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‘(1) The nominated undertaker, or any subcontractors thereof, must not enter into any non-disclosure agreement with any party in connection with the scheduled works unless the assessor of non-disclosure agreements related to the scheduled works (“the assessor”) has certified that it is in the public interest.
(2) The Comptroller and Auditor General must appoint a person to be the assessor.
(3) The assessor must be—
(a) independent, and
(b) a current or former high court judge, higher judge or Queen’s Counsel.
(4) In this section, “independent” means independent of—
(b) HS2 Ltd, and
(c) persons contracted or subcontracted to carry out the scheduled works.
(5) The assessor must undertake his or her work with a presumption in favour of transparency and public accountability in matters connected to the scheduled works.
(6) The assessor must review any non-disclosure agreement between the nominated undertaker, or any subcontractors thereof, and any party in connection with the scheduled works and in place before this section comes into force to certify whether it is—
(a) in the public interest, or
(b) not in the public interest.
(7) The assessor may not determine that a non-disclosure agreement is in the public interest for the purposes of subsection (1) or (6) except for the reason that it is justified because of exceptional commercial confidentiality.
(8) If the assessor certifies under subsection (6) that a non-disclosure agreement is not in the public interest that non-disclosure agreement immediately ceases to have effect.
(9) In this section, a “non-disclosure agreement” means any duty of confidentiality or other restriction on disclosure (however imposed).”—(Antoinette Sandbach.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
Consideration completed. I will now suspend the House for no more than 10 minutes in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will be tabling the appropriate consent motion, copies of which will be available shortly in the Vote Office and will be distributed by Doorkeepers.
I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order. I have confirmed the view expressed in Mr Speaker’s provisional certificate, issued on
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses of, and Schedules to, the High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill:
Clauses and Schedules certified under SO No. 83J as relating exclusively to England and being within devolved legislative competence
Clauses 1 to 33, 35, 37 and 40 to 62 of, and Schedules 1 to 28 and 30 to 32 to, the Bill (Bill 397).—(Ms Ghani.)
We should not let these sittings of the English Parliament go completely unremarked. In particular, it is good to see the Secretary of State for Transport in his place because, of course, as Leader of the House he introduced the EVEL—English votes for English laws—processes in which we now rejoice.
As you said, Dame Rosie, as the Member for a Scottish constituency, I am completely diminished in these proceedings, having no opportunity to vote, but I am glad the House had an opportunity to do so earlier. One day, as I have said before, Members from England will speak in the Legislative Grand Committee but, once again, I fear we are to be disappointed this evening.
Question put and agreed to.
The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (
The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
In 2015, the Government decided to accelerate the construction of the section of High Speed 2 between the west midlands and Crewe. This has become known as phase 2a. Our intention is to open this section of railway earlier than the rest of phase 2, to start bringing the benefits of the new railway to the north as soon as we can. Today, we can give an unequivocal statement that we are investing in our rail network, and in the midlands and north of England. This House has already given its backing to the building of phase 1 of High Speed 2, paving the way for the first new railway north of London in more than 100 years. Our creaking rail network, which the Victorians took the bold step of building, has continued to serve us well, perhaps beyond the dreams of the visionaries who brought it to us. However, it is bursting at the seams, with more passengers than ever before, and certainly more than were ever envisioned. We have exhausted the options for just “improving” our existing west coast main line; 60% of the peak capacity from the £9 billion west coast route modernisation project, completed as recently as 2008, had already been used by 2014. So we can have no more sticking plasters.
I am delighted that the Bill for phase 1 received cross-party support. High Speed 2 was a 2017 manifesto commitment of not just my party, but Her Majesty’s official Opposition. We all recognise that High Speed 2 is needed, not least because it will reduce congestion on our important rail transport arteries—it will also increase capacity. Adding an entirely new line between the west midlands and Crewe will increase capacity elsewhere on our existing rail network.
I think that if my hon. Friend, and she is my friend, had been in the Chamber earlier, she would have heard a number of interventions. May I invite her to check Hansard? Perhaps she is forgetting that I was in the Chamber. Perhaps now I should ask my question. She will know that there is no direct benefit to Lichfield, because the train does not stop in the area. She will also know, because I gave her a copy of a motion that was passed by Lichfield District Council, that it asks that
“all enabling works for HS2 in Lichfield District should be paused until the notice to proceed to main works…has been approved.”
It has not been approved yet and will not be until December. May I ask her to comment on that and reassure my local council that no works will go on in the district?
