Non-Disclosure Agreements

Part of High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:23 pm on 15th July 2019.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 8:23 pm, 15th July 2019

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 23 April. The meeting also covered the question of HS2 Ltd’s unsafe and unacceptable proposals for changes to the Hanchurch interchange and the A519.

On 3 July, there was also a meeting in Hanchurch village hall on Whitmore Road with the residents of Newcastle Road, which is on the A519. HS2 Ltd had nothing new to say or to offer, and I am told that its four representatives

“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.