It is essential that we guard against the payment of bonuses that are not in line with the Government’s goal of reducing the public sector remuneration package. However, we must ensure that we have the right reward structure in place. We must not put provisions in legislation that would tie the hands of the whole supply chain. I am happy to confirm to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham that Sir David Higgins will move to High Speed 2 on the same salary

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that he received at Network Rail and that he has guaranteed that he will not accept any bonuses. I hope that that satisfies her.

I hope that the House will support amendments 25 and 26.

Lilian Greenwood: I am pleased to speak in support of amendment 25, which represents a significant strengthening of the financial reporting requirements in clause 2.

Taxpayers need to know that the costs are being controlled. Under this Government, the budget for HS2 has swelled from £773 million to at least £900 million in this Parliament. The botched design for Euston pushed the cost of that station from £1.2 billion to £1.6 billion, even though some of the features of the design were downgraded. The Government announced in June that, with a sizeable increase in contingency funding, the headline budget for the project had increased by £10 billion to £50.1 billion.

Charlie Elphicke: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Lilian Greenwood: I am afraid that I am very short of time.

That headline budget includes the costs of construction and procuring rolling stock. That is reflected in amendment 25, which I believe is superior to amendment 20, which has been proposed by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan).

In short, Ministers have failed to keep the costs under control. The rising budget for HS2 has damaged the public perception of the project. It is therefore vital that, under the incoming leadership of Sir David Higgins, financial discipline is imposed. The use of the project’s £14.4 billion contingency fund must be minimised wherever possible. Ministers must ensure that Sir David Higgins has their full backing in that task.

Amendment 25 is designed to ensure that that happens. It will introduce a powerful mechanism to ensure that there is financial responsibility. It will force the Government to announce any overspend of the yearly budget. It will also provide an incentive to identify areas in which costs can be reduced, as was successfully done on the Crossrail project.

Jonathan Edwards: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Lilian Greenwood: I will not give way at the moment.

Given that the Government have produced annual budgets for the project up to 2020-21, it makes sense to measure progress against that yardstick.

Mr Cash: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): We will hear the point of order after 4 o’clock.

Lilian Greenwood: The Government’s hopelessly ambitious timetable to pass the hybrid Bill for phase 1 by the middle of 2015 makes it even more important that we introduce stringent reporting standards. Even Ministers acknowledge that that plan is challenging,

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and that is putting it mildly. It appears to be certain that spending will continue under the authority of the preparation Bill beyond the general election. If it does, there must be proper reporting requirements in place. In fact, we submitted a similar amendment in Committee, and I am sorry it was deemed unnecessary at the time. I am glad the Government have been persuaded to think again and have accepted our amendment. It will make for a tougher Bill that makes Ministers accountable for bearing down on costs, and it will deliver better value for public investment.

Mr Cash: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We have not reached the last group of amendments, which are vital to all the people in my constituency and throughout the country who are affected by the Bill. This point of order is about the travesty of proceedings in relation to the programme motion and all that goes with it.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): The hon. Gentleman, as ever, makes his point, but as he and the House know, that is not a point of order. The timetabling of discussions on this Bill is a matter for the House.

4 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 26 June 2013).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the amendment be made.

Amendment 20 negatived.

The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Clause 2

Financial reports

Amendments made: 25, page 2, line 12, at end insert—

‘( ) the extent to which expenditure incurred under section 1 during that year represents an overspend or underspend as against the budget for such expenditure for the year;

( ) the likely effect of any such overspend or underspend on a total budget of £50.1 billion in 2011 prices (which includes construction and the price of rolling stock).’.

Amendment 26, page 2, line 15, at end insert—

‘( ) Each report must also contain an account of the vocational qualifications gained during the financial year by individuals employed by persons appointed under an enactment to carry out activities in connection with preparing for, and constructing, the network referred to in subsection (2).’.—(Stephen Hammond.)

Jonathan Edwards: I beg to move amendment 27.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): The hon. Gentleman indicates that he wishes to move an amendment that has not been spoken to, and I cannot take his amendment.

Third Reading

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4.2 pm

Mr McLoughlin: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Let me begin by thanking all Members who served on the Public Bill Committee. In particular I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), not only for his work on the Bill, but also for the hard work that he put into the Department for Transport during his time there. It was a great pleasure to work with him.

For a project as important as this, everyone should have their say—indeed, it sometimes feels as if they do. At the same time, however, we need to move the debate forward, which is what the Bill does. This is the point at which the debate starts moving from “if “ to “when”. The House has already voted overwhelmingly in favour of the principle of a new high-speed, high-capacity rail network. I hope it will do so again this evening because the decisions we take today will benefit our country for decades to come.

Just this week, with the storms that hit the south and east, we have seen how crucial our railways are to national life. When trains are crowded and disrupted, life for hard-working people gets more difficult. That is why the new north-south line is not some expensive luxury.

Mr Cash: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr McLoughlin: I will, but I do so reluctantly because of the number of hon. Members who want to take part in Third Reading.

Mr Cash: I understand why the Secretary of State is reluctant to give way. Throughout the whole of this land, people are deeply disturbed by the manner in which the Bill is being rammed through. Furthermore, as he well knows, the arrangements he has described as benefits are not accepted by my constituents and many other people, nor by the many reports emanating from the Public Accounts Committee and others that demonstrate that HS2 is not a straightforward benefit, and is in fact quite the opposite.

Mr McLoughlin: I know my hon. Friend is not in favour of the new line—he loses no time in telling me that. I dare say that similar comments were made in debates on railways in the House over the centuries. The truth is that the line will be the first line built north of London in 120 years. I understand the concerns of hon. Members whose constituencies the line goes through. I do not dismiss them and have never done so. I want to ensure that we have a fair compensation scheme in place. I believe that the scheme is, without any doubt, right for the future of the UK.

I find it rather ridiculous that I can go from London to Paris on a high-speed train, and that my hon. Friend can go from London to Brussels on a high-speed train—I know he keeps a close eye on what goes on there—but we cannot go from London to Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds on a high-speed train. The time has come for a steep uplift in our transport system.

I should tell my hon. Friend that there is still a long way to go. We must take the hybrid Bill through the Commons. There will be plenty of opportunities to

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debate it in detail. As the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) said, HS2 will be debated in far more detail than roads that now go through various constituencies when they probably caused greater environmental damage.

Andrew Bridgen: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr McLoughlin: I do not want to take too long because I know many hon. Members want to speak. I will give way—for the last time—to my hon. Friend.

Andrew Bridgen: I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way. It is true that this is a high-speed debate. Does he agree that an hour is completely insufficient parliamentary time for a Third Reading debate on the largest infrastructure project the country has ever seen?

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend has taken part in the Third Reading of many Bills—they have always been hour-long debates. In fact, it is only recently that we have had debates on Third Reading. Back in the days when the right hon. Member for Blackburn was Leader of the House, we sometimes did not have debates on Third Reading because we simply did not have the time. The Government are trying to help everybody we can—[Interruption.] I do not want to get any more partisan now that I have the right hon. Gentleman on side.

The Bill is about helping communities and businesses, and helping the cities of the north and the midlands to compete on equal terms with London. Nobody begrudges the money we are spending on Crossrail or Thameslink. They are huge investments in our capital city, but it is time we looked at what is happening in the rest of the country.

