report annually on the progress of the creation of vocational qualifications, and I am grateful that the Government have accepted that the new clause should be part of the Bill.
The new clause is focused principally on HS2 Ltd, but the hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. I am sure the Minister and the Secretary of State are listening intently to him. The intention must be to embrace all those within the supply chain.
Amendment 15 would make a small change to clause 48. It simply seeks to insert a requirement that as and when the Secretary of State considers that there is an opportunity for regeneration or development, and land is to be acquired compulsorily for that purpose, regard be had to the relevant development plans that obtain in respect of that particular location. I am grateful that such a modest and reasonable amendment finds favour with the Government.
New clause 21 deals with financial reports. It would impose a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare an annual report on expenditure in each financial year. Each report would contain details of any overspend or underspend against the budget for such expenditure for the year, as well as the likely effect on the total budget.
Labour has been consistent in seeking to hold the Government to account on the cost of HS2, and this new clause would put greater transparency into the process and ensure that Parliament has proper oversight of expenditure. I am aware that expenditure under the Bill would also be reported as part of the Department’s annual report and accounts, but it is our belief that a project with these costs and on the scale of HS2 warrants more detailed oversight of expenditure from Parliament.
Considering that much of the opposition to HS2 has been because of the cost of the project and concerns about ballooning prices, it would be prudent of the Government to allay some of those concerns by ensuring that parliamentarians and the public keep a keen eye on the cost of it. The Prime Minister has previously stated that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and if the Government would like such sentiments to be accepted as more than empty sloganeering then, hopefully, they will support this new clause, which introduces into the process a greater degree of transparency in expenditure.
New clause 20, on public sector operators, would disapply section 25 of the Railways Act 1993, allowing, but not requiring, phase 1 of HS2 passenger services to be run by the public sector. I hope that this does not affect the spirit of consensus and agreement. I am delighted that Labour is committed to the public ownership of the railways. Public opinion on that issue is clear: around two thirds of the public support the nation’s railways being run by the public sector, with fewer than one in five opposing the policy. Public ownership is backed by people across the political spectrum—by Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and UK Independence party voters, although, unfortunately, it is not backed by the latter three parties in this place.
When one looks back at the history of rail privatisation and its impact on the commuting public, it is not difficult to understand why there is overwhelming public support for bringing railway services back into public ownership. Quite simply, the Tory privatisation of British Rail was a rushed, botched job that had more to do with ideology than any clear plan for the railways. The legacy that we have been left with is a fragmented, inefficient and expensive network.
I will give way in a moment.
According to the McNulty report, the fragmentation of our rail network has left us with an efficiency gap of between 30% and 40% compared with other European networks, which means that the money that should be used to address the cost of travel and to fund much needed investment is needlessly wasted.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. We had this litany from him, which was put just as eloquently, upstairs in Committee. I wish to ask him this: first, if the privatisation of the railways was such a disaster and disservice to the travelling public, why do we now have record levels of people using the railways; and secondly, why did the last Labour Government not renationalise it during their 13 years in power?
I am happy to answer the right hon. Gentleman. It was because the last Labour Government put record investment into the railways and made it the safest railway in Europe. We were clearing up the mess of that botched privatisation of Railtrack, which cost people’s lives. We made the network safe.
We have been left with a ticketing system that is the most expensive and confusing in Europe. Indeed, commuter fares are up by a quarter since 2010, having risen three times faster than wage growth. What the public clearly do not accept is that private and many foreign state-owned companies receive subsidies from the UK taxpayer and make significant profits at the expense of rail passengers.
I will carry on, because I know that people want to contribute to the debate.
In illustrating the benefits of publicly owned operators, one could hardly ask for a better example than the recent east coast main line. The last Labour Government took the important step of bringing that back into public operation after the private operator reneged on its obligations in 2009. East coast proved itself to be one of the most efficient operators, returning more than £1 billion to the taxpayer in premium payments as well as investing every penny of profit back into the service. In addition, fares were kept down in real terms in 2014 at a time when no privately run franchise took the same step. East coast had record passenger satisfaction and its engagement with the workforce was an unparalleled success.
