28 Apr 2014 : Column 557

High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

[Relevant documents: Thirteenth Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, on HS2 and the environment, HC 1076; Ninth Report from the Transport Committee, on High speed rail: on track?, HC851, and the Government response, HC1085; and Tenth Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2010-12, on High Speed Rail, HC 1185, and the Government response, HC 1754.]

Second Reading

Mr Speaker: Before I call the Secretary of State for Transport to move the Second Reading, I should inform the House that I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan).

I think it only right, notwithstanding the heavy pressure on time, that there should be modest latitude for representatives on either side of the House in the early stages of the debate. That latitude will apply to the mover of the amendment and to the Chair of the Transport Committee, upon whom no formal time limit will be imposed, but I know that both Members will be sensitive to the wishes of the House and the legitimate expectations of colleagues who wish to contribute. After those two individuals have addressed the House, there will be a five-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.

4.38 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It is 120 years since we last built a main line railway north of London. It is even longer since, in 1833, this House voted to start what is known as the west coast main line. The line was not meant to be a national route; it became one almost by accident. It was a railway built with twists and turns to placate landowners, for slow steam trains pulling open-top carriages. It is worth recalling that in 1832 Parliament rejected the initial Bill because some people objected, arguing that canals were all we would ever need for long-distance travel. Today, we ask far too much of the line. If we were talking about roads, it would be as if traffic still had to go up Watling street, as if the M1 and M6 had never been built, and we tried to solve our transport needs by just patching up old roads—a roundabout here, a bridge there—as if incremental change could make all the difference. Well, we tried that: we spent £9 billion upgrading the west coast main line a decade ago, and most of that work did not even get south of Rugby. Cities and towns in the north deserve better. Scotland deserves better. Britain deserves better.

That is why I stand at the Dispatch Box today to support High Speed 2, a new north-south railway line. I do so with much humility and not a little trepidation, but also with confidence, because although I wholly understand the concerns of hon. Members whose constituents are affected by the route, I also know that this is a decision we cannot duck. We have waited long enough. The west coast main line can take no more; it is increasingly full. More than that, London and the south-east are also increasingly full, caught in a cycle of rising house prices, some of the most expensive commercial rents in the world and transport congestion, while cities

28 Apr 2014 : Column 558

in the north want to grow. It is time to help to break that cycle—time to connect great cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): The right hon. Gentleman has said in the past that Coventry would benefit, but can he tell me how? If we are not careful, there could be economic problems with investment in Coventry.

Mr McLoughlin: If I may, I will come in a little while to how I think places such as Coventry, Northampton, Rugby and elsewhere will benefit from the building of HS2. It is not just a matter of time; it is also a matter of the capacity available to the United Kingdom in its railway network. However, I will come to that.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab) rose

Mr McLoughlin: I am happy to give way to colleagues, but I am aware of the number of people who want to speak in this debate, so I will be a bit cautious.

Paul Farrelly: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. Clearly everywhere in Britain deserves better, but there are fears, as he will know, that great cities such as Stoke-on-Trent and Coventry will simply be bypassed. What meetings has he had, in particular with Stoke-on-Trent city council, in the past three months about either a stop on HS2 at Stoke, or a spur from HS2 along the route through Stoke station?

Mr McLoughlin: It is important to note that the Bill before us deals with the route from London to the west midlands, which does not go as far north as the hon. Gentleman describes. That route—basically, from the end of the line we are discussing today to Manchester and Leeds—is still out to consultation. Sir David Higgins did a report, “HS2 Plus”, which I very much welcomed. I accepted part of it—removing the HS1-HS2 link—but there are other parts, on which I am asking for urgent work to be done, that are not contained in the Bill before the House today.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I just inform the House that Stoke-on-Trent is in the west midlands?