Three important words—room for growth—sum up why the project is so important. They are at the core of the strategic case we published on Tuesday. The responses to the report show the crucial message of growth. The British Chambers of Commerce states:

“This report bolsters the economic case for HS2…HS2 is the only scheme that can transform capacity on Britain’s overstretched railways.”

The CBI has thrown its considerable weight behind the project. It did so because the new line is part of the answer to the infrastructure deficit that faces our country. The leaders of our great cities back HS2. Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester city council, has said:

“It’s straightforward and simple. We need more capacity and the only way is through this new network.”

Since 2008, the country has learned some tough lessons, but we must make ourselves more resilient and competitive as an economy. That will not happen if we do not take the long-term decisions on investment and stick to them. Our society is changing, our population is growing, people are travelling more, and demand for inter-city rail travel has doubled in the past 15 years and will continue to increase.

As I have said all along, I welcome suggestions for creating more capacity, but the so-called alternative suggestions from the critics simply do not add up. We have looked at the case for building new motorways and dramatically expanding domestic aviation. Neither does the job. Some people believe we can carry on squeezing more room out of our current railways, patching up our problems. The work we published this week shows that,

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if we tried to create the capacity we needed by upgrading the three current main north-south lines, we would face 14 years of weekend closures. That is not an alternative to the new line, it is disruption on a nightmare scale.

We are already investing record sums in the existing railway. Network Rail will spend £38.3 billion in its next five-year control period, and the Government have a £73 billion budget for wider transport investment over the next Parliament. Despite all that, we will still need new rail capacity. If one accepts that—and that we need room to grow—there is no choice about how to provide it. As the strategic case makes clear, a new high-speed north-south line is not just the right way, it is the only way.

The new north-south line will be the backbone of Britain. It will have 18 trains an hour, each carrying up to 1,100 passengers, transforming the available space on inter-city lines. As long-distance services transfer to the new line, capacity will be released on the existing network. Of course, not every city across Britain will benefit in the same way, but Network Rail estimates that more than 100 cities and towns could benefit from released capacity. It would mean significantly more commuter services, better connectivity and more routes for rail freight, taking lorries off our most congested roads.

We know that HS2 is the best answer to our transport problems, but as with any large infrastructure scheme, we also know we will face opposition. I respect the fact that some people are concerned about the impact on the places they live, and I respect those with serious proposals for improvements. Already, the environmental impact of the new line has been vastly reduced thanks to such improvements. But I also respect what Sir John Armitt said in his recent report on infrastructure—that big schemes need “broad political consensus” as well as “resolution” from political leaders.

HS2 must be a national project with support across the parties, or in the end it will be nothing. Labour leaders in our great cities across the north and the midlands know that HS2 is right. To those who say that there is no blank cheque, I say that there never has been and there never will be. I know that hon. Members want costs controlled. Here are the facts. The target price for the first phase is £17.16 billion. That is the price for construction agreed with HS2 Ltd. For the whole Y-route, the agreed budget is £42.6 billion, including a contingency of £14.4 billion, which we are determined to bear down on. Sir David Higgins—the man who built the Olympics on time and on budget—will make sure that happens. As the new chairman of HS2, he will bring his penetrating eye and expertise to the task to get the best value for our country.

As the strategic case published this week shows, our updated benefit-cost ratio has fallen slightly from 2.5 to 2.3. We have been open about that, but it means that the business case for the new north-south line is still strong, with more than £2 returned for every £1 invested—about the same as Crossrail and Thameslink, and nobody seems to doubt those projects. In fact, the ratio for HS2 could increase to 4.5 if rail demand continues to rise until 2049.

It is still important to recognise that the benefit-cost ratio cannot take account of unpredictable factors. That was true of the Jubilee line extension in London, for instance, which did not include the 100,000 jobs it now supports at Canary Wharf. It was true for

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High Speed 1, which did not include benefits from redevelopment at King’s Cross and St Pancras. When I first became a Member of Parliament, King’s Cross and St Pancras were places where people did not want to spend any time if they could possibly get away with it. They would try to turn up just before their train was due to leave. Those stations are now destinations in their own right. People go there and look with amazement at what has happened to the UK’s railway system.

Frank Dobson: I represent not just St Pancras, but Euston and King’s Cross. Does the Secretary of State accept that virtually all the people in my constituency who are now opposed to HS2 were strongly in favour—indeed, the first advocates—of the transformation of St Pancras and the improvements at King’s Cross?

Mr McLoughlin: Of course I do. I am more than happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman to discuss the particular issue of Euston station, because the redevelopment will bring specific problems. But we must also ensure that we get the very best deal for his constituents in the redevelopment of Euston station. I am meeting the leader of Camden council next week, although I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman will be there. I do not discount the concerns of local residents about the work on major infrastructure projects, and we have to take them into account.

Jonathan Edwards: Last week it was disclosed that the Treasury had made a mistake and awarded Barnett consequentials to Wales in the 2015-16 spending round. Subsequently, the Treasury said it would claw the money back in the next spending review and that it did not set a precedent. Will the Secretary of State confirm that there will not be a clawback, that the precedent has now been set and that Wales will have the consequentials? Unless he does so, we will vote against him on Third Reading.

Mr McLoughlin: It would be a brave Secretary of State who started second-guessing the Treasury, and I will not do that now. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s representations and will bear them in mind.

I will briefly explain the next steps. We intend to submit the hybrid Bill before Christmas. In February, the growth taskforce reports. I know the challenges ahead, but also the opportunities. We are not here to patch up our railway once again, only to spend far more later when it turns out that we should have invested properly at the start. It will take determination to strengthen our country. I urge this House to support the Bill. It is our chance to get ahead and to invest in our long-term prosperity.

4.15 pm

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), to his new role, and I look forward to working with him. I pay tribute to my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle), for her work in holding no fewer than four Transport Secretaries to account, and for her tireless work to develop Labour’s transport policy. I pay tribute, too, to my hon. Friend

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the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) for piloting the Bill through Committee in a co-operative manner. Following in her footsteps, I am proud to support High Speed 2, and I am proud to support getting good value for public money, too.

We support plans for a new north-south rail line, but we are clear that the Government must get a grip on the costs. High Speed 2 was the brainchild of Lord Adonis, the Labour Government’s last Transport Secretary. We understand that the railway is not needed just to tackle the rail capacity crunch that we face in the next ten years: managed properly, HS2 has the power to transform the economic geography of our country. It will build our great cities and bring them closer together. It will connect people to each other, to work and to leisure. It will help to rebalance the economy, creating and using our country’s manufacturing skills.

Charlie Elphicke: This is an important project requiring national consensus. It needs all parties to support HS2 if it is to go ahead—no ifs, no buts. Will the Labour party support this project properly: yes or no?

Mary Creagh: If the hon. Gentleman had listened, he would know that I just said we will support HS2. We shall be voting in favour of it this evening.

This is the first new north-south railway for more than 100 years, but Labour's brainchild has, sadly, been neglected by the Government. Instead of gestation, we have had stagnation. The project has been put at risk by delays, project mismanagement and, in July, by a huge increase to the budget.

First, on delays, Ministers looked at strategic alternatives to High Speed 2. That took until November 2011, which wasted 18 months and led to slippage in the project timetable, with Ministers now playing catch-up. Costs in this Parliament have risen from £700 million to £900 million. The National Audit Office has warned that this tighter time scale poses risks to the project:

“Faster preparation for the bill may increase the extent of petitions to Parliament which may make it less likely that royal assent is granted by the planned date of May 2015.”

