Quarterly reports on environmental impact, costs and progress

Part of High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Nusrat Ghani Nusrat Ghani Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Assistant Whip (HM Treasury) 7:15 pm, 15th July 2019

I want to put on the record my thanks to James for doing such fantastic work. My hon. Friend raised an important point. It should not be up to Members and their staff to continually liaise between HS2 and their constituents. It is HS2’s job to ensure that the community engagement is appropriate and done with humility and that cases are dealt with swiftly.

My hon. Friend once again challenged the budget. As I said, it is £55.7 billion. It is the job not only of the Department but of the chairman and the CEO to keep budgets tight. He also talked about spoil and its impact on traffic in his constituency. It is expected that 92% of excavated material generated by phase 2A will be used across the HS2 route and that 4% will be directed to local placement along the route. I am more than happy to meet him again to go through his issues and will make sure that Highways England is in the room as well. He mentioned three cases—the golf club, Hopton and Hanchurch. I have an update on all three and am more than happy to put them in writing to save time on the Floor of the House. If he wishes to meet, I can also provide him with an update then, but progress is being made. I understand from my notes that they are more or less satisfied with the arrangements made with HS2.

I welcome the support of my hon. Friend Trudy Harrison. I agree about the transformative nature of public transport and its impact on national prosperity, which is why we are making such a significant investment in our railways. I remind her, because I know it is incredibly important to Copeland, that there will be more than £2.9 billion of trans-Pennine rail upgrades—the single biggest project commitment in control period 6.

My hon. Friend Fiona Bruce asked repeatedly what HS2 would do for her constituency. At its peak, there will be more than 300,000 people travelling daily on this line. It will connect eight of our top 10 cities. Two technical colleges are already in place to make sure that our youngsters and older people who want to reskill have a job for life. It will connect our country. I completely understand, as a constituency Member, how Members should and must fight for the best deal for their constituents, but this will be a transformative project. All the cases raised today by Members on both sides of the House of where HS2 Ltd is not acting as swiftly as it could be have been put on the record, and I will do my best to take forward any cases that remain undealt with.

I hesitate to respond to my hon. Friend Michael Fabricant in case he makes a passionate intervention, but I cannot see him in the Chamber. No doubt he will come back in. I thank Laura Smith for her support for the Bill. She referred to businesses. There are 2,000 businesses already involved on the line and 9,000 people working on the line, and 98% of the businesses involved in HS2 are small and medium-sized enterprises.[This section has been corrected on 16 July 2019, column 8MC — read correction] I have personally tasked HS2 with making sure that it makes it an easier process for smaller businesses to bid for projects. I want this project to transform not just large but small businesses, making it easier for them to pitch for work.

Yvette Cooper spoke about investment in the north. I was lucky enough to be in the Chamber earlier with the Rail Minister, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, and I can confirm that we are investing more than £40 billion in our existing network. Network Rail estimates that about 100 cities and towns could benefit from new or improved rail connections as a result of HS2. As some of the passionate speakers have noted today, it is not an either/or project; we need HS2 as well as continued investment in our rail and road network.

I do not see my hon. Friend Sir William Cash in the Chamber, so I will move on. As I am running out of time, I will now deal with the new clauses. I welcomed what Rachael Maskell said about new clause 1, but I do not recognise the need for quarterly reporting. I think that once I have explained why, she will agree with me.

Let me first say something about the environment. The project is already bound not to exceed the likely significant environmental effects that were assessed and reported to Parliament. The environmental statement clearly sets out our approach to the monitoring, reporting and mitigation of environmental impacts during the construction of the phase 2a scheme, and follows industry best practice. Most important, the monitoring and reporting of individual environmental impacts must be tailored to the impacts in question. During phase 1 we are already publishing monthly and annual reports setting out compliance with air quality and dust commitments, and similar monthly reports on noise and vibration impacts are published.

Subject to Royal Assent, local environmental and management plans will be developed for each local authority along the phase 2a route. They will explain how the scheme will adapt to and deliver the required environmental and community protection measures in each local authority area. If we make a decision here today, we will tie the hands of local authorities, which will not be able to engage in important discussions. We should not, here in London, impose something separate and arbitrary that may not be locally appropriate. When authorities have those conversations with HS2 Ltd, they can make arrangements to receive monthly reports.

Contractors working for HS2 Ltd will be required to comply with the measures in the local environmental management plans in order to meet the environmental minimum requirements. HS2 Ltd will also consult statutory agencies and independent experts, such as the HS2 ecological review group, which will advise on the monitoring regime and report impacts on ecology and biodiversity. The hon. Lady said a lot about the need for local engagement, local empowerment and monthly reports. All that can and will take place if we allow it to happen, as it has in relation to other parts of the line. She may not have been aware that that was happening, but I think she will agree that if we accept her new clause we will not only increase costs, but create an unintended consequence whereby local authorities will lose their monthly reporting.

New clause 2 proposes a compensation scheme for tenants. We discussed that in the Public Bill Committee on 25 June, when I responded to a similar proposal. As I said then, the starting point is that the land compensation code does not shut out those who hold land, whatever the duration of their tenancies. It does not bar them from compensation. We have a responsibility to be absolutely accurate when we are talking about policies and the support that is provided. We may make people even more nervous about coming forward if they do not know what measures are available.

Most types of tenancy are already provided for under existing compensation, if they are impacted by the scheme. When they are not, the Government can use their flexible, non-statutory compensation arrangements to provide support where appropriate in a typical case, which is the category into which most of these cases will fall. The amount of compensation payable is set by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. It applies to all Government-led infrastructure projects, and not just to HS2. Those arrangements have been debated, agreed and set by Parliament, together with a vast body of case law on the subject.

The hon. Lady may not be aware that HS2 Ltd has published a useful information note—“C15: guide to compensation for short term residential tenants”—which covers atypical cases. I am more than happy to sit down with her and explain it. I am also more than happy to ensure that, if necessary, the position is communicated to local community engagement forums as effectively as possible. I have previously hosted events in the House to enable Members on both sides of the House to manage particular scenarios with their constituents.