Amendment 10

High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 8th December 2020.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb:

Moved by Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb

10: After Clause 58, insert the following new Clause—“Impact on ancient woodland(1) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report every six months throughout the period in which the scheduled works take place, detailing the impact on ancient woodlands.(2) This report must include—(a) direct impacts including, but not Ltd to, the loss of ancient and veteran trees and felling of trees designated as ancient woodland;(b) a comparison of actual works carried out on ancient woodlands, including those covered by additional planning permissions, and works detailed within the Act; and (c) indirect impacts including, but not Ltd to, noise, dust, vibrations and hydrological or ancient woodland soil contamination.(3) Upon publication of each report a four-week period is instigated for interested parties to respond and make recommendations for improvements which must be addressed in the subsequent report.”Member’s explanatory statement This amendment seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State provides regular reports to Parliament on the effect of the HS2 Project on ancient woodlands.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I find myself in the slightly unusual position of introducing an amendment that I did not have anything to do with. I signed up to support the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on this, and about 10 minutes later she told me that she was withdrawing her name because she had been made an offer that she could not refuse from the Minister. I am carrying on with the amendment because it is an exceptionally good one. The Minister has already written to everybody saying that the Government will accept Amendment 13, but it is worth describing the difference between the two amendments. Amendment 10 is a pretty good amendment and something to work towards, even if it is not accepted today.

There are three main differences between the two amendments: first, Amendment 10 would require a report every six months, while in Amendment 13, the reporting would be annual; secondly, “indirect impacts” are explicitly mentioned in Amendment 10, while there is no mention of them in Amendment 13; thirdly, Amendment 10 would require a report to Parliament by the Secretary of State, with a four-week consultation period, while Amendment 13 would require no consultation at all. Noble Lords can see that these are quite big differences, although the amendments are along the same lines.

I will describe them a bit more. On six-monthly reporting versus annual reporting, six-monthly reporting would obviously allow closer observation of what exactly is going on. You could follow issues as they arise, as opposed to trying to mop them up, say, a year later. It also allows lessons to be learned, which is not always easy, and would allow those lessons to be learned quickly and before the same season of works starts the following year. That would be quite a big bonus. Also, the report would be to Parliament itself.

HS2 Ltd does not formally recognise the indirect impacts of the development on ancient woodland. I had to find out exactly what “indirect impacts” means. It is the sort of the thing that would be near any construction site, such as dust, debris, light, noise and that sort of thing—the sort of thing that nobody, whether human, animal or insect, likes near them. In fact, it has quite an impact on ancient woodland. It disturbs bats, nesting birds and all sorts of creatures that like the dark and thrive in it.

The ancient tree strategies contain lists of the woods directly affected, but no such list exists for the woods that HS2 considers indirectly affected. The Government’s forestry policy document, Keepers of Time, explicitly recognises the need for indirect effects to be identified. For HS2 not to do this is very concerning.

Furthermore, correspondence between HS2 and Natural England in 2014 clearly showed that Natural England considered that HS2 Ltd had failed to assess adequately the indirect impact of the original scheme on ancient woodland. The Woodland Trust has kept a list of the woods that it considers indirectly affected; it gave this information to HS2 Ltd in every consultation response that it sent. It allows comparison between what is happening on the ground and what is being proposed by HS2.

Current analysis shows that 10 ancient woodlands will be directly affected by the phase 2a works and that a further seven ancient woodlands will be indirectly affected; in phase 1, there were about 29 in that category. Each of these woods has been assessed on a case-by-case basis and not by drawing an arbitrary line on a map, as HS2 Ltd has done. Sufficient clarity on this would enable further assessment of whether the project is proceeding as planned or is in fact more environmentally damaging than HS2 Ltd admits.

By not publicly accepting that some ancient woodlands are indirectly affected, it is impossible to have an open conversation with HS2 Ltd about these woods and what measures it could put in place to ameliorate, minimise or eliminate the damage that it might be doing. Amendment 10 would enable that conversation to happen and would clearly demonstrate the wider impact of this scheme on both the natural environment and, potentially, humans.