Another delay is that the consultation on phase 2 of the route has only just been launched for the Y part of the network, despite the fact that it was being worked on when we were in power three years ago. Ministers have been trundling along; it is time for more urgency.

Secondly, on project mismanagement, the Government’s early cost-benefit reports were criticised in May this year by the National Audit Office for failing to make the strategic case for the new railway. I welcome that that has now been published in full. In September, the Public Accounts Committee warned that Ministers’ plans to present the hybrid Bill to Parliament before Christmas were “ambitious” and “unrealistic”. I would be interested to hear from the Secretary of State whether that is still his plan.

Andrew Bridgen: Will the hon. Lady confirm, as he has stated in the media, that the shadow Chancellor will have the final say over whether Labour supports HS2?

Mary Creagh: The shadow Chancellor has never said that in the media. In fact, he has told the media that it will be a collective decision, so I do not know where the hon. Gentleman has got that from.

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Finally, this summer the contingency budget ballooned to £14.4 billion, now one third of the railway’s cost. Our concern is that putting in such a large contingency at such an early stage of the project could be a self-fulfilling prophecy, a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe). We are living in austere times. Our constituents are facing the largest cost of living crisis for a generation. Prices have risen faster than wages for 39 of the 40 months of this Government, and working people are, on average, more than £1,500 a year worse off. In these circumstances, and given the public finances, it was right for my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor to call the Government to account for their mismanagement of the project, which has led to this ballooning of costs. That is the right thing to do, because public consent for this great project depends on people like the shadow Chancellor having the courage to stand up against sloppy, incompetent and bureaucratic government. It is we, the Opposition, who are the true friends of HS2 and this Government who have put it at risk. We will continue our scrutiny of these costs and our discipline on the public finances.

Mr Betts: My hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the problem of delay. Certainly in Sheffield, we are particularly concerned about the delay between completing phases 1 and 2. Now that the welcome appointment of Sir David Higgins has been announced, should not one of his jobs be to consider how we can build the second phase more quickly? Perhaps we could start building in the north as we start building in the south.

Mary Creagh: Again, that is for Sir David Higgins to work out with Ministers, but undoubtedly that could keep costs down and allow further benefits to be realised.

Mr Godsiff: Is there a figure above which the Opposition Front-Bench team would not support this project, if the incompetence to which she refers is played out by the Government? Is there a figure at which the Labour party would pull out?

Mary Creagh: I do not know whether my hon. Friend was here when this was discussed, but we tabled an amendment on Report that was agreed by the Government and which makes it clear that any contingency spend must be reported to the House annually.

We will continue to hold up the weaknesses of the management of HS2 until every one of them has been addressed. We want to see swift progress with the hybrid Bill and we shall scrutinise the latest strategic case, published this week, to satisfy ourselves that it is based on sound assumptions. The Government must drive down those contingency costs and have a clear strategy for doing so. This fiscally disciplined scrutiny is what one would expect from any credible official Opposition seeing a Government desperately mismanaging a project. We will go ahead with the project, but the Government must bring down the costs, and the benefits to the nation must be clear. We say: get a grip on the project, get control of the budget and get it back on track.

The increase in rail usage during our time in government was a record to be proud of, but we now face serious challenges. We understand that current and future capacity constraints on the existing rail network place a brake on regional and city growth. We know that demand for rail

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travel continues to grow, despite the tough economic times, and our support for a north-south line rests on tackling that capacity problem and supporting 21st century transport infrastructure. This week’s strategic case shows the intense pressure our major mainline stations are under, and not just in the south. In four years, there will be 200 people for every 100 train seats arriving into Birmingham New Street at 5 o’clock. Rail freight is growing at 3% a year, and HS2 would free up space for more freight trains on the east coast, west coast and midland main lines, and take those lorries off our roads.

Kelvin Hopkins: As I said in my speech, if we want a serious transfer of freight on to rail, we must make it possible to transport lorries on trains, but we cannot do that on the existing network because the gauge is not big enough. We need a dedicated freight network for that to happen.

Mary Creagh: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is proposing that we build an entirely new freight network—

Kelvin Hopkins indicated assent.

Mary Creagh: Okay, well perhaps we will park that thought for another day, because many others want to come in. My hon. Friend is absolutely right, though, that we have to shift freight from the roads and on to the more environmentally friendly railways, and we want to ensure that this line can do that. We want HS2 to give people a real choice between short-haul aeroplanes and the more environmentally friendly trains. We want to see more inter-city services for cities that currently have a poor service to London. We want HS2 to free the west coast, east coast and midland main lines for new commuter services between the midlands and the north.

These are not just transport arguments. They are social and economic arguments about the sort of country we want to be: a country in which no town or city is left behind. We want to ensure that cities such as Wakefield, which currently enjoys a twice-hourly inter-city service to London, are not downgraded. I obviously have a particular interest in Wakefield’s twice-hourly service to London, which I am happy to declare.

The public consultation on compensation arrangements is important, and the Government need to ensure that they respond fully to specific local issues such as those raised by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), and that proper compensation is given to residents who are affected or blighted, such as those in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson). We will maintain pressure on the Government to work closely with the communities affected.

We will vote today in favour of this paving Bill to allow preparatory expenditure on the scheme. We believe that how we build something is as important as what we build. This is not just a transport project; it is also a social and economic project. I am glad that the cities are already looking at how they can invest in skills so that local people can benefit from the employment opportunities that HS2 will bring. We are pleased that the Government have agreed to our amendments on vocational training audits for the scheme. That will help us to realise our Labour vision of creating 35,000 high-quality apprenticeships over the lifetime of the

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project, representing a step change in vocational education for this country’s young people. HS2 is not just a transport project; it is also an employment project.

We are glad that the Government have accepted our amendments on annual reports to Parliament on contingency spending to ensure that the scheme is kept on budget, and on linking the railway with active travel such as cycling and walking. Having said that, I will not make any promises about cycling the new cycle path that will run alongside the track. After cycling from London to Brighton, I think I know my limits. We will also continue to scrutinise Ministers to ensure that they work closely with UK companies to use procurement to deliver the maximum jobs, growth and skills for UK companies, small and large.

High Speed 2 is a huge project which, if managed properly, will bring great social, economic and environmental benefits to this country. The project is about how we deliver capacity for more passengers and services, and connectivity to bring cities closer together, while ensuring that the trains run on time. We will serve our great cities by having HS2 come in with a budget that is under control and with benefits that are clear for all to see. The Secretary of State should do his job and I will do mine, and my job is to ensure that he does his job properly.

High Speed 2 is a project that is in the national interest. It has suffered from the fiscal and project management incompetence of this Government, and I hope that this Secretary of State will get it back on track. Britain deserves better than this. It will fall to the next Labour Government, a one-nation Government, to build HS2—on time, on budget and in the national interest.

4.27 pm

Mrs Spelman: I should like to congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), on his new appointment and thank him for taking up the baton on the Bill on Report. That was not an easy task. He was preceded by an excellent Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), who did a very good job in Committee. I really enjoyed the spirit of co-operation between both sides in Committee, and the latitude that the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) and I were given to table amendments that have genuinely improved the Bill.

Anyone who will have High Speed 2 going through their constituency is having a difficult time. Those who will have an interchange station will have what I have described as the pain and the gain. The quality of the local connectivity can tip the balance between pain and gain in those areas, and I am delighted that an amendment has been accepted on a cross-party basis to improve local connectivity. That will make a big difference to the constituencies that will have those stations. It will provide for local road, rail, cycle and pedestrian connections to the new interchange stations.