Of course I welcome it; it would be churlish not to. Why would I not welcome that? It does not mean that the system is right, but, for goodness sake, the trains are getting to the right places.
It is difficult to see how east coast’s brilliant delivery for the taxpayer and for the commuter could be seen as a failure, or in any way undesirable. It simply does not make any sense for the UK taxpayer to subsidise foreign state-owned companies so that citizens of Germany, Holland, France and elsewhere can enjoy cheaper and superior services.
Quite simply, the rejection of even the possibility of public ownership is driven by an outdated ideology and is totally out of kilter with the views of a large majority of the public—including many Conservative voters—which is why I am so pleased that Labour is committed to a publicly owned service that puts the passenger first rather than the profits of private or foreign state-owned companies, as is currently the case.
No, I am going to move on.
We have heard the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Transport and others speak in glowing terms about how High Speed 2, when completed, will be a proud national achievement, and I completely agree with that. The scale of the project, the amount of talent that will be utilised in its design and construction, and the dedication over the years ahead will be a mark of pride, and represent a proud feat of British engineering and ingenuity.
It is my contention that if we, as a nation, are good enough to build a world-class high-speed railway, then we are good enough to run it, too. From the initial privatisation to the Government’s re-franchising of the east coast main line, Tory rail policy has always been far too focused on its “private good, public bad” ideology. However, new clause 20 would not require the sort of Damascene conversion that we witnessed from Mr Duncan Smith earlier this week. It asks only that the Government keep an open mind. New clause 20 would allow, but not require, High Speed 2 passenger services to be run in the public sector. A similar clause was part of the Crossrail Act 2008, leaving open the option to run passenger services in the public sector. Indeed, we have worded this new clause so that it is as similar as possible to section 26 of the 2008 Act.
May I remind the Minister and the House that the Conservative party did not reject the idea of at least keeping an open mind about who might be the best operator to run Crossrail—or the Elizabeth line—in future years, and it would be disappointing to see the Conservative party move from a position of pragmatism to one of sheer ideology. It would be talking Britain down to suggest that private companies and the state-owned rail companies of the Netherlands, France and Germany are able to run successfully passenger services on our railways, but we ourselves are not. I hope that the Government do not have such a pessimistic view of our capabilities as a nation and will vote in favour of new clause 20.
It was disheartening to hear the Minister dismiss my amendments in this group before hearing what I had to say, although I am grateful to him for acknowledging that over the past six years I have fought for my constituents and their rights and interests in the face of opposition from many people outside this House. My new clauses in this group are practical and sensible and will, I think, assist my constituents and others up and down the line.
New clause 1 is about local authority finance. Local authorities the length of the HS2 route have received no extra help to support their work on this major infrastructure project. The burden on my two local councils, Buckinghamshire County Council and Chiltern District Council, has been enormous, but the new clause would also apply to other councils.
Buckinghamshire County Council is naturally concerned that without central Government intervention and help its costs will continue to escalate. If the last six years are anything to go by, they certainly will. The county council’s outturn figure for 2015-16 is nearly £520,000 for costs relating to the legal petitioning process, engagement with HS2 Ltd and getting the best deal for Buckinghamshire residents. The council has just submitted the recharge to HS2 Ltd on the current memorandum of understanding and can recoup barely £10,000 for the last year. Why must taxpayers in Chesham and Amersham and elsewhere not only pay for this railway to be built, but pay again through their council tax for their local authorities to carry out inescapable pre and post-construction work for which they get very little help or none at all? Over the past six years, Chiltern District Council has spent nearly £1.18 million on complying with HS2 requirements —a huge amount for a district authority.