Finally, after the report to Parliament, a four-week consultation period would enable any new and troubling developments to be given an airing so that they could be addressed and reported on in further reports. It would also provide an official mechanism for the centralised collection of public information about what the works look like on the ground compared to what was written in the various environmental statements. At present, this information is gathered in an ad hoc fashion, making it difficult to obtain a clear and accurate picture.

Overall, Amendment 10 is stricter, clearer and— I think—more likely to be accepted by the general public, who do actually worry about bats, nesting birds and insects. And they do worry about the impact dust, debris and general construction mess has on their immediate environment and on ancient woodlands. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 5:00 pm, 8th December 2020

My Lords, I will speak on both Amendments 10, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and 13 in my name. They both reflect on the need for better reporting from the HS2 project on its impact on ancient woodlands. I give my apologies to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for leaving her holding the baby of her amendment, but she has done a grand job of that.

On my Amendment 13, an annual report on ancient woodland impacts, published by the HS2 undertaker, would enable Parliament and interested parties to see clearly the actual impact on ancient woodlands, and it would allow comparisons with the estimations of ancient woodland damage that had been indicated by the undertaker at the time of the publication of the Bill or in any additional planning applications. It has frequently been difficult to extract such information from the undertaker, and what happens on the ground is sometimes very different from what was indicated at the outset. The report would enable learning to take place and be recorded. That would help reduce the damage to ancient woodlands across successive works. Also, it has the value that it covers all phases of HS2.

This amendment also provides for the Secretary of State to be able to require such other information as he may specify. I urge the Minister to explain how such reporting would operate and what requirements would be laid upon the undertaker to strengthen that reporting duty as outlined in Amendment 13. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has already done a good job on outlining what improvements need to be made, and I am asking for those assurances to be given by the Minister to ensure that the more modest amendment I am putting forward would, in fact, deliver the same impact as the original one.

I want to seek assurances from the Minister on four things. Firstly, I seek that the reports will be provided to the HS2 ecology review group for consideration so it can properly assess their findings, since it is the expert group supporting this work. Secondly, I seek that the reports would, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has said, consider both direct and indirect impacts, covering noise, dust, vibration, hydrological impacts and soil contamination. These can have a major impact on the biodiversity of ancient woodlands and the viability of ancient woods. Thirdly, I seek that the reports would be specifically required to outline how variations in delivery are different from any original published intentions. Fourthly, I want to seek assurances that the Government will respond formally to issues raised in each report and indicate what changes to future practice would be required from the undertaker. Several of these assurances are laid out in Amendment 10 and have been well put by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.

I do intend to move my Amendment 13 when it is called in its place, but, ideally, the Minister will accept my amendment as she has indicated today, by email, that she will. I hope she can also give the further assurances I have just sought, because that would make the reporting duty meet the requirements more effectively, as well as the requirements the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and I have sought.

I have observed that over the past 18 months the Minister has been on a kind of journey towards greater understanding of ancient woodland. Indeed, I detect almost a growing feeling on her part for ancient woodland and its importance. I am confident that we will pervert her yet. However, for the moment, I thank her and her team, and the HS2 Minister, Andrew Stephenson, for rolling up their sleeves on this particular issue. I hope that she will accept my amendment and give me the assurances that I am seeking.

Photo of Lord Haselhurst Lord Haselhurst Conservative

My Lords, I have to say that I was thinking more of the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, than the softer one, if I may say that—not in any derogatory sense—tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I am entirely in favour of trees and would not want anything that I say to leave your Lordships to think otherwise.

Wanton destruction of ancient woodland or, for that matter, indirect damage to it is a deplorable prospect. However, ancient trees and forests, by definition, have grown without any expectation that they would find themselves in the way of such things as road or rail and ought not to be a permanent block on modern need. We should respect antiquity but not become prisoners of the past. It is inevitable that a high-speed railway needs to be laid straight, which makes it very difficult to plan a course for it that avoids unfortunate clashes. It is therefore a matter of trying to strike the right balance between modern and future needs and what has been gifted to us from the past.

My impression of HS2 is derived largely from close sight of its representatives during the proceedings of the Select Committee. I certainly did not find them to be unaccommodating of many of the arguments put forward in criticism, or qualified criticism, of the project. However, HS2 has to be warned—I hope that it has learnt something from what it came up against during phase 1—and watched over.