The Birmingham interchange station will offer a rare opportunity to improve the already integrated international airport and its main line station, through a connection with high-speed rail. Seeing the potential for that, the airport has proposed a second runway, even though it

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has plenty of spare capacity on its recently extended runway. It hopes, of course, to relieve some of the pressure on London and the south-east. With the interchange station being approximately 38 minutes from Euston, it is obviously competitive in terms of journey time with some of the London airports. This had led my local authority to see the potential of this transport hub, designating it as “UK Central”. HS2 is central to that vision.

To fulfil that vision, I hope that the Department will be able to look at the design stage of the new junctions required on the M42, as it serves Birmingham airport, the present station and the National Exhibition Centre. We need help with that. It would be worth giving consideration, too, to the development of the surface area and perhaps take another look at providing a tunnel—I would very much like to see that—where HS2 crosses over the existing west coast main line.

I believe that the extra time the Government have given for this Bill has allowed important improvements and mitigations. The draft environmental statement was indeed a draft—one on which we could consult our constituents and seek to secure improvements. I am sure that my constituents and those of many other Members appreciate the value of that.

Unfortunately, we did not reach my amendments today. They would have improved the terms of the compensation for all affected constituents and enshrined in statute a property bond. I am pleased that the Government are consulting on a property bond, and we have every hope that that will be brought to fruition.

Mrs Gillan: I support my right hon. Friend in her search for a property bond. As she knows, my constituent Hilary Wharf, the railway economist, has done a great deal of work on the property bond issue, and believes this will be a much fairer way of compensating all those people whose lives and properties will be damaged by this project.

Mrs Spelman: I agree with my right hon. Friend and I urge all Members whose constituencies are affected by HS2 to make sure that their constituents respond to the consultation that is under way; the Government remain open-minded about the eligibility criteria, which is important. I indicated in an intervention that there is an important need to offset the impact on biodiversity. I know that the present Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is working with HS2 to make sure that no net loss of biodiversity arises from the infrastructure.

For the west midlands, HS2 is a lifeline. We should not overlook the fact that, at a time when west midlands manufacturing is undergoing a renaissance for the first time in my generation, there is no capacity for transporting manufacturing products on our railways. Anyone driving down the M40 will see transporter load after transporter load of cars going for export. We export 82% of all the cars we produce, and 50% of them go to other EU countries. They should be able to be transported by rail. The freight aspect of HS2 is thus incredibly important.

Finally, in view of the completion date, this project is principally going to benefit our children and our children’s children. I would like us to be the generation with the foresight to provide for them.

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4.33 pm

Frank Dobson: I am going to be the original parochial MP. For many people in my constituency, this issue is not a question of “not in my back yard”, but one of “not through my front room”. A total of 220 homes will be destroyed and a further 1,000 homes will be blighted for the 10 years while the works go on at Euston. A large number of small businesses will be bankrupted because of what is going on there.

When it comes to getting compensation, both the qualifications and the quantum for compensation in Greater London, and most particularly at Euston and in Camden Town, are much worse and far inferior to what will apply in rural areas. I hope that some people in the House of Lords will see fit to help Ministers keep the promises they made about being fair to everybody in terms of compensation. There can be no justification for saying that the noise is less in Euston than in Great Missenden. Noise is noise, dirt is dirt, filth is filth. The main difference is that in Euston all that will go on for 10 years, whereas on most other parts of the line it will go on for only a short period.

HS2 Ltd, and the HS2 apologists, say “Oh, it will not be as bad as Frank Dobson says.” Well, if the trouble will not be as bad as Frank Dobson says, why cannot those at HS2 come up with full, decent compensation? The main reason is that they know that it is going to be terrible and that proper compensation would cost a lot of money, but why should people living in my area experience dreadful blight for a decade or more while a national project goes through? Why should they be sacrificed on the altar of that national project?

It has been suggested that buildings in the area will act as buffers against noise. The people who live in Mornington terrace, the people who live in Ampthill square, the people who live in Park Village East, the people who live in Eversholt street, the people who live in the Regent’s Park estate, the people who overlook the railway now and the people who will overlook the railway when the “buffer” blocks of flats have been demolished—all those people face 10 years of noise and filth and disruption, and we are proposing that they should not receive the same level of compensation as people living in Great Missenden. That cannot be fair, and it cannot be decent.

I think that nearly everyone in the House wants to support and help small businesses. Drummond street, in my constituency, is full of small businesses with very hard-working owners and staff, providing restaurants and cafés and shops. It is on the west side of Euston station. The shopkeepers and restaurateurs have conducted surveys, and have found that between 40% and 70% of their trade is passing trade—people who are going to or from Euston to catch a train, the tube or a bus.

It is currently proposed that about a third of Drummond street will be demolished—which does not include any of the shops—that a huge fence will be built around the construction site for 10 years, and that there will no longer be any access to the west side of Euston station from Drummond street. Anyone trying to get from the shops and restaurants into the station will have a quarter-of-a-mile wander around the boundaries of the site. That means bankruptcy for the small businesses there which will lose their trade. Those businesses are already being damaged and blighted. The kitchens of one of the

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1182

restaurants are getting a bit past it, and the restaurant is thinking of replacing them, but there is no point in investing in that replacement. Let me say this to both Front Benches: do they seriously think it right to go ahead with this project and damage those little, ordinary citizens?

I raised this matter in the Committee, which took evidence from witnesses. When the problems in Drummond street were brought to the distinguished attention of the man who is the director general of the HS2 project at the Department for Transport, he gave his considered opinion of the Drummond street traders, saying

“Their business will develop. We hope that businesses in Drummond street will benefit from the construction workers on the HS2 site.” ––[Official Report, High Speed Rail (Preparation) Public Bill Committee, 11 July 2013; c. 154, Q292.]

Does he seriously think that some construction worker, knackered and stopping for his snack break, will walk a mile to and from Drummond street to get food? No is the answer to that, but what is worse, had this great person inquired of the traders in Drummond street, they would have confirmed to him that a major construction site nearby had supplied them with no single remembered user during their lunch breaks. This, I have to say, is someone who works for the outfit which has been promoting HS2 until now.

As I have said to the Secretary of State and his predecessors, if I was in favour of this hare-brained scheme, I would get rid of a lot of the people involved, because in my constituency alone their original estimate of the costs has proved to be £1 billion less than their revised costs. That is £800 million extra at Euston and £125 million for running the works across Camden town, where, apparently, the cost went up from £170-odd million to £300 million because they had not realised they would need to widen the track. If that reflects the quality of thought and advice, I say to those people who are in favour of this scheme, “Watch it, because it’s a mess, and even the great man who, at the Olympics, did manage to spend the contingency fund is going to have difficulty sorting it out.”

I therefore have to say that I believe it will be necessary for the House of Lords to try to look after and properly compensate the people I try to represent. At the last general election I made two promises. I promised I would try to stop HS2 happening and, failing that—this was a twin-track approach, if people will excuse the expression—I said I would try to make sure all their interests were looked after. I have great belief in the integrity of the current Secretary of State, and if he is going to discharge his promise to look after people properly and treat them fairly, he will have to deal properly with the people I have been trying to represent.

4.42 pm

Sir John Randall: Madam Deputy Speaker, may I take this opportunity to welcome you to the Chair for the first time when I have been speaking?