Councils have paid out literally millions in the past six years. The costs will only grow during the construction phase and there is no guarantee that local authorities will be fully recompensed. They would appreciate a clear, legally enforceable commitment from the Government that the extra burden will be recognised, particularly in the light of the local government finance settlement. My county, Buckinghamshire, was heavily affected by the settlement. It was only through myself and other Buckinghamshire MPs making very strong representations that we got some increased moneys for our local authorities. If accepted, new clause 1 would ensure security for our local authorities along the whole route where service agreements do not provide additional funding, received by the end of the year. The Minister should appreciate that I am asking for statutory and legally enforceable requirements because there is great distrust of the process so far. I think it is essential to enshrine the provision in statute, so that it is legally enforceable.
New clause 2 is designed to give statutory enforceability to the Department for Transport’s intention to reimburse local authorities for highways repair costs consequential on the construction of HS2.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Select Committee pressed HS2 hard on reimbursement to highways authorities regarding damage to verges, culverts, drains, inspection covers and so on, and the company gave a very positive response? New clause 2 is a belt-and-braces provision. Does she agree that HS2 has already given quite firm commitments?
I appreciate the work my hon. Friend did on the Select Committee. He is correct that there are undertakings, but they are not enforceable and I am afraid that HS2 does not have a good track record of either keeping good records and accurate information or of following through on its promises, hence my decision to table the new clauses. If HS2 is in good faith going to adhere to those undertakings, it should have no fear of their being put in the Bill. That is why I do not think it is unreasonable to expect the new clauses to be accepted.
My right hon. Friend might like to point out that there are 65 pages of road and footpath closures scheduled in the Bill and 67 pages of associated works to existing roads, railways and utilities. The work is massive in scale and, obviously, all those involved will need compensation.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Perhaps that shows the scale of the battle that has been going on for six years, in which people are trying to defend their environment and locality or, if they cannot have the whole project cancelled, at least to get the best possible deal for their locality.
In my constituency, we have had significant problems in engaging with HS2—and not just me as the Member of Parliament; the county council and the district council have simply not had their letters answered. That gives us no assurance that HS2 will engage in a timely fashion with those who have to use the roads every day.
My hon. Friend makes a point that is entirely familiar to me and many other people along the line of the route. That is why I want these not unreasonable assurances to be put in the Bill.
It seems to me rather strange that the Government will not accept the amendments. The history of statutory undertakers doing work on highways shows without any difficulty the shoddy restoration that takes place afterwards. In this case, we are talking of a massive project involving many miles of roads that will require repair. My right hon. Friend may agree that the assurances being given ought to be reinforced by statutory powers.
May I take my right hon. Friend back to the point about HS2 liaising with the public? Is she aware of the damning ombudsman’s report that came out last night, which stated that HS2 regarded consultation is merely a box-ticking exercise?
I drew the House’s attention to that report in a point of order. The report is appended to today’s debate, but of course there was no possibility of tabling amendments that referred to that report in an attempt to alter HS2’s behaviour.
New clause 2 is designed to ensure that all local authorities are properly compensated for any damage to roads as a result of HS2 constructions. As others have confirmed, that vital safeguard should be added to the Bill. The Secretary of State, who is now in his place on the Front Bench, visited my constituency earlier this month and saw at first hand some of the problems that my constituents face. I am grateful for that visit. He also saw the problems we have in Buckinghamshire with potholes. I am particularly concerned about the roads in and around Great Missenden. Quite by chance, my right hon. Friend witnessed maintenance works being carried out on those roads during his visit.
Buckinghamshire County Council highways authority estimates that it will spend about £7.5 million on pothole-related maintenance over the next five years. That figure takes no account patching, resurfacing, drainage, road sweeping and other related costs. I believe that considerable additional costs will arise from the large number of heavy goods vehicles pounding their way up and down some of Buckinghamshire’s fragile roads. Local authorities may well be reimbursed for reasonable costs, but what are reasonable costs? I want them to be reimbursed fully and I want that to be enshrined in statute, to make sure that the provision is both sufficient and justiciable.
