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 Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), Parliamentary Under-Secretary 4:17 pm, 14th April 2016

I will be pleased to provide that. As I said in my opening comments, the actual HS2 figure was 0.14% of GDP, but I will of course write on that. I thank my noble friend Lord Attlee for his intervention. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is right to point out the importance of conventions and the key role of this House as a revising Chamber. The best thing I can suggest is that it is right that we provide the detail requested. I say again that I will write to noble Lords to clarify any pending issue on this. Perhaps I may move on. I will add the caveat now that I added at the start: in the interests of time, I certainly will not get through all the questions put but, as this is such an important issue, I will write to noble Lords.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised the issue of rolling stock. I assure them that no decisions have yet been made on the form of rolling stock that will be run on HS2 but I will keep the House informed in this respect. The noble Lord also raised links between Euston and St Pancras. I refer him to the study that the Government published on this very subject on 30 November last year. It set out the plans for a pedestrian link between the two stations.

The noble Lords, Lord Bradshaw and Lord Berkeley, raised the issue of the Euston express. I respect their passion for this idea—a concept presented to the Commons Select Committee but rejected by it. The key issues raised by this proposal were its detrimental impact on existing rail services on the west coast main line, that it does not provide the same level of capacity and that it would extend the construction period by around two years and add further costs to the scheme.

The noble Lords also referred to the order in which the petitions will be taken. I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, spoke to the Motions in his main contribution. For completeness, if I may, the Committee of Selection will appoint noble Lords to the HS2 Select Committee. It is for that Select Committee itself to determine the order in which to hear petitions. Given the scale of the task before it, it is only right that the Select Committee has the opportunity to consider how it wants to organise its business. I do not think it appropriate for the House to dictate the order in which the Select Committee hears petitions. That said, although it is for the committee to determine such matters, we would propose that petitions relating to Camden, for example—something which came up a number of times—should be taken following the Summer Recess. My understanding is that the London Borough of Camden does not currently want to be heard until the issues it has raised have been fully discussed.

The second Motion relates to independent advice on railway issues. I come back to a point that has been raised about the role of the two Select Committees. It is important again to put on record that we must acknowledge the distinction between the role of a Select Committee for hybrid Bills and a departmental or topical Select Committee. The latter has a broad remit and carries out inquiries usually on its own initiative. It is therefore normal and accepted that they would request independent advice and opinion from experts. A hybrid Bill Select Committee has a different purpose and acts in a quasi-judicial capacity, hearing evidence from both petitioners and promoters to reach a decision on the information presented. It is the responsibility of both promoters and petitioners to present their evidence, including that of expert witnesses on the subject where they feel it necessary, in a way that is readily understandable to the committee. To grant the HS2 Select Committee the power to appoint independent experts for advice would go against this convention. It is an important principle that the committee, like a court, considers the evidence presented to it in public, in accordance with the rules of the House, and this should not change. I trust that provides further detail on the Government’s view on the two Motions that have been tabled and are in front of us today.

I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, and other noble Lords for their support of HS2. I have already talked about the importance of moving forward on this. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry, among other noble Lords, raised issues around the environment. In particular, the right reverend Prelate raised the issue of burial grounds. I accept it is one of great sensitivity, and of course any human remains affected by phase 1 will be treated with dignity, respect and care. Two undertakings have been concluded in respect of the treatment of and approaches to human remains and monuments, which include a requirement to consult with the Archbishops’ Council. I of course fully understand and agree with the points on community and business engagement which the right reverend Prelate and others raised. We have undertaken extensive consultation and continue to do so through community events and direct contact where and when appropriate.

My noble friend Lord MacGregor brought some of his own personal magic to the debate. I assure him that HS2 is in discussions with the Stephenson Way Group and is aware of its issues, which I hope will be addressed without much further recourse. The noble Lords, Lord Prescott, Lord Lea and Lord Liddle, raised issues of northern devolution and connectivity. I will just summarise the Government’s position: investment is clear in the northern powerhouse, and we want to correct the historical underinvestment and imbalance which has occurred. That is why, as well as devolving power to the north, we are investing a further £13 billion in northern transport, including on improving road access to our ports in both Liverpool and the Humber.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and my noble friends Lord Framlingham and Lady Pidding all raised issues concerning the environment. In the interests of time, I will write specifically to them on that. Other noble Lords raised similar issues and I assure them that I will cover those in detail in a letter. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, talked about woodlands and was of course right to point out that once ancient woodlands are gone, they are irreplaceable. She talked of some innovative practices which are being undertaken. Those are certainly being encouraged further to reduce any impacts, and mitigation of environmental issues is being looked at extensively. Again, in the interests of time I will write to her to pick up on the outstanding questions.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lea, for his supportive comments. He responded to the noble Lord, Lord Rowe- Beddoe, about the Government’s response to the issues raised by the Lords Economic Affairs Committee. I remind noble Lords that the committee reported on 25 March last year, and the Government responded in July. Certainly every issue that the committee raised was taken point by point. After reviewing his comments, I shall write to him if I can provide any other detail. I assure all noble Lords that the cost of the full HS2 network, revised at 2015 costs, is £55.7 billion. As I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Birt, that is equivalent to 0.14% of GDP in 2016. We believe that our plans have the right balance in terms of journey times and delivering value for money, and a full HS2 Y network will deliver the benefit-cost ratio that we have set out.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, pointed to certain concerns he has about HS2, particularly about the benefits beyond London. Some 60% of the benefits of the full HS2 network are generated by trips that originate outside London and the south-east, and he will also be aware that many of the jobs created will relate to HS2 outside London and the south-east.

The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, raised issues about additional provision 3, as proposed by the promoter in the other place, which dealt with construction impacts in Camden and Euston station. Again, in the interests of time, I shall write to the noble Lord about that.

I once again thank all noble Lords for their contributions this afternoon to what has been an extensive and expert debate. It is important, as noble Lords have requested, that clarity is provided on the detail of the Select Committee. That is an important point for us all to consider. Equally, although there are some reservations that I take on board, the general sense within your Lordships’ House is of supporting a project that the Government believe is important in tackling capacity and other issues that our railways face, to ensure that they are brought into the 21st century. This project will create jobs, support growth and help to rebalance our economy. As many noble Lords have acknowledged, the Bill is not just about delivering a new runway—I mean, a new railway. That was a Freudian slip. That is what happens, four and a half hours in. I am reminded that I have a Question coming up on that very issue, and the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, may well contribute to it. Let me put it straight for the record—I mean a new railway. It is an investment towards a better future and now is the time to secure it.

On a final point, because it would be remiss of me not to, I would be delighted to take up the invitation of my noble friend Lord Fowler, who said that we could travel down to Wimbledon together. I shall be travelling up and then travelling down with him. I assure him that, given the challenges that people face, not just in Wimbledon but throughout our networks, whether they require disabled access or are young mothers with children, young fathers with children, or families with young children, as I have myself, it is important that we provide and facilitate access to our stations network.

I thank noble Lords once again for their extensive and expert contributions, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Select Committee.