I am very sorry that time on Report did not allow us to address all the various matters I hoped we were going to talk about, especially with regard to compensation and mitigation. I am equally sorry that I was otherwise occupied on Second Reading so I was not able to speak then. I would just say to my former captors, who held me hostage for the last 13 years, that I hope that when

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we come to the Second Reading of the hybrid Bill we will have plenty of time—several days—because this is a hugely important issue.

Many issues of huge concern to many of my constituents and to even more of my fellow residents in the London borough of Hillingdon have not been solved by what we have heard today. The right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) mentioned the property bond not being extended outside rural areas, and that is a matter of real concern to us. However, my constituents can rest assured that I will be raising those concerns inside the Chamber, outside the Chamber, and in any way I can. I and the other two Members of Parliament for Hillingdon—we like to be regarded as the three musketeers, “one for all, and all for one”—will be raising these issues.

Voting for this Bill tonight does not mean I will be giving a green light to the whole project. There is still some way to go for me to be persuaded that the pros outweigh the cons, and I shall be looking at things very seriously. But one thing I would say is that if there is one person in this Chamber who can persuade me of that, it is the Secretary of State.

4.44 pm

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): Sedgefield has a particular place in the history of railways, as it was in a place in Sedgefield, Heighington crossing, that Locomotion No.1 was assembled by George Stephenson in 1825, on its route to Darlington to open up the Darlington and Stockton railway. It was said at the time that such was the velocity that in some parts the speed was frequently 12 mph, but it still took 65 minutes to travel the eight and a half miles to Darlington from Heighington crossing. Obviously we have come on a long way since then, but there is still a long way to go, which is why I support the Bill.

I wish to talk a little about supply chains and how this project will have an impact on jobs. Hitachi is opening a factory in my constituency which is going to build the intercity express programme trains, and the Secretary of State is coming to the constituency tomorrow to celebrate the start of construction there. That is just one example of what impact this will have on factories in areas that, in the first instance, are not affected by high-speed rail, because the route will not be going through the north-east initially. We are talking about 730 jobs, with 3,000 to 5,000 jobs in the supply chain. We also have a new university technology college opening. Hitachi and other companies in Newton Aycliffe are in negotiations with Sunderland university to open the UTC. It will create a plethora of people who are interested in engineering, electronics and all the other kinds of apprenticeships that we require to continue the work and the factory going forward. In addition, the research and development facility for trains for Hitachi will be based in Newton Aycliffe.

We should not forget that Hitachi built the bullet train in Japan, so if Hitachi is lucky enough to win the contract, it will have the technology to build the trains in this country. These trains would not be imported; they could be built in this country. That would mean 3,200 permanent jobs, not necessarily at Newton Aycliffe, but around the country, and jobs to maintain the trains as well. The capacity for the supply chain is fantastic.

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1184

The system of high-speed rail in Japan—the Shinkansen —covers 1,500 miles. The first high-speed rail started there in 1964, and Japan is on its eighth generation of high-speed train. The average delay on these trains is 36 seconds. I want a bit of that for the UK.

4.47 pm

Mrs Gillan: May I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, as this is the first time I have spoken with you in that position, and offer many congratulations? I will be brief, because I have spoken at length before. I still think that HS2 is an expensive toy. I remember that we once had something else that went fast—it was called Concorde, and we know what happened to that. [Interruption.] It is still not flying these days, and it lost out to the jumbo jet.

The Government have introduced this Bill, but it has not really moved this House or our knowledge of HS2 much further on. The Bill writes a blank cheque for the Government to spend as much as they want on the preparation of any of our railway works throughout the country, in perpetuity. The Government really introduced the Bill because they have lost control of the public relations on this project and they have lost control of the costs. I cannot even remember how many times we have read about the Department for Transport carrying out a “fightback” on this project.

No one is very impressed that four and a half years down the line a project that is supposed to be so worthy is still in the position it is in: the business case has worsened; the capacity claims have not been backed up in this Chamber today by any facts; the speed has now dropped away and is no longer the prime reason; and the connectivity is poor, as we have seen. Of course, all of us would agree with some of the aims and objectives, including mending the north-south divide, as has been discussed. We would all like those aims to be achieved, but I do not think that HS2 will do that.

I am sorry that we did not have more time to discuss compensation, but compensation consultation is still going on and I hope that the Government will have a property bond.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way on the point about compensation. Although it is important that the Bill be given a Third Reading tonight, because many of my constituents would otherwise be left in limbo, it must be placed on the record that the project cannot go ahead if a property bond is not put in place to defend people not just now, but in future. Even if the project is dropped, they still need that property bond.

Mrs Gillan: I hear that, and many people would agree with my hon. Friend.

I am sad that the Bill is coming up for Third Reading without our having had longer to debate it. I, sadly, will be going through the Lobby to vote against it. I do not think any help or support should be given to the project. Many people around the country share my view. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said recently:

“We agree with the need for key infrastructure spending, but . . . It is time for the Government to look at a thousand smaller projects instead of . . . one grand folly.”

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1185

Richard Wellings of the Institute of Economic Affairs said:

“This lossmaking project fails the commercial test, while standard cost-benefit analysis shows it to be extremely poor value for money.”

I could go on. Even the Adam Smith Institute says that HS2 is a disaster.

Andrew Bridgen: Does my right hon. Friend agree that if there were a genuine business case for HS2 the Government would not have to put £50 billion-plus of taxpayers’ money into it, and the chief executive of Legal and General, which has announced a £15 billion fund for UK infrastructure, would not say that he does not want one penny of that money spent on HS2?

Mrs Gillan: I am grateful for the support for the quotes that I cited.

As the Secretary of State well knows, we have an outstanding meeting on compensation. I know he has tried to fulfil that and I hope we can get together on compensation, because my constituents are so badly affected.

I hope HS2 does not go ahead. The new love-in between those on the two Front Benches does not fool me much. I am pretty sure Labour will play politics with the project right up to the wire, but if it does go ahead, we must make sure that we have the best protection for our environment and our countryside, and the best compensation for people whose lives, businesses and communities will be rent asunder by the project. Nothing less will do.

4.52 pm

Mr Godsiff: I spoke and voted against the Bill on Second Reading, and I regret to say that nothing I have heard subsequently has convinced me that I should not vote against it again today. After Second Reading, the argument put forward by the Government began to unravel and people came out stating different positions from those that they had taken before.

First, the Department for Transport upped the figures to £42 billion. Then a previous Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the cost could go to £80 billion and he was withdrawing his support. Then Lord Mandelson said that he attended the Cabinet meeting—presumably the same one as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) attended—where the project was dreamed up as a big idea on the back of an envelope without proper analysis or costings. You pays your money and you takes your choice as to what you want to believe, but I do not think that is the way we should undertake such a project.

There are two points that I wish to make. First, the Government say, not unreasonably, that to go ahead with such a big infrastructure project, they need the support of the main Opposition party. That is perfectly reasonable, but I have been there before, as have many Members in the House. I remember when Michael Heseltine was making preparations for the millennium. He went to the Labour party and said, “Look, I can’t build a millennium dome unless you commit yourselves to it.” We committed ourselves to it, and what happened? Well, there was a good party for the great and the good on new year’s eve, then attendances at the dome dwindled, we could not give it away, and eventually we ended up with £600 million of taxpayers’ money being totally

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1186

wasted because it had to be given away to AEG for nothing. That is what happens when we go in for a vanity project without proper costings.