New clause 3 is intended to increase the amounts allocated by the Department for Transport to the business and local economy fund and the community and environment fund from £30 million to £150 million. The £30 million originally announced for those funds to assist those affected by HS2 has been felt across the board to be meagre and insufficient, especially as the funding is intended to cover the entire route of phase 1. The Select Committee acknowledged the significant shortfall and the Government’s response to its final report stated that the sum would be increased to £40 million. I contend that that is not enough. The impacts of the project will be long standing and severe for the environment, local authorities and communities. Through new clause 3, I propose that the funding be increased to £150 million to give those affected the compensation they deserve and to ensure that adverse effects are minimised.
Both of us have signed new clause 33 on compensation by reference to a property bond. I wanted to put that on the record. My right hon. Friend is doing a great job, and I do not want to take up the time of the House to refer to new clause 33, knowing that she agrees with me.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and grateful for the support that I have received from colleagues across the piece.
On new clause 3, there is currently no information on how the funds will be divided, which areas will be prioritised or how the money could be spent. There is also no clarification whether, for example, the fund to be allocated will include the moneys already allocated to the Colne valley. Will those come out of this funding envelope? There has been a suggestion that the money will be delivered locally through local enterprise partnerships, but that would be most unsuitable. In Buckinghamshire, for example, we have two overlapping LEPs. How would the money be administered? I think it should be kept separate from the LEPs and genuinely given to local groups so that they can decide how best to distribute the funds. I urge the Minister both to increase the funds and to provide further details on how they will be administered.
The last new clause to which I shall speak in this group is new clause 4, which deals with compensation. All the MPs who have constituencies along the route will know that compensation issues have caused great worry and stress to our constituents, and many of the recommendations of the HS2 hybrid Bill Select Committee, although welcome, have yet to translate into changes to the schemes. The Select Committee’s report in February 2016 stated that
“the Government said that it would work to implement a revised process for the valuation of properties for ‘Need to Sell’ that will allow more local valuers to be used”.
That review was promised for autumn last year, but we are still waiting.
The Department for Transport’s response to the Select Committee report is silent on the valuation point, and although a response was promised before Third Reading, when I last looked I had not yet received that. I may be wrong—HS2 tends to slip out its documents just in time for debates, which I think is poor practice. In this case such poor practice is affecting people’s lives. Implementing a fair valuation process for property owners who are receiving unacceptably low offers from HS2 is of paramount importance.
I still have a large number of constituents who have been negotiating with HS2 for months to get a fair price for their property, and I know from colleagues that it is a similar story up and down the route. I have been appalled at the treatment of individuals, who have had to employ expensive lawyers even to get timely and rational answers from those employed by HS2 or from HS2 itself. My colleagues and I have raised these points for years, yet there continues to be a litany of errors from HS2. There have been internal emails that are rude and disrespectful about constituents. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee report published earlier today refers to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report, which accused HS2 of being guilty of maladministration. I believe that that has characterised the way in which HS2 has dealt with people who have lost their houses, their businesses and their land.
One of my greatest concerns about going forward without the Select Committee, which has been of enormous help to those of us whose constituents have been affected, is that there is nobody to help us mediate with HS2 Ltd and to encourage the company to respond to us in a timely fashion. There is no transparency about the way it does business. Does my right hon. Friend have any ideas to help us with this?
Andy McDonald said today from the Opposition Dispatch Box that transparency would be the watchword for HS2. I agree with my hon. Friend—transparency has not been the watchword for HS2. Right from the beginning, when the Major Projects Authority’s reports were withheld from this House and from the Select Committee that considered the Bill, there has been the reverse of transparency. That is what is so distressing about this project; it could have been handled so much better. It has let many people down.
Finally—I know that others want to speak—new clause 4 is designed to ensure that valuers with local knowledge are included on the HS2 panel, and that all compensation applications are responded to substantively within 10 weeks to avoid long periods of uncertainty for property owners on the route.
I started by saying that I was disappointed that the Minister dismissed my amendments before even hearing what I had to say today, so I am not expecting any positive response. But I have learned always to walk in hope, even on the impossible project of HS2, and I invite the Minister to accept my amendments today and add them to the Bill, thereby showing that he has the respect that I believe this House should have for the people whose lives are affected so drastically by HS2.
