High-speed Rail

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:12 pm on 8th December 2009.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport) 12:12 pm, 8th December 2009

I, too, welcome the opportunity that Greg Mulholland has offered us this morning by securing the debate. It gives me the opportunity to spell out why I believe absolutely that a high-speed rail network is important for this country and why we hope the Government will do a little more than play catch-up in this matter, which is certainly what they are doing at the moment.

We have heard some interesting contributions. Ms Smith made a thoughtful contribution, yet again, on the importance of the strategic network. My hon. Friend Mr. Lidington made the point about routes, which we will all have to address when the High Speed 2 report is published. Clearly, there will be issues about national considerations versus local considerations, and local environmental issues versus national environmental issues. He was right to raise not only the concerns from his constituency, but the argument that the House will have to face when a clearer route is proposed.

I was interested, as usual, by the remarks of Mr. Betts. He did not want Leeds to be an afterthought, so he must be worried that his Government give no thought to Leeds or Sheffield in their plans. I can only concur with Mr. Martlew, who said that the case for high-speed rail is not an end in itself. It must contribute to the economic regeneration, the travel considerations or the environmental considerations of this country.

While I forgive the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West for his less than gracious response to my intervention, I gently say to him that simply claiming that anyone else's argument is a lazy assumption is in itself a lazy assumption. He predicates his argument on the views of Mr. Colin Elliff, whom I have met three or four times. Mr. Elliff is a passionate advocate for his route, but surely the hon. Gentleman must remember that many people think Mr. Elliff's route has several problems and that he, I suggest gently, is a relatively controversial figure in the railway industry.