HS2 has been reasonably generous regarding the number of trees that it is prepared to plant to counter- balance those that may be lost. As regards the concerns about the indirect effect on trees, as described, expert opinion varies. Some of those trees and the wildlife that frequents them are more resilient than perhaps everyone would believe. It is possible to see this argument against the background that we have become an increasingly tree-loving nation. The Government have provided encouragingly large funds for the spread of trees throughout the country. Newspaper campaigns have been run to encourage everyone, particularly young people at school, to have regard for this aspect of the environment. Even Network Rail has a programme of tree planting, although it may well be closer to urban areas—nothing wrong with that—than going through rural Staffordshire or rural Cheshire. So, I think we can be encouraged by the fact that it is not going to be an easy ride for HS2 and its contractors simply to do what they want: the public are watching them, as, indeed, Parliament should.

We do not want to be at the level I thought of when reading the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, where we could risk, by frequency of inspection and reporting, having bands of inspectors lurking behind every tree. Yes, there has to be continuing oversight by Parliament, and not just by annual review. I suspect that Members in both Houses are going to ask questions and have short debates, including adjournment debates, and pepper the Order Paper with queries if they are aware of matters going wrong. My noble friend Lord Randall has demonstrated that all eyes, and there are many eyes, are peering in the direction of what is going on and whether those in charge of HS2 are conducting themselves in a proper manner.

I thought six-monthly reports was overdoing it; I am prepared to be accommodating towards annual reports, which will be a focus. In fact, there needs to be more frequent vigilance and I am sure that noble Lords and honourable Members of the House of Commons will continue to provide it.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Liberal Democrat 5:15 pm, 8th December 2020

My Lords, as with the last amendment, when the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, spoke, I shall speak from experience. I was involved in all three stages of the route from London to the Channel Tunnel, which subsequently became HS1. We were subject during that time to a ferocious barrage of quite unpleasant attack. A mild phrase, “the rape of the garden of England”, was used, but many less pleasant things were said, and threats of violence were made to the people constructing it.

I make this point because later, much later, I became acquainted with a Labour MP who represented a constituency in Kent adjacent to HS1, and I asked him “How many complaints do you get about noise, visual intrusion and the like from HS1?”, all of which were made great play of during the inquiries. He looked at me a bit quizzically and said, “Well, I don’t get any, but I get sackfuls of mail about the noise, the dirt and the pollution from the M20.” I think we have to bear in mind that these construction sites, as the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, said, have to be unpleasant while work is happening but do not have to be unpleasant afterwards. The provisions that have been made by HS2 in terms of planting trees, accommodating various animals and other things go a long way to make up for the environmental damage that it is doing. I am quite sure that the HS2 railway, when it is built, will be a quiet and efficient railway and a much better neighbour than many people find who are have motorways and new roads built close to them.

Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative

My Lords, I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is right. I would hate to see aggressive or arrogant behaviour on the part of anybody.

I pay tribute to three noble Baronesses. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, has a short fuse, but a wonderful way of exciting our affection and admiration for her campaigning skills. She has total belief in what she says, even when she is wrong. I really do congratulate her on the way she has promoted the cause of ancient woodlands, done with a burning sincerity and not a little good humour—because she is very good- humoured.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, has as much knowledge on this subject as anyone I know. She tabled a more modest amendment. I have a certain preference for the first one, but hers was a sensible amendment.

Here is where I pay tribute to my noble friend on the Front Bench; it is very good to be able to do so in a wholly unreserved way. I was delighted when I received the email this afternoon telling me she had a good mind to accept the amendment. It is good to be able to support the Government unreservedly on anything at present. Therefore, I thank her very much indeed.

I want to add to what was said by my noble friend Lord Randall in moving Amendment 9. I do not want to talk about those in charge of security—rather, those who are higher up in HS2. There have been examples of very arrogant behaviour towards people whose homes were threatened. I know of a case of a public servant who gave unstintingly to his county and was badgered and bullied when it came to the compulsory purchase of his much-loved family home. I do not want to identify him by saying any more.

