Clause 44 - Nominated undertaker

High Speed Rail(London - West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 3 March 2016.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

The clause applies to the nominated undertaker, which is not a funeral director, as I think we mentioned on Tuesday. It allows the Secretary of State, by way of an order, to appoint a nominated undertaker or undertakers to build phase 1 of HS2. The nominated undertaker would therefore be able to draw on Bill powers on behalf of the Secretary of State to deliver the railway. Delegating authority to a delivery body is common practice on major rail infrastructure schemes. Subject to readiness, we would expect HS2 Ltd to take on that role. However, we have yet to fully determine who the nominated undertaker will be. For example, it may be prudent for different bodies to build different elements of the railway .

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 12:15, 3 March 2016

We are talking about Bill Powers, not the left half for Aston Villa in 1956—no, he does not exist—but the powers contained within the Bill. My singular concern is about the wording of subsection (1)(a), which says:

“The Secretary of State may by order…appoint a person specified in the order as the nominated undertaker for such purposes of such provisions of this Act as may be so specified”.

The Minister made clear in his opening remarks—but I want to impress this on him—that this is about building HS2 and nothing more. By trying to extend the remit of the clause, we could give the nominated undertaker carte blanche in terms of all the powers in the Bill. It is probably not the Minister’s intention that the powers be limited during the building of phases 1 and 2. I have a slight anxiety that, if read in another way, those powers would extend beyond building to compulsory purchase and acquisition, development and even the closure of stations, which we discussed a few moments ago. Will the Minister help me with that now, or should we return to it at a later date so that he can look into it? I have a slight anxiety that the phraseology is far too wide.

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

If I may reassure the hon. Gentleman, as I said in my opening remarks, the clause is about undertakers to build phase 1 of HS2. It is not about the operation of the railway. Later, we may have an opportunity to discuss the way the operation of the railway may be delivered, but it is early days to rush those fences. In this case, we expect spades in the ground next year and, therefore, the nominated undertakers will be those charged with the delivery of the railway. There will be a number of works, not only the basic construction. A lot of the environmental works could well be given to other undertakers in some cases. At the moment, HS2 Ltd will be the main delivery body and that should be made clear.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 44 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.