High Speed 2 is extremely important and is necessary to expand capacity on a railway that is ever increasing in popularity. Where communities are adversely affected, they should be treated properly and there should be adequate compensation. The amount of that compensation is clearly a matter for judgment, and some of the amendments today address that.
It is exceedingly important, too, that the potential for jobs and economic development created by the building of High Speed 2 is maximised. That was one of the key points that the Transport Committee emphasised when we first looked at High Speed 2 back in 2011. We have published four reports on that since then. Back in 2011 the point considered in new clause 19 was emphasised. We supported High Speed 2 but highlighted the importance of maximising the job opportunities—jobs in the construction of the high-speed network or jobs opened up by economic development in the areas through which HS2 passes—and regional development. I am extremely pleased to see new clause 19 and pleased it has all-party support, because of the focus it puts on jobs.
Does the hon. Lady agree that a link between Euston and St Pancras might offer an opportunity for jobs? My constituents thought they would be able to get on a train in Birmingham and end up in Paris, but instead they have to schlep across London with their heavy bags. Another possible link is one between Curzon Street and New Street, so that there might actually be a connected railway, which at present there is not.
The hon. Gentleman makes some important points that are worthy of consideration. I believe the decision likely to be taken later this evening will be the beginning of a very important High Speed 2 network, which may well expand after more people see its benefits.
New clause 19 refers to the need to look at the qualifications achieved by people working on the construction of High Speed 2. I agree with that, but it should be extended a little to include the diversity of qualifications and employment opportunities that can be offered during construction—the wide range of skills that can be obtained and the potential to attract a wide range of people who could benefit. I hope the aims of the new clause can be extended, if not in words tonight, then in the way it is implemented. I am particularly pleased to see the plans for the skills college at both Birmingham and Doncaster, and I hope they can be extended.
It is important, and it is implicit in some of the amendments, that economic development in the areas and regions through which High Speed 2 passes is maximised, working with the local enterprise partnerships, local authorities and business. It should not be just the stations through which High Speed 2 passes that benefit, but the surrounding region.
I also support the proposals to monitor expenditure on High Speed 2, because it is important that the scheme is kept within budget: over £50 billion is a lot of money, even over 20 years.
People have become unduly focused on the current benefit-cost ratio, which is calculated very specifically. Indeed, looking at the overall network and the wider economic benefits, that ratio is likely to expand to at least 2.3:1, but it is calculated rather restrictively. Under current regulations, the benefit can be calculated for only 67 years, and an assumption is made that the number of passengers on the line will increase by 2.2% annually and then stop in 2036, which is most unlikely. I think it is very likely that the benefit-cost ratio will increase.
We all need to have some vision in looking at what is required for the future. We need more capacity on the very popular and important railway, an essential part of public transport, bringing job opportunities—for example, in construction—and economic development to the regions and not around the stations. For those reasons, I support a number of the amendments proposed today.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. I trust that hon. Members will now be very brief, because we have only 15 minutes left for this part of the debate.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I shall be brief.
It is a pleasure to follow Mrs Ellman. I am mindful of the fact that, in promoting this scheme, the Government can make a powerful and perfectly rational case. Indeed, the hon. Lady highlighted some of the points that have been raised. The difficulty that I have, as a constituency MP directly affected by the scheme, is that throughout the whole process of engagement between HS2 and my constituents, HS2’s behaviour towards my constituents has consistently been wanting, both in sensitivity and in its levels of engagement. I have to say that the way in which HS2’s management has dealt with perfectly reasonable objections from people who are very anxious about the future of their communities has led me to be deeply anxious about how this will actually work out in practice.
My right hon. Friend Mrs Gillan, in presenting this batch of amendments, has highlighted some key areas where the Government, by providing some greater reassurance, could go a considerable way towards not satisfying everybody—inevitably some people will remain dissatisfied with the proposals—but providing them with reassurance that some of their worst fears about how this will pan out in practice are misplaced. For example, there has been considerable concern about the way in which compensation is calculated. There have been arguments about failure to take account of local features.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for giving way on that point; I intervene because I had wanted to speak on this new clause but now will not have time. We heard cases in the Select Committee where it was quite clear that the lack of local valuers is doing an injustice to the people whose homes are being acquired. Does he agree that the Government must put that injustice right? The Select Committee made very strong recommendations about that aspect. This injustice must be put right.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Yes, these are precisely the areas where Government intervention would be valuable. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, even at this late hour, to give this careful consideration.