It is important that those in charge of driving this great project—and while it does not have my unreserved support, I do believe that it is a great project—display a degree of sensitivity. I am delighted we are putting this amendment in to the Bill, but it is up to those higher up in HS2 to ensure that they handle issues and people with a degree of understanding. It is for the Minister to keep a beady eye on them all the time. When people are effectively driven out of their homes, seeing the countryside they love and in which they have lived—in some cases for generations—despoiled, although it might be true what the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has said, that when it is all over and done with, it will be quiet, or quieter than people fear, nevertheless something will have gone for ever. It is important those in charge of this project are conscious of the wider public responsibility. I hope the Minister will have a gentle word with them on that subject.

I warmly welcome what is being done this afternoon. Again, I am most grateful to the three noble Baronesses.

Photo of Lord Carrington Lord Carrington Crossbench

My Lords, I declare my interests as a landowner, as set out in the register. I am also directly affected by HS2 south of Birmingham. I had not intended to speak on these amendments, but the groupings changed at some point, and my name seems to have been retained. Now, on further research, I think it worth making some basic observations.

HS2 claims that only 43 out of 52,000 ancient woodlands will be affected, and 80% of the 43 will remain intact. Therefore, we are talking about just 0.005% of ancient woodlands. We should also remember that, as we heard last week, some of these ancient woodlands are far from being ancient. I happen to own and manage such a designated wood. It was owned by the Forestry Commission, which felled and replanted it almost entirely with Corsican pine shortly after the last war. The wood failed: Corsican pine was the wrong tree to grow on heavy Oxford clay. I have replanted it with hardwood, and it is thriving, together with all the flora and fauna. I did not need a special report to do this—I just got on with it. HS2 will have a similar responsibility and opportunity.

My real comment is that although these amendments are well intentioned and harmless, they are unnecessary and a further bureaucratic exercise, something that most woodland owners and managers dread. The compilers and others involved in these suggested reports would be better occupied in actually managing these woodlands on the ground with planting, weeding, pruning and pest control. Erecting hides to help manage the barking deer population as well as removing squirrel dreys with poles and setting humane traps for this worst of pests would be a more constructive use of everyone’s time.

Having said this, I would certainly not oppose Amendment 13 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, but I believe that Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, is a little over the top.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, I am pleased to follow on from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, because he picked up on an issue that I raised in the previous debate on this. Ancient woodland does not necessarily mean ancient trees—they are of variable quality. However, of course, they include a number of fine pieces of woodland that have rich ecosystems because they have been on that site for a very long time.

I am pleased that the Minister has indicated that she will accept Amendment 13. The previous debate was characterised by very vigorous discussion between Members of this House with a considerable knowledge of environmental issues. There was an obvious level of disagreement among the experts and, therefore, Amendment 13 enables this not to become the subject of the debate. One assumes that the reports concerned will follow on from expert advice.

I hope that these annual reports will not be yet another bureaucratic process but a mechanism to enable public scrutiny of how HS2 is performing in practice and to ensure that there is progress and improvement in standards of land and woodland management as the project progresses. This is a massive project and there is no excuse for getting anything other than the most expert advice on woodland issues. In financial terms, the cost of woodland replanting and improvement is very small indeed in comparison with the costs of the engineering aspects of the project.

I will repeat a question I have asked before and come back to a topic I have dealt with before. Our rich environments—areas of outstanding environmental importance—are not just limited to ancient woodlands: wetlands and meadows can be every bit as important in terms of environmental and ecological significance.

I ask the Minister, given that the amendment that she has indicated that she will accept is a very gentle amendment and will hardly stretch either the Government or HS2 in terms of complying with it, whether she would consider extending the reports concerned to include other aspects of environmental significance, such as wetlands and meadows. If we look at subsection (2)(b) of the proposed new clause, we see that it says that the reports might include

“such other information as may be specified by the Secretary of State.”