I am not sure who is chastised there, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am pleased to see that my hon. Friend is in his place. The notice to proceed and the business case will be in the public domain later this year, which is why we need to have enabling works, so that they support the “pre” work that needs to take place before the line can be built. I know that my hon. Friend loves progress and speed, and he would like our country to be seen as a progressive country that connects cities to cities. He will want to see this line built as fast as possible and he would never want to be held responsible for slowing it down.
The Minister will no doubt be aware, as are other Members, of how often Michael Fabricant likes to refer in this Chamber to the wise words of the Mayor for the West Midlands Combined Authority. Does the Minister think he may be interested to know that when I met the Mayor this morning he was extolling the virtues of HS2, and insisting how important it was for his work and for the benefit of the entire region?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, which gives me an opportunity to put on the record the phenomenal support that Andy Street gives this project. I do not doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield will have to try to deal with that later on.
I am afraid that I am going to have speed on and perhaps not take any more interventions.
As I have said before, the intention is to smash the north-south divide. This line is about progress, opportunity and skilled jobs, and radically improving connectivity between not just London and the midlands, but the midlands and the great cities of the north—it is about connecting eight of our 10 largest cities. This is more growth in the UK economy, more skilled jobs and more opportunities. In particular, these new opportunities will be brought to the midlands and the north earlier than before.
We debated the principle of the Bill thoroughly on Second Reading in January 2018, when we voted overwhelmingly for the Bill and commended it to a special Select Committee. As we know, phase 2a will take HS2 to the north. It is the enabler for phase 2b and the northern powerhouse rail. I must take a moment to thank my hon. Friend James Duddridge, who ran the Committee that oversaw that work on this phase of the Bill. The Committee received 302 petitions, which it had to work through. I apologise for not mentioning him during our earlier debate and I hope he will recognise our recognition of and respect for all the work undertaken by him in chairing that Committee.
As we know the phase 2a Bill will help to take this project even further north and it is the enabler for phase 2b and the northern powerhouse rail. Without this section of the line, we cannot make progress towards a three-hour journey time to Scotland. Colleagues from across the House will know how much support there is for these two projects among business and local authorities.
I have said it before and I will say it again: there is no either/or between the second phase of High Speed 2 and northern powerhouse rail. High Speed 2 is vital to the provision of the network improvements that northern powerhouse rail will build on. I encourage all Members of this House to visit the places benefiting from High Speed 2 to hear the enthusiasm for the project—these include Birmingham, which I have no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield will be visiting soon— and to hear about the ambitious growth strategies at first hand. Leeds intends to use High Speed 2 to almost double the size of its city centre. The east midlands wants to use Toton to attract new homes and jobs; the Toton innovation campus has the potential for up to 10,000 new jobs to be created. Manchester’s continued prosperity can be ensured by High Speed 2 trains calling at Manchester Airport and Manchester Piccadilly. None of that is possible without the support for this legislation today.
This short section of railway will take trains beyond Birmingham, bringing the High Speed 2 network one step closer and unlocking phase 2b and northern powerhouse rail. We must not forget the two bespoke colleges, one in Doncaster and one in Birmingham, which are enabling more skilled young and older people to continue to build for our country. I do believe that we are responsible for bringing economic growth to our regions, and that is exactly what HS2 does, as well as improving capacity and connectivity between our great cities. I do believe we should be steadfast in unlocking the investment this project will bring. I, for one, want to look forward and be ambitious on behalf of our country. I want us to succeed as a nation, on the back of a high-speed, interconnected railway line. I urge you, Madam Deputy Speaker, my colleagues and the rest of the House to help support the next stage of HS2 railway by positively supporting the Third Reading of this Bill. I commend it to the House.
We have had an extensive debate on phase 2a of HS2. Although the Bill is not as robust as the Opposition would have wanted it to be, not least in respect of the accountability and transparency that is needed to make the project succeed, it is so important that we press ahead by investing in vital infrastructure that will benefit not only the midlands but the north and beyond.
We look back with nostalgia and admiration at the Victorian rail infrastructure that has served us for 200 years, but it was a very different story in this place at the time. If one reads the debates in which Members tussled over different routes and projects, it feels like our approach to rail infrastructure has rarely progressed. One of my predecessors as MP for York, George Hudson, took things to the extremes; I assure the House that my dealings seek to achieve consensus and, ultimately, the right infrastructure across the transport network for our long-term future, and to do so transparently.