There is a similar story on the relationship with local authorities. Most of our local authorities, like all local authorities in this country, given the difficult conditions resulting from the continuing economic problems besetting our planet, are short of money to carry out important local projects. Therefore, the prospect of having their infrastructure ripped up during the construction process is inevitably a subject of legitimate concern to them. There is no proper reason why they and the local council tax payer should have to bear the end cost of any description on this project going ahead. Here again is an opportunity for my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to beef this up and provide the necessary tools to ensure that HS2 honours these commitments.
I am no position to speak to HS2, and I do not understand why it has been so deficient in its approach to dealing with local communities, but that is the reality. I note from the Public Administration Committee’s most recent report that HS2 says that it has learnt its lessons and will do things differently in future. I very much hope that that is the case, but until I actually see it with my own eyes and witness it from the comments of my constituents, I have reason to continue to doubt that that will in fact happen. That is all the more reason why these amendments, which are straightforward and should not add to HS2’s costs, or indeed to the burden of carrying out the project, ought to be accepted.
I rise to support new clauses 26 and 32. Paradoxically, I agree with most of what has been said today, because I do think that it is possible to be pro-infrastructure investment, pro-progress and pro-brand new trains. I am pro the concept of high-speed rail, but I am not pro-HS2 Ltd and the, as Mr Grieve said, the rather cavalier way it operates. In the Select Committee its QC called my residents tedious, which I thought showed complete contempt for them.
New clause 26 is about protecting vulnerable businesses and the time given for relocation. I have spoken to some of the businesses in the Park Royal area of my constituency. The businesses there are quite mixed. Many of them deal with food preparation—for example, supplying olives to restaurants in the west end—and need to be close to the A40, which is a vital artery. They are family businesses. They have been told that when it happens they will be given three months to relocate. They have a combined turnover in the millions. They are all extremely concerned that they will be forced to close because three months is not enough time for them to start again.
I spoke with a prop hire company. It occupies thousands of square feet of warehouse space, with antiques and big fat televisions behind wooden veneer cabinets. It supplies props for films such as “Star Wars”. It would find it very difficult to find alternative premises quickly. Those companies would also like an assurance of 100% compensation for their sites, not the 90% on offer.
The Conservative party is the party of business, surely. It is the party of small and medium-sized enterprises. [Interruption.] I think this new clause has genuine cross-party support, judging by the Members who have signed it. It is deeply worrying that those firms are being forced to move towards what is called extinguishment, because apparently their balance sheets do not show enough turnover, so HS2 considered their financial value to be too small to warrant relocation. That is a slap in the face and an insult to hard-working, small family businesses.
My hon. Friend is doing a brilliant job of representing her constituents, as she always does. Does she agree—I think this is the purpose of her new clauses—that it is often the businesses in urban areas that are the most fragile and therefore the worst affected, but the levels of compensation and concern shown to them is the worst on offer—[Interruption.]
My hon. Friend puts it very well. He anticipates my new clause 32, which is about the fairness of the rural support zone. I know the constituency of Mrs Gillan well, because she and I were on the same ballot paper in 2005. She represents a rural constituency, but the urban and suburban constituencies, such as mine and that of my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter, are not treated the same as rural support zones. I believe that needs to be looked at.
One house in my constituency has a zero valuation—you could not make this up. Someone wanted to re-mortgage a house in Wells House Road, and the mortgage valuer came up with zero. That would not happen elsewhere. For the sake of fairness, that should be looked at. There seems to be a wrong assumption—[Interruption.] Madam Deputy Speaker, I am aware that there is about to be a vote, so I will say my last sentence. We should not accept that suburban or urban dwellers should simply put up with it. I urge Members to support my two new clauses.