So I invite the Minister to consider whether those annual reports indicated as part of this amendment should be wider than just reports on woodland. They should be environmental reports in the general sense of that term, because, while the importance of the woodland is obviously significant, so are the other aspects of our very outstanding countryside.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 5:30 pm, 8th December 2020

My Lords, I do not intend to detain the House for long. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone on achieving a positive result for her amendment on an issue that she has pursued with great tenacity and persuasiveness, not least during the passage of this Bill. I hope that the Government will also feel able to provide the assurances that my noble friend is seeking. It is very helpful that the Government are accepting the amendment in the name of my noble friend, with its requirement for the nominated undertaker to prepare and publish annual reports about the impact of the construction of each phase of High Speed 2 on ancient woodland. Hopefully, this will raise the profile of the actual adverse impact on ancient woodlands of the construction of HS2 and, by doing so, help achieve a better result as far as the protection of, or damage limitation to, such woodlands is concerned than would otherwise be the case.

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, there are two amendments in this group, the first in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, to which I cannot agree, and the second in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, which, if she chooses to move it, I will be pleased to be able to support. Turning to the first amendment, this might at first glance appear to be very similar to the second amendment—indeed, some noble Lords have referred to it as being “soft” or “gentle”. I would like to reassure noble Lords that Amendment 13 is not in any way less good. From my perspective, I would like to highlight the important differences, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. In putting my perspective on them, I hope that noble Lords will agree—and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, in particular will agree—that their fears are unfounded, and that Amendment 13 is certainly a very good amendment indeed.

First, Amendment 10 calls for the frequency of reporting to be every six months, whereas Amendment 13 proposes that it be annually. I will explain a bit later why that is appropriate. Secondly, the amendment restricts the reporting required to only those works authorised in this Bill—phase 2a—where we believe, and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, believes as well, that all HS2 phases could be and should be included in this report.

Thirdly, in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the report required is narrowed by the definitions of direct and indirect impacts. Again, I will go on to explain how that will be covered in the report that we propose, because we believe that we can go broader than that. Finally, there is a difference with regard to the requirement for a mini-consultation associated with each report.

I do not believe that these differences augment the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb; rather, they restrict it and place limitations on the value that more reporting on the impacts on ancient woodland could bring. On this basis, and given the knowledge that I am able to support Amendment 13, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, will withdraw her amendment.

Turning to Amendment 13, one of the aims of the HS2 project is always to try to reduce its impact on ancient woodland. As has been said before, some impact is inevitable. The environmental statement gives an assessment of the reasonable worst-case scenario. Although impacts on ancient woodland cannot be fully compensated, losses will be addressed through a range of measures, as I have outlined previously.

Through extensive engagement on phase 2a, HS2 Ltd has already found ways to protect some veteran trees which were previously expected to be lost. Furthermore, through the redesign of embankments in the Whitmore Wood area, HS2 Ltd has been able to commit to some reduction in impact on the ancient woodland there. Wherever possible, the Government will continue to push HS2 Ltd to go further on this matter.

I am so grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for her engagement on this matter; she brings vast knowledge and experience. I recognise that her amendment may not go quite as far as she would ideally have liked, but I hope she will agree that the outcome is a significant step forward. Her amendment places a requirement on HS2 Ltd to publish reports annually on the impacts on ancient woodland across the whole of HS2, not only phase 2a. This has the benefit of committing to reporting on phase 1 of the project as well as phase 2a, and, of course, on future phases. The annual nature of reporting fits well within the life cycle of trees, as the works undertaken follow the seasonal pattern of trees, as required by other legislation. But just because the reporting is annual, it does not mean that the monitoring is annual, or that lessons learned are put in place on an annual cycle—it can be more frequent than that.

Furthermore, by not defining the term “impacts”, HS2 Ltd will report on a wide range of issues relating to ancient woodlands, including those that could potentially be caused by non-compliance with the code of construction practice. The reporting will include measures undertaken relating to breaches of assurances for ancient woodland and lessons learned, should they occur—and, of course, we all hope that they do not.

The phase 2a draft code of construction practice sets out the management measures that HS2 Ltd will be required to follow during construction of the scheme. This includes measures designed to control and prevent the impacts on which noble Lords have raised specific concerns, including the protection of habitats such as ancient woodland, and the control of dust, water quality, noise, vibration and lighting. I believe that these are the sorts of indirect impacts sought by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb.

