High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:17 pm on 14th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 4:17 pm, 14th April 2016

I checked with the Deputy Speaker to see whether I could come in after the completion of the Second Reading but he advised that I should interrupt now and ask my question. Therefore, I am following on from my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe. The description the Minister gave before he got to the alternative provision arrangements was that that was a matter for the House to determine, not the Government. I would be grateful if, when he writes to my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, he could specify exactly where the precedent is that he is relying on for that. Presumably these words are not his but words of the House and the House authorities, and obviously we would like to check chapter and verse.

I might well wish to return to this later but it is my understanding that there are several precedents which suggest that what he read out was not correct; that previously in two major Bills—the Crossrail Bill and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill—additional provisions were considered by the second House; and that on occasions, although intimations about the powers have been made, the general position appears to be that it is possible, as my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe suggested, that with an instruction the committee could consider and recommend an alternative provision. It is such an important point because the more the Minister narrows the position, the more difficult it will be for those who have suggestions to make to the Select Committee to be able to do so within the petitioning process as he has described it.

In addition, this does not seem to accord with what has been said to the public. He might wish to reflect on this when he replies. The clerks of the House have done a very good job in reaching out to those who wish to petition your Lordships’ House. There is a petitioning kit, which is a novel innovation, but it is certainly worth looking at because it is very informative. It says that,

“individuals, businesses and organisations specially and directly affected by a hybrid bill are given the opportunity to ‘petition’ either or both Houses of Parliament to seek to mitigate the effects of the bill on themselves, their business or their property”.

There is no qualification in that. That is a straight statement that mitigation can be provided. The kit explains what a petition is and says:

“A Select Committee … will be appointed to consider your petition and any other petitions deposited against the Bill … They have the power to amend the Bill, but not reject it”.

I do not understand how he can arrive at the position he has just articulated, given that and what has been said publicly. Without wishing to prolong the proceedings of the House, a lot of what has been said today has been about the confidence that people have in the House. We are in great danger of losing that.