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.