Engagement with communities living and working along the route

Part of High-Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 8th March 2016.

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Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 11:15 am, 8th March 2016

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.