May I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement? I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for hearing the point of order made earlier today by my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband about what could be done to encourage the Secretary of State to better inform the House of the crucial decisions that he has reached on one of the most significant and costly pieces of transport infrastructure that this country has proposed for many a year.
Perhaps the Secretary of State will be kind enough to explain what happened earlier today, given the widespread trailing of an oral statement on the anticipated announcement and the House’s subsequent disappointment at initially being asked to settle for a written statement, until such time as the outcry seemingly reached the Transport Secretary’s ears and his somewhat belated appearance in the Chamber tonight.
Labour has consistently supported HS2 and the attendant benefits it will bring—indeed, we were its initial proposer in 2009—but that support brings with it many questions. On the construction, there are concerns that companies selected to do the work were previously involved in the practice of blacklisting workers.What assurances can the Secretary of State give that no such practices will be tolerated in the delivery of HS2? Far too often in the case of significant projects in recent times, overseas contractors—and several have been awarded contracts here—have brought in their own labour, and have recruited exclusively from jurisdictions outside the United Kingdom. HS2 clearly represents huge employment and career opportunities for apprentices and established workers alike. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that the practices we have seen in the construction industry that have excluded British workers from UK projects will not be allowed to obtain in the construction of HS2?
There are also concerns about the financial health of Carillion. What measures has the Secretary of State put in place to ensure that any financial instability of any of the contractors will not delay or add to the cost of the project? He said in evidence to the Treasury Committee that it was not his job to monitor conflicts of interest in the delivery of HS2, but given the revelations of the revolving door between HS2 and the engineering firm CH2M, does he accept that he does, in fact, have such an obligation if the public are to have confidence in the arrangements between HS2 and the contractors?
What assurances and guarantees can the Secretary of State give that the total overall cost will not exceed the stated £55.7 billion, and will not spiral, as has been alleged in certain quarters? In one of the many documents published today, we are told that in adopting the M18 route in south Yorkshire, although HS2 Ltd has included in the costs estimate the delivery of a junction north of Sheffield and back to the HS2 main line, it has not costed electrification of the midland main line between Clay Cross and Sheffield Midland, or from Sheffield to the north. Does the Secretary of State intend the line to be electrified in readiness for HS2—and if so, when—or is he working on the basis that trains to Sheffield will be bimodal, and the line will remain unelectrified?
Will the Secretary of State provide further and better particulars of his proposals and preferences in respect of potential parkway stations? Will he also provide an update on the progress of the northern east-west rail and the extension to the north-east—“Crossrail for the north”—and its connection with HS2, and on what discussions he has had with Transport for the North in that regard? Finally, will he reassure the House that his announcement about progress on HS2 will not be followed by an announcement of yet further delays to electrification of the trans-Pennine route?