Secondly, if this is a such a great bargain for the taxpayer and for this country, why is it not being financed by private capital or foreign sovereign wealth funds? The Government are no great lover of public enterprise. Indeed, they are doing their best to pass the very successful franchise on the east coast line back into private ownership. That is their position, fine, but why is private capital not coming into this project? Why are foreign sovereign wealth funds not coming in? The Government are quite happy to have a new generation of nuclear reactors built by a state-owned Chinese company that is answerable to the Chinese politburo, yet this project needs to be paid for with public money. I suspect the reason is quite simple: private capital will not touch it with a bargepole, because those involved know that it cannot be done within the figures that have been talked about. It will go massively over budget and they are not going to pick up the bill.

I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) whether there was a pull-out figure for this project. She declined to give me a figure, and I understand that, but if there is no figure to all intents and purposes we are signing a blank cheque. If we go along with the Government and costs escalate—she made a very good point about degrees of incompetence—what will the pull-out figure be? What will happen if we get half the line built and all of a sudden the figure shoots up to nearly £100 billion? What will we do then? Just continue?

I have a great deal of time for the Secretary of State and in many ways he is in a hole. As an ex-miner, however, he ought to know perfectly well that when someone is in a hole, they should stop digging. My strong advice to him is that he should stop digging. He does not want to end up with a white elephant.

4.57 pm

Alec Shelbrooke: HS2 is a very important project for the city of Leeds. The benefits it will bring to the north of England are immense, but they cannot be built on the back of hard-working people who have invested their livelihoods in their houses and so on. It is therefore vital that, before we sign the Bill off next spring, proper compensation is in place in the form of property bonds, and that the suggestions on rerouting, which are not about “not in my back yard” but propose sensible alternatives to ensure that the route follows existing transport corridors or goes through open countryside, are dealt with. With the best will in the world, we cannot mitigate the effects of such a development just 30 metres from the back of someone’s house.

I was a supporter of this project before I came to this House, but I cannot support it if the compensation package is not right. I urge the Secretary of State to ensure that it is right before the subject returns to the House in the spring.

4.58 pm

Mrs Ellman: High Speed 2 is essential national infrastructure, and we are at a critical part of the process. The concerns raised in today’s debate are very important, and many of them were raised by the Transport Committee two years ago. Some of them have been

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1187

addressed, but some need to be looked at further. It is now the responsibility of the Secretary of State, working with High Speed 2, to ensure that they are dealt with. The concerns relate to the environment, value for money and ensuring maximum economic benefit, including giving opportunities during construction for employment and apprenticeships across the country. The project is essential, but it must benefit the maximum number of people, and that is the Secretary of State’s responsibility as we reach this very important juncture.

4.59 pm

Mark Pawsey: Being given the opportunity to speak now feels like winning the lottery, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I will make one quick point on the impact on my constituents in Rugby. We currently benefit from a fast and frequent service on the west coast main line, so with Virgin Trains we can be in London in 50 minutes and with London Midland we can be there in just under an hour. That is attractive to businesses coming to Rugby, which we can present as a great location. My fear is that, if the Bill goes ahead and the money is given to build High Speed 2, the legacy line will become a stopping line, with trains stopping at every station as the operator seeks to maximise revenues, because the city-to-city business will have been lost—

5 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 26 June).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 350, Noes 34.

Division No. 117]


5 pm


Abrahams, Debbie

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Andrew, Stuart

Austin, Ian

Bacon, Mr Richard

Bain, Mr William

Baker, Norman

Baldry, Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barker, rh Gregory

Barwell, Gavin

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benn, rh Hilary

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berger, Luciana

Berry, Jake

Betts, Mr Clive

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blackwood, Nicola

Blears, rh Hazel

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burden, Richard

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Coffey, Ann

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Dakin, Nic

Davey, rh Mr Edward

David, Wayne

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Geraint

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dobbin, Jim

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle, Gemma

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Esterson, Bill

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fovargue, Yvonne

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Gardiner, Barry

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Glen, John

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goggins, rh Paul

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Grayling, rh Chris

Greatrex, Tom

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hamilton, Mr David

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hilling, Julie

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Jackson, Glenda

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jamieson, Cathy

Javid, Sajid

Johnson, Diana

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Marcus

Jones, Susan Elan

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kawczynski, Daniel

Keeley, Barbara

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Lazarowicz, Mark

Lee, Jessica

Leech, Mr John

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Lucas, Ian

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Malhotra, Seema

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCabe, Steve

McCartney, Karl

McGovern, Jim

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McVey, Esther

Meale, Sir Alan

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nandy, Lisa

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Onwurah, Chi

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Owen, Albert

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Powell, Lucy

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reckless, Mark

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, John

Rogerson, Dan

Ruane, Chris

Rudd, Amber

Rutley, David

Sandys, Laura

Sawford, Andy

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shuker, Gavin

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timms, rh Stephen

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Webb, Steve

Weir, Mr Mike

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whittingdale, Mr John

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Mr Rob

Winnick, Mr David

Wishart, Pete

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mark Lancaster


Jenny Willott


Baker, Steve

Baron, Mr John

Bridgen, Andrew

Byles, Dan

Cash, Mr William

Chope, Mr Christopher

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dobson, rh Frank

Dorries, Nadine

Edwards, Jonathan

Engel, Natascha

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Hoey, Kate

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Kelly, Chris

Lefroy, Jeremy

Lewis, Dr Julian

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

McDonnell, John

Nuttall, Mr David

Pawsey, Mark

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Skinner, Mr Dennis

White, Chris

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Hywel

Tellers for the Noes:

Mrs Anne Main


Kelvin Hopkins

Question accordingly agreed to.

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1188

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1189

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1190

Bill read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Political and Constitutional Reform


That Andrew Griffiths, Tristram Hunt, Mrs Eleanor Laing and Stephen Williams be discharged from the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and Mr Jeremy Browne, Tracey Crouch and Mark Durkan be added.—(Mr Lansley.)


Proposed closure of Skerton Community High School (Lancaster)

5.14 pm

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): I am extremely proud to present this petition on behalf of nearly 3,500 members of staff, students and parents of Skerton community high school and the wider community of Skerton. I am also proud to be wearing the school tie. I am pleased that a group of students, led by a parent, Robyn Holtham, are in the Public Gallery to see the petition presented.

The petitioners started their campaign in September, when they were told that their school faced closure by the county council. Skerton community high school has fantastic pastoral care and all the students are immensely happy there. I therefore urge the House to support the community of Skerton and the children and parents of Skerton community high school in their fight to keep the school open.

The petition states:

The Petition of pupils, parents and staff of Skerton Community High School and others in the Skerton community,

31 Oct 2013 : Column 1191

Declares that the Petitioners believe that Skerton Community High School provides excellent pastoral care and caters for a high number of special needs students and thus the Petitioners do not believe that it should be closed.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take steps to support the school in its bid to remain open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Rural Fair Share Campaign

5.15 pm

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I am proud, pleased and humbled to present a petition on behalf of more than 1,000 constituents in St Ives, in particular Peter Greenough of Bluebell cottage in Godolphin Cross. Some 200 people signed the petition in manuscript form and more than 850 did so through an online petition.

The petition is part of the Rural Fair Share campaign. I congratulate the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), who has spearheaded the campaign. He and a number of other hon. Members will be presenting petitions in support of the campaign on Monday. As I cannot be there, I am presenting this petition tonight. Cornwall is one of the poorest regions in the UK and it receives unfair levels of funding.