I would like to use the short time available to make a final case to the Government to adopt vital protections for local communities such as Kingsbury, Water Orton, Coleshill, Middleton, Lea Marston and Wishaw. Those protections are set out in my three new clauses, as well as in provisions tabled by other right hon. and hon. Members, which I have co-signed.
A recurring theme my constituents have faced is the lack of engagement from HS2 Ltd during the process to date. Many of the questions that have been asked of the company remain unanswered, and its credibility locally is in tatters. Those affected by HS2 have little confidence that communication will get better during the construction stage; indeed, unsurprisingly, the fear is that, should the Bill be approved by the House, communication will get worse.
That is why I seek greater protection for North Warwickshire residents. As a result of the impact on our area, we have been given an assurance by HS2 that we are a special case. Sadly, despite numerous requests, the company has neglected to advise us what that protection actually is, what the benefits are or even what it covers. After what my constituents have had to endure over the last six years, they deserve better. They deserve some kind of certainty and an acknowledgment that HS2 and the Government are sympathetic to their case.
That is why I have introduced new clause 30, which would set up a community fund to protect local communities from the unintended consequences that could arise in the construction phase. The fund would supplement the community and environment fund, and it would address the adverse impacts of HS2’s construction on communities in terms of things such as impaired accessibility, the reduction in the availability of community amenities and the physical effects of construction.
A principal objective of the fund will be to remove the need for formal compensation claims and to provide an expedited means of claiming funding for detriment. The fund would be available only to address adverse effects on communities, not impacts on individual households, businesses or undertakings. However, among the things that may be considered as eligible for funding would be transport facilities such as shuttle services.
As I have stated, the Kingsbury area and the surrounding villages are clearly a special case in the context of the HS2 scheme, and there can be no argument about that. Engagement with our community needs to address the requirements that come with that special place, and my other new clauses address the current lack of communication, including in terms of referral, escalation and monitoring. Crucially, they seek to ensure that local people’s complaints are resolved in a timely manner.
We will hear further arguments later today in the Chamber about HS2’s environmental impact, and it is hard to imagine the change to the landscape that the railhead in Kingsbury will bring, but my constituents will be forced to live with that change.
I urge the Secretary of State to consider my proposed changes to the Bill and those of other right hon. and hon. Members, which I have supported in the interests of our constituents. Our proposals offer common-sense initiatives to support, and offer mitigation to, those people along the proposed line who need it most.
I did have a very detailed speech on this important issue for Wales, but I am afraid that time will defeat me, so I will be as quick as possible.
Ministers will know of my long-standing concerns about the Barnett classification of HS2. The Plaid Cymru position has always been that this is an England-only railway. All the destinations on the map are clearly in
England. The position of the UK Government has always been that this is a UK-Government railway scheme. However, when it came to the statement of funding policy document that accompanied the comprehensive spending review, the railway is an England and Wales railway, because Scotland and Northern Ireland had a 100% Barnett rating for HS2, while Wales had 0% rating.
The impact of that, in a project that may well cost more than £80 billion over the next 20 years, will be severe for my country—in terms of not only HS2, but the precedent set for HS3, Crossrail 2 and the Sheffield-to-Manchester subterranean road. These are massive multibillion-pound projects, and Wales is losing out.
This is an issue of fairness, and unless the Minister says on Third Reading that he will address the issues I have raised in my new clause, my colleagues and I will vote against the Government on Third Reading.
I will be brief. The SNP welcomes this investment. Although, as has been said, the initial roll-out of the route is in England only, we see the benefits that this can bring to Scotland, and we welcome the aspiration for a sub-three-hour journey time to Glasgow and Edinburgh. I welcome the fact that the Minister says trains will run to Scotland on day one.
On the back of the comments by Jonathan Edwards about Barnett, I would ask the Secretary of State to consider the wider issue of Barnett consequentials and the estimates process. There needs to be more clarity on that, but I welcome the investment in HS2.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 19 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.