But, of course, there is more. There are also specific measures designed to minimise adverse ecological effects, including: developing a programme of ecological surveys to be undertaken prior to and during construction, including on bats; the relocation and translocation of species, soil and plants; the reinstatement of any areas of temporary habitat loss; restoration and replacement planting, for example of trees, hedgerows, shrubs and grassland; and using by-products of construction to enhance mitigation provisions, for example using felled trees to provide dead-wood habitats. There is also a requirement to consult with Natural England, the Environment Agency, local wildlife trusts and with relevant planning authorities prior to and during construction.

By committing HS2 Ltd to report on non-compliance with the measures set out in the code of construction practice, we are ensuring that all these impacts are captured and are not limited to the narrower definition of impacts in the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. Further, the reporting will include the variance between what ancient woodland the environmental statement has assessed will be lost or impacted by HS2 and what actually occurs. The environmental statement is a reasonable worst-case scenario; in effect, it is an educated estimate of the impact. I hope very much that reporting on the actual outcome in comparison to the baseline in the environmental statement will have a positive impact on helping future programmes and projects improve their assessments for their own environmental statements and reporting.

I will go further. I am pleased to commit HS2 Ltd to reporting on the volume of metres cubed of ancient woodland soils that have been translocated, and to reporting on the number of hectares of ancient woodland compensation and restoration that have been included in the detailed design of the scheme. I am also pleased to commit the company to reporting on the number of hectares of ancient woodland creation and restoration delivered through all HS2 funds that deliver woodland creation. The intention is to publish the ancient woodland impact reports in the annual environmental report. Ancient woodland mitigation and impacts are discussed in the ecology review group.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, tried her luck in seeing whether we could go further on wetlands and meadows. Of course we recognise the importance of those environments so, if she is in agreement, I will write to her on the steps being taken to make sure that those impacts are also minimised.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for Amendment 13, and for taking me on a journey. I am not quite at the same point as she is on it, but I am not quite where I used to be. I hope that she will move her amendment when the time comes, and it will give me great pleasure to support it.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, which has been quite interesting for me as well. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, that I am absolutely thrilled to be left holding the baby. It is a beautiful baby and I am honoured to do so.

I found the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, to be appalling. I was quite staggered to hear him say things like we must not be held prisoners of the past. Images came to mind of students pulling down statues of slave owners and I wonder if he supports those as well. It is absolutely fantastic if he does. He made comments about how the railway must be straight. It does if trains are going at 250 miles an hour, which is the planned speed for it. Of course, the railway will not do that at first—it will be 225 mph or something—but is still exponentially far less environmentally friendly at that sort of speed. Yes, it has to be a straight railway line because it cannot go around corners, which means that the line will go through a lot of extremely valuable land.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, talked about replacement trees. I congratulate them on wanting replacement trees, but there is also the fact that in the drought of summer 2018, tens of thousands of trees that HS2 Ltd had planted died. It said that it was cheaper to replace them than to water then, which means that 89,000 trees died and were replaced with, again, small trees. What is needed as a replacement is large trees; if you have to keep replacing them, you will keep on getting small trees. I would argue that HS2 is not entirely reliable about planting its trees.

As usual, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, was extremely kind to me, apart from the comment about my short fuse, which is sadly true. I am glad that he likes Amendment 10, which is a credit from him and I thank him for it. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on planting hardwoods instead of pines. I am not sure that I liked his description of Amendment 10 as “well intentioned and harmless”. I would like to think it is tough and radical. I also congratulate him on pronouncing my name correctly, which many Peers do not.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about the rich ecosystem that exists in ancient woods. That is the whole point: it is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate that when such biospheres are very precious. This is not just about preserving the past; it is about making sure that our whole environment stays healthy. Sometimes we do not know, until we have lost them, what the precious things we have do overall. I am also glad that she talked about wetlands and meadows, which of course are just as important. Had there been amendments concerning them, I would have supported them fully.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, congratulated the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on her incredibly important work on this. I thank the Minister. It was good that she talked about direct and indirect impacts. That was valuable, but I am not clear how the lessons learned will be dealt with by the Government and am not sure if the Minister is able to let us know. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 10.

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees

Would the Minister care to respond at this point? She will do so later.

Amendment 10 withdrawn.

Amendment 11 not moved.

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees 5:45 pm, 8th December 2020

We come to the group consisting of Amendment 12. I remind noble Lords that Members, other than the mover and the Minister, may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division should make that clear in the debate.