The petition states:

The Petition of the residents of St Ives,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the Local Government Finance Settlement is unfair to rural communities; notes that the Rural Penalty sees urban areas receive 50% more support per head than rural areas despite higher costs in rural service delivery; and opposes the planned freezing of this inequity in the 2013–14 settlement for six years until 2020.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reduce the Rural Penalty in staged steps by at least 10% by 2020.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


31 Oct 2013 : Column 1192

Academy Status

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Karen Bradley.)

5.17 pm

John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): I applied for an Adjournment debate on academy schools because Snaresbrook primary school in my constituency was told some time ago that it was likely to become an academy. It is clear that the parents, governors, teachers, staff and surrounding community are opposed to that. The ward councillors, all three of whom are Conservatives, are also against it. The campaign is supported, impressively, by the hon. Member for Ilford North (Mr Scott) and by Redbridge council, which again is a Conservative local authority. By the way, Redbridge has invested a considerable amount in the school and has improved its fabric under very difficult circumstances over the past few months.

Snaresbrook has a very good history by any objective judgment and was always well regarded. Suddenly, in June, it received a bad Ofsted report and was put into special measures. That took everybody by surprise. Under a new head, Carel Buxton, the school has shown clear signs of improvement and it is clear to everybody in the community that, in the long term, it will re-establish its reputation as a good primary school.

I was therefore surprised to receive a letter a couple of weeks ago from Lord Nash, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, saying that, regardless of anything else, the school was to become an academy. Only this week, the hon. Member for Ilford North received an e-mail from the Department for Education saying that the school would not become an academy, but would remain as a maintained school. That was extremely welcome news.

Mr Lee Scott (Ilford North) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we must congratulate the parents and, as he rightly said, London borough of Redbridge council? We must also congratulate the hon. Gentleman himself, and everyone else involved—that probably includes me. We should thank the Department for Education, the Minister of State, and the Secretary of State for ensuring that Snaresbrook primary school is given the opportunity to continue the good work it has done in recent months.

John Cryer: I have no hesitation in agreeing with the hon. Gentleman about that, and I was about to praise him for his work in supporting the campaign for the school to remain a maintained school. A number of children from his constituency are at the school and we have worked together successfully on a number of issues in our area, of which this is the latest. I have no hesitation in praising Redbridge council for doing an excellent job. As I said, it has managed to invest £110,000 in the fabric of the school. That is pretty unusual given the scarcity of resources at the moment, yet the council managed it, and the local councillors deserve praise as well. I also thank the Department for Education.

There are, however, issues relating to the processes that lead to academisation—to use a fairly modern sort of phrase. Before I raise those with the Minister, let me make it clear that I am not making a party political argument. I was not a fan of academies when the

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Labour Government were in power—in fact, I was not a fan of quite a few things they did. I have not checked this, but a while ago I was reliably informed that I voted against my own side 84 times when we were in government. That must be some sort of record and it goes to show that I am not above having a crack at my own side if I think it necessary.

It is widely agreed that two things contribute to improvements in schools—good leadership and good teaching—but neither necessarily arises out of academy status. I am sure there are academies with good leadership and good teaching, but there are also state maintained schools that have both those things. Serious concerns have been highlighted in various media reports about the governance and accountability in academy schools and free schools, although we are focusing on academies.

We have seen stories in the press about chains of academies that are starting to form and which have been accused of moving investment from the schools to other things. Their chief executives are earning very high, perhaps inflated, salaries, and large sums are spent on hospitality and junkets. The Select Committee on Education is yet to look at the record of academies. I am sure it will find that there are good ones, but also that there are question marks over accountability and democratic processes, which are not in place.

The process by which schools become academies raises questions for the Department for Education. There are, for instance, conflicts of interest. On 20 December last year, the BBC revealed that at least four advisers contracted to work on the sponsored academies programme by the Department for Education are also Ofsted inspectors, which I would say was a conflict of interest. There are also a number who, according to the same report, have financial interests with academies and free schools but also work for the Department—again, there are questions to be answered.

On 13 February The Independent reported that the Department was busy offering money—in other words, inducements—to schools, which seems to have happened mainly in the north-west. It was reported that 32 schools in Lancashire were offered sums of £40,000, or slightly less, for that purpose. They were told, “If you become an academy, you will receive a cash injection of £40,000.”

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): I am glad my hon. Friend has mentioned what is going on in the north-west, because there has been a lot of concern in schools in Lancashire, Merseyside and elsewhere about the approaches made by brokers—not just financial inducements, but a lot of pressure put on to a school to convert to academy status. Does my hon. Friend agree that one reason there is so much opposition to these conversions is the concern among parents, and others, about the use of unqualified teachers? That has been allowed in academies since July last year.

John Cryer: We had a debate earlier this week about the use of unqualified teachers. My view is that teachers should be appropriately qualified, and there is a question about that. Parents also have serious concerns about admissions. Once the local education authority is taken out of admissions, who co-ordinates that? Will there be an element of anarchy because no central body is controlling admissions? In other words, will it be a free-for-all?

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On 11 February, The Guardian reported a claim by the National Association of Head Teachers that academy brokers—that phrase is new to me—are given targets by the Department for Education on the number of the schools they must convert. One question I wanted to ask the Minister is whether those targets exists. Are academy brokers told, “You have to convert so many schools by such a point in future”? The same story recorded one head who claimed she had gone to a meeting and been told she was not allowed to leave until she had made a decision on the future of her school. Clearly, that is an unacceptable way to treat anybody, including a head teacher.

There are also examples of head teachers and governors having to concentrate on demands placed on them by the Department rather than concentrating on improving the school. I am thinking of schools that have problems—failing schools in special measures or schools that are given an Ofsted verdict of requiring improvement. They might find that their time is taken up engaging with the Department in discussions on the future status of the school rather than engaging in improving the school.

I have seen a number of Ofsted reports that make it clear that that is happening. For example, one report—I cannot mention the local authority or the school because it is in another constituency, and mentioning it would be a contravention of parliamentary convention—states:

“Another significant barrier to improvement has been the amount of time the headteacher has been involved in the discussions about transferring to an academy…Lengthy and time-consuming meetings with parents, unions, staff and external agencies have taken leaders’ and governors’ focus away from school improvement”.

I have a feeling that, over the next few years, we will see in the media stories of financial mismanagement arising from a lack of accountability, checks and balances, and democracy in the governance of academies and free schools. A parallel can be drawn with the situation when the Government introduced co-operation for further education colleges in 1992. Some of the colleges were fine and worked perfectly well but, because of the lack of accountability, a series of scandals followed—they were documented pretty closely by a number of publications—in which some principals, because they were given a free hand, abused their position. They got up to all sorts of things, financial and otherwise, that were deeply questionable.

To conclude, I have a number of questions for the Minister. I should like him to answer them, but if he does not have answers to hand, I should like him to write to me with the information. Are any contractors who are paid by the Department also Ofsted inspectors? Is anybody working in any way for the Department who has a financial interest in academies and/or free schools? Are academy brokers required by law to abide by the civil service code of conduct? The answer to that last question was given some time ago in another Adjournment debate, and it seemed to be that they are required to abide by the code of conduct. However, in a later Question Time, the Secretary of State equivocated and did not say whether they must abide by the code of conduct or not.