I formally put on record my thanks to the Clerks who have been so helpful trying to support our efforts to improve the Bill. As ever, we are indebted to their wisdom and advice in ensuring that we can use the mechanisms available to try to improve legislation. I thank all Members who have participated in debates and Committees to ensure that this part of HS2 is given the necessary scrutiny. In particular, I thank my hon. Friends the Members for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) and for Ipswich (Sandy Martin) for their important role on the petitions Committee, and my hon. Friend Matt Rodda, who kindly stepped in for me in Committee when I totally lost my voice.
It is always hard to pass legislation on infrastructure when many of us may not live to see the project’s completion, or may live far from the line; however, HS2 is a vital legacy that we must pass on to the generations to come, because the whole country will benefit from this infrastructure project. We have heard about the power of jobs to transform people’s lives. Whether in respect of building the infrastructure or the inward investment that we will see in towns and cities throughout the country, it is such an important project.
As we connect Birmingham to Crewe, over just 37 miles in phase 2a, confidence can start to build and investment can start to flow into places such as Crewe. My hon. Friend Laura Smith is fighting so hard for that. She will regenerate her community and provide all with new opportunities as a result of the decision taken by the House today. But it does not end there: the rest of the midlands and the north can now be encouraged that they, too, will benefit, as we start the process of debating the next phases, including delivering for Scotland. All we need now is to fully integrate HS2 with the rest of our rail network, to start to see the real benefits.
I am sure the House will not have to wait long, because a Labour Government is in our sights. We will build a public rail service, under the leadership of my hon. Friend Andy McDonald, that is there to serve to towns and cities up and down the country. The power of modern rail services will not only transform communities and people’s life chances, but the scale of investment will enhance our environment as we realise the potential of rail to change how we move goods and people across the land. Let us have confidence that, in getting the arteries right to the midlands and the north, we can restart the heart of the economies and communities that have longed to connect to the transformative power that inward investment and jobs will bring. Labour is about transforming lives, and that is why we will support the Bill today.
Having listened to the Front-Bench speeches from both the Government and the Opposition, I could not disagree with both of them more. This Bill is a travesty. It is an abomination. I heard the Opposition spokesman say just now that it will transform the midlands, providing huge opportunities. I do wish that she would understand from what I said earlier that my constituents most emphatically do not agree with one word that she said—or, for that matter, with what the Minister said, either—because, as far as we are concerned, HS2 is a disaster. It is causing havoc in my constituency, in respect of property ownership, the environment and the economics. The trouble is, as I said earlier, that not a single report is in favour of this monstrosity. This white elephant should be condemned to the rubbish dump.
On the question of highways, let me refer briefly to a meeting that took place only two or three days ago. It was attended by the regional director for Highways England and by my constituents, including the redoubtable Trevor Parkin. The meeting lasted for two hours, and new information emerged. HS2’s detailed borrow-pit report, which was prepared for the National Farmers Union and finalised in April, undermines its claims about the 2,500 missing heavy goods vehicles at Hanchurch, as well as the false information regarding its ability to U-turn HGVs at Yarnfield that HS2 presented to Stone Town Council on
“got a very hard time from the local residents. We asked for the designers (Arup) responsible for the shambolic design work, together with the HS2 person overseeing their work, to be made available for a further meeting, but HS2 stonewalled on this saying that these people did not attend meetings.”
We need the Minister to intervene to ensure that something actually happens. HS2 is not only an administrative disaster, costing a vast amount of money, with far too many people being hopelessly overpaid, but they just simply do not do their jobs properly.
For practical purposes, the question of lorry movements is a matter of gravest concern to all my constituents, as, indeed, it is to my neighbour, my right hon. Friend Mr Paterson.
As far as compensation is concerned, the amount of money made available to recompense people is inadequate. In addition, the way in which the compensation claims have been dealt with is completely unacceptable.
As was said in earlier interventions—my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy and I are completely on the same page on this—the bottom line is that the amount of money that is being spent requires a business case and one has not been provided. I voted for new clause 4 because I had hoped that might give an opportunity for a review, although the Labour party’s proposals would take effect only after Royal Assent.
The legislation needs to be repealed. I say, with respect to Ministers, that it is disgraceful that, in the dying days of this Administration, this Bill should complete its procedure when it has been so severely criticised by so many reports. I will not go into them now; I set them out in the Westminster Hall debate, and Ministers know the ones to which I refer. The bottom line is that this is not the time to put this Bill through and to give it the final seal of approval from the House of Commons. This should have been deferred until the review, promised by one of the candidates for the Conservative leadership who I hope will become Prime Minister, has had the opportunity to grapple with the terrible anxieties and difficulties that have been inflicted on my constituents. I condemn this Bill. It is a disaster; it is a white elephant; and it deserves to be sent to the graveyard.