High Speed 2 — [Mr George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 12th September 2018.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Chair, European Scrutiny Committee 9:30 am, 12th September 2018

I am extremely glad to hear that. I am sorry that I did not mention that in my opening remarks. Although he is an Opposition Member, I pay tribute to the wisdom of the hon. Gentleman.

I and the other people I mentioned are concerned about not only the concept, but the manner in which HS2 Ltd has dealt with the issues, as I have said in the petition that I and others deposited, and as I have said in previous debates. I also petitioned on the first and second Bills and raised all my constituents’ grievances, which are on the record for anyone to see. I do not need to go into those today, because I want to deal with the central principles.

I have also taken part in other debates with my right hon. and indefatigable Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham. Our criticisms about the lack of consultation on HS2 are already on the record. Indeed, back in November 2015 the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman found serious failings in HS2 Ltd’s engagement with a community in Staffordshire. The report stated that its actions fell so far below reasonable standards that they constituted maladministration. I had similar experiences to my right hon. Friend, and I understand that she will deal with that later in the debate.

My hon. Friend Michael Fabricant is not able to be here today. He apologises for that—he had another engagement—but I want to cite his concerns, which relate to the disruption it will cause his constituents and the disconnected nature of the railway, which is a matter of grave concern. He makes the point that the railway does not connect with Heathrow, the continent via HS1, or even Birmingham New Street station. He says that if ever there were a model of how not to design an integrated railway, this is it.

Amidst our collective opposition, the white elephant is running amok in the Treasury and has already charged the British taxpayer more than £4 billion before construction has even started. My own position on the outrageous and accelerating costs of HS2 is that, although £4 billion is a colossal sum, there is no excuse for continuing to throw money down a black hole. The spending plans began to spiral after 2018: £3 billion in 2019; £4.2 billion in 2020; and £4.8 billion in 2021. So if we are going to stop it, now would be a good time.