I asked whether brokers are given targets for converting schools to academy status. Is it legitimate for schools to ask academy brokers to declare any conflicts of interest at the outset of their engagement? In other words, would it be legitimate, at the first meeting, for the

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schools to say, “Is there any conflict of interest you would like to bring to our attention or of which we should be aware?”

As I understand it, when the Academies Commission reported in January 2013, it found that there was no evidence that academies performed significantly better than maintained schools. Is that so? Will the Minister confirm that TUPE rights apply to all staff who are transferred from maintained schools to academies?

I thank the Minister for replying to the debate. He has drawn a bit of a short straw by getting the Adjournment debate on a Thursday afternoon. By the way, it appears that the massed ranks of Parliament have turned out for it, compared with previous Adjournment debates I have introduced. That shows what an important issue this is. I have been to Adjournment debates on Thursdays with the Minister and one Whip, and no one else. Today, there is a magnificent turnout on both sides of the House. I pay tribute to the hon. Members who are here and the Minister.

5.30 pm

The Minister for Schools (Mr David Laws): I congratulate the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead (John Cryer) on securing this important debate and raising these issues, in which he takes a close personal interest. I assure him that I have no problem being here this evening, and I am actually the duty Minister for tomorrow as well so I would be here anyway. I do not know why I am getting all these short straws.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Mr Scott), who intervened. Although he is not the constituency MP for the school, I know that he has taken an interest on behalf of concerned parents and others in the area, and we have listened closely to both hon. Members on this issue.

The hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead asked several questions, including about the circumstances of the individual school, which I shall go into in detail; about general policy on academies, which I wish to cover; and some specific questions about the performance management of academy brokers and potential conflicts of interest between Ofsted inspectors and others. On those latter points, I shall write to him—as he anticipated —to ensure that I can supply detailed answers, because I do not have the answers to some of those specific questions to hand.

It is now three years since we expanded the academies programme to enable all schools to become academies, including the ability for primary schools to become academies in their own right for the first time. We did this because we believe that teachers and heads should have more freedom to run schools and more power to innovate in the best interests of their students. More than half of secondary schools and a significant proportion of primary schools are now academies, with more converting every month.

Schools across the country are taking advantage of the freedom that academy status gives them, including having more control over their funding. The decision whether a school should become an academy is, rightly, entirely voluntary for the overwhelming majority of schools, and will remain so. More than 2,500 schools have decided to convert and have become academies.

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These range from small rural primaries to large secondary schools. We expect these academies to work in partnership with other schools to share their knowledge, experience and expertise, with the highest performing institutions helping the weaker institutions to improve.

In addition to the converter academies, there are now almost 900 sponsored academies. We have made it clear that we want to turn around underperforming schools by finding new academy sponsors for them. As the hon. Gentleman said, this is about raising standards and getting better leadership and governance in weak schools. It is not good enough that some children are left to struggle in schools where a large proportion of the pupils are unable to achieve minimum standards year after year. We want to find lasting solutions to underperformance so that all children have the opportunities that they deserve. This is crucial because each child has only one real chance in life to secure a good education. That is why improving schools rapidly is really important.

Our priority now is to continue tackling poorly performing primary schools so that all pupils have the skills they need to succeed in secondary education. There are schools whose history of underperformance and inability to sustain improvements are causing us real concern. That is why we are working with local authorities across the country to secure better outcomes for their pupils, sometimes by transforming under- performing schools into sponsored academies. In several areas we can point to dramatic improvements in schools that have been failing for some years, but with a new sponsor they have seen significant improvements in performance over time.

In the case of Snaresbrook primary school in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, the school was judged by Ofsted in June to require special measures. It is worth saying that Ofsted found that the achievement of pupils, quality of teaching, behaviour and safety of pupils and leadership and management at the school were inadequate. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, that is a serious matter where prompt action is required. As a result of the inspection, we asked the governing body to consider the benefits of becoming an academy and we proposed an academy sponsor based on a nearby outstanding school. Our policy remains that becoming an academy with the support of a strong sponsor is often the best way to ensure rapid and sustained improvement. However, in this case we recognise that Snaresbrook primary school does not have a long history of underperformance and was previously judged good by Ofsted.

We also acknowledge that the school has made progress since being placed in special measures. The local authority acted swiftly in removing the head teacher and chair of governors, brokering a partnership arrangement with a nearby outstanding school, and providing specialist English and maths consultants, among other changes. We also recognise that in this year’s national tests—not all the data are checked and in the public domain yet—pupil performance appears to have improved significantly at key stage 2. We understand that the school’s results for reading, writing and maths are the best for five years, and among the highest in Redbridge. I understand that pupil progression has improved this year, and that the number of pupils making at least two levels of progress at the end of key stage 2 will be above the local authority and national average.

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Those changes, complemented by representations from the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Ilford North, led us to conclude, after Ofsted had looked at the situation, that we needed to review the decision we were making. The changes led Ofsted to conclude at a monitoring inspection earlier this month that the school’s improvement plan is fit for purpose. Inspectors also commented on how leaders have made clear their expectations and ambitions for the school regaining and sustaining its former reputation as a high-achieving school. We will therefore continue to monitor the school’s progress in coming out of special measures, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we do not currently plan to intervene in Snaresbrook primary school to force academisation on the school.

However, we are not treating Snaresbrook differently from any other school judged inadequate by Ofsted. At all stages, we have been clear that our goal is school improvement. We will always seek to work with local authorities and schools to find solutions on which everyone can agree, as we have done successfully in many parts of the country.

Bill Esterson: I will not ask the Minister about qualified teachers today—we have done that a lot recently. On school improvement and whether academies do better than the state-maintained sector, does he accept that all the evidence—not just that from the Academies Commission —is inconclusive when comparing improvement in like-for-like schools?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The hon. Gentleman must stick carefully to the narrow terms of the debate. I am sure the Minister will bear that in mind.

Mr Laws: I shall indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker, although I will say a word about some of the wider issues in a moment.

In all cases, a school can become an academy only after statutory consultation has taken place. That gives parents, governors and the local community the opportunity to put forward their views. These representations are always considered as part of the decision-making process.

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On the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, academy status has made a big improvement in transforming underperforming schools, giving them the freedom to innovate by creating the right conditions for success. In recent years, the results of sponsored academies have gone up faster than those of other state-funded schools, and have turned around some of our worst schools. Their performance has continued to improve this year; in fact, the longer they are open, the better on average they do.

I make it clear that sponsored academies remain state schools funded by the state. All academies are run by non-profit-making charitable trusts, which sign funding agreements with the Secretary of State. They are also required by their funding agreements to follow the law and guidance on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions, as though they were maintained schools.

I hope I have made it clear today that our absolute priority is to see sustainable improvement in schools that have been underperforming for many years. Where underperformance is not being tackled effectively, the Secretary of State has the power to intervene to help ensure that standards are raised quickly, and these powers include replacing current governors with interim executive members, although this power has been used only sparingly.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead for securing this debate, and I thank him and the hon. Member for Ilford North for their role in raising this issue. Many schools across the country are choosing to become academies, and we will continue to work with underperforming schools and their local authorities to transform the life chances of some of the most disadvantaged children in the country. I will write to the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead to address his detailed points.

Finally, along with all hon. Members I would like to wish Snaresbrook primary school, its leadership, teachers and pupils the very best for the future.

Question put and agreed to.

5.40 pm

House adjourned.