Engagement with communities living and working along the route

High-Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 8th March 2016.

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The Nominated Undertaker must have regard to commitments and undertakings given to the London Borough of Camden and any other relevant party to engage and consult with the communities who live and work along the line of route.—

This new clause would require the Nominated Undertaker to engage meaningfully with communities living and working along the London-West Midlands route.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 11:15 am, 8th March 2016

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

There is only so much disappointment that an individual can take. I thought that I had been pretty persuasive. Nevertheless, can I have a go with another one? I trust that this will be relatively straightforward—I live in hope.

The new clause calls on the nominated undertaker to conduct meaningful engagement with communities living and working along the London-west midlands route. It is self-explanatory. It simply requires the nominated undertaker to have regard to commitments and undertakings given to the London Borough of Camden and any other relevant party to engage and consult with the communities along the route.

There are two points to make. First, there has been comprehensive and in-depth engagement with communities thus far, through the good offices of the excellent Select Committee and that exhaustive process of listening to the petitions and requests for amendments, ameliorations and compensations. The new clause would require the nominated undertaker to engage consistently and continuously with such communities once the work was under way. The hope is that that would provide continuous reassurance to those communities that, even though HS2 has passed through all its necessary legislative processes, their concerns still rank with the promoter, the nominated undertaker and, indeed, the Secretary of State, and that there will be mechanisms for those communities to engage continuously with the promoter and others, so that any concerns that arise in the course of the construction or any opportunities that arise that require further attention are indeed given that attention and those concerns or opportunities will not be ignored or lost.

Secondly, with regard to the commitments and undertakings given to the London Borough of Camden and others, the new clause would go a long way towards embedding those undertakings and commitments in the programme for the entire duration of construction and operation, and would mean that there was a statutory confirmation that those commitments and undertakings have the force of law and must be properly regarded and observed.

I trust that this new clause is not considered contentious and can be agreed. I invite the Minister to confirm that he is agreeable to such a reasonable new clause, which is entirely consistent with his own comments to date and with the assurances given by the promoter.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The hon. Gentleman says that there is only so much disappointment that he can take. I hope, in that regard, that he has started to prepare himself for the 2020 general election.

The new clause would introduce a requirement for something that the promoter is already obliged to do. As part of the development of the scheme and the Select Committee process, we have provided Camden with assurances on engagement with communities. Those assurances will be binding on the nominated undertaker. As with all assurances, the Secretary is State is accountable to Parliament should they not be delivered on. We recognise that communication and engagement are critical elements of delivering the construction works, and that high-quality engagement is essential to the nominated undertaker’s relationship with communities and stakeholders.

As the new clause recognises, we have given many commitments and undertakings to local authorities to consult the communities who live and work along the line of the HS2 phase 1 route. For example, an assurance has been agreed with the London Borough of Camden that requires the nominated undertaker to engage with the London borough on the development of a community engagement framework aimed at ensuring that all sections of the community, including businesses and individuals, are made aware of developments in relation to the construction programme and local impacts. Indeed, we both attended an event in Camden at which the new facility was launched. That not only provided an opportunity for local people to find out more about the development and the impact that it might have on their lives at various stages of the construction; there was also free hot-desking available for local businesses that might need to use those facilities, and I was very pleased, when we were there, to see so many local people availing themselves of the facilities.

With that in mind, I do not believe that the new clause needs to be included in the Bill. It would duplicate existing obligations, for which we are already accountable to Parliament. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman can withdraw the new clause and, possibly, avoid further disappointment.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful to the Minister for that very interesting response. I assure him that the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that we will be successful in 2020. Perhaps I might be sitting where he is—who knows? Having said that, I hear what he says. He addressed my concerns most admirably, and I agree that, given that explanation and those assurances, it is not necessary for me to take this new clause further. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 28