First, I point out that the Minister may have inadvertently misled the House, because he said earlier from the Dispatch Box that a vote for the amendment of my hon. Friend Yvonne Fovargue would be fatal for the Bill. I do not think that that would be the case given that the Bill has passed Second Reading. Perhaps he could correct that later for the record.
Gavin Newlands has outlined the Scottish Government’s position. The Opposition also believe that the Golborne link would free up capacity on the west coast main line for passengers and freight, and would maximise services that can travel at high speed between London and Scotland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield pointed out, the significance of that was set out in the January 2022 update to the HS2 phase 2b business case.
We should have been informed in the House that the Golborne link was likely to be cancelled, but we actually learned about it in April when the media reported that the 1922 committee chairman, Sir Graham Brady had been assured by the Transport Secretary in private that it would be scrapped. That builds further on the excellent points that were not quite cynical, but were sharply made by my hon. Friend Graham Stringer. It is important that as many parts of the UK as possible reap the long-term benefits. Without the link, there will be a bottleneck on the already busy west coast main line.
The Government have said that we should give them time to propose alternatives now that they have decided to scrap the link, but surely they should have come up with those excellent alternatives before taking the current option off the table. The amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield is not fatal to the Bill and does not prevent us from deciding not to progress with the Golborne link in Committee or at a later date once all the Government’s proposals have been fully considered and compared against the Golborne link. As the Government’s proposals have not yet been published, or as is likely, even fully considered by the Government, we simply do not know what those alternatives will be or when they will be proposed.
If the Government are developing proposals at the rate at which they have been working on the annual rail network enhancements pipeline update, we could be waiting for decades—if they ever come at all. We know that the Government have a track record of promising rail projects that never actually transpire. I am getting quite sceptical that we will ever see an alternative to the Golborne link, but I hope that the Minister will allay my concerns.
This is the important point: the only reason that the Opposition would support the Golborne link not proceeding is if there is an excellent alternative proposal. I hope that I am proved wrong. The Government’s motion binds the Committee’s hands unnecessarily and prematurely. Surely, we should allow the Committee to undertake its work and then decide how best to link the west coast main line to HS2.