Mr Speaker: That is not a matter for the Chair, but a matter of intense interest, not least to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr McLoughlin: As a former Staffordshire county councillor—indeed, I was a member of Staffordshire county council for seven years—I do not need any reminding of where Stoke-on-Trent is, although it is true that Stoke-on-Trent is now a unitary authority and not controlled by that fantastic, first-class Conservative county council of Staffordshire.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the matter of Stoke-on-Trent and other issues, but is not the real concern about the Bill that there has not been a proper, rigorous and strategic environmental assessment? In other words, whether or not the Y route beyond Lichfield

28 Apr 2014 : Column 559

goes via Stoke-on-Trent or elsewhere, there has not been an opportunity to properly assess HS2 phases 1 and 2 in the round.

Mr McLoughlin: One of the questions is “Where is the biggest capacity problem?” and, whether I like it or not, the biggest capacity problem is on the southern part of the route—the route coming into London—but I well understand the concerns of hon. Members representing Stoke-on-Trent and other areas regarding the importance of getting the route right as far as they are concerned. That is why we are in the process of consultation and I am happy to meet and hear representations from those areas, although I am mindful of the huge number of consultations.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that we are talking today about a very big item of public spending, not an investment, because the business case makes it very clear that none of the debt can be repaid out of fare revenue and much of the interest in the early years will also fall on the taxpayer?

Mr McLoughlin: I believe there is a good cost-benefit ratio. We estimate the cost-benefit ratio to be 2.4 and it is worth pointing out—I will come on to this in my speech—that the initial cost-benefit ratio for the Jubilee line was less than 1% and if that had not been built I do not think we would have seen the subsequent development in Canary Wharf. However, I do not want to be tempted too much away from the very detailed contextual part of my speech, which I have worked out.

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Following on from that point, given that the Government have failed to meet their targets in reducing the structural deficit, more than 60% of the cuts wait for the next Parliament, and therefore there will be a real shortage of capital does the Secretary of State really think that even if this line is built to Birmingham, it will go beyond? Secondly, given the scarcity of capital, would not the north gain more from a major link between Liverpool and Hull, rather than worrying about coming into London?

Mr McLoughlin: There is a slight problem in giving way even to colleagues and Opposition Members whom I respect greatly, because they keep asking me about further parts of my speech. If I can make a little more progress, I will be coming on to that point, but I will just point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, as he well knows, at the moment there is a huge amount of investment going into places like the northern hub, which will have very significant benefits for Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Hull in getting better east-west connections across the country and not just between the north and south parts of the country.

Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): I agree with the change of emphasis the Secretary of State has brought, from one of speed to one of addressing the capacity issue, which is clear and apparent to anybody who wants to see it, and I believe Coventry potentially will benefit from the proximity of the nearest non-London station, but can he ensure there is proper connectivity not just to Birmingham city centre, because the west midlands is far more than just Birmingham?

28 Apr 2014 : Column 560

Mr McLoughlin: Indeed it is, and in fairness to the right hon. Gentleman, we might consider the words of the Secretary of State in launching this project when he was last a member of the Cabinet. It is fair to say that the noble Lord Adonis did say that

“over the next 20 to 30 years the UK will require a step-change in transport capacity”

and connectivity, both to promote and to respond to long-term economic growth. That was a statement made by the last Labour Secretary of State, so to say the scheme has always only ever been about speed is to misrepresent what the last Government intended and also what this Government intended.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr McLoughlin: I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney), and then I really must make some progress.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has mentioned the northern hub rail investment, because many people against this project ask “Why not spend the money elsewhere?” I hope he will be emphasising the fact that this investment is as well as, not either/or. We are getting electrification of the trans-Pennine route, and I have just this morning been through Wakefield Westgate, a new £9 million station. This is about spending money elsewhere as well as, not instead of, on this project.

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend is right. Over the next five years Network Rail will spend £38.5 billion on the existing railway network. That is separate from the money being earmarked for HS2.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr McLoughlin: I will give way one final time in this part of my speech, to the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern).

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. When does he expect to respond to the phase 2 consultation?

Mr McLoughlin: If the hon. Lady will be patient, I shall deal with that point a little later in my speech.

I was telling the House that it is time to connect great cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. It is time for better links between north and south and between east and west, and time to connect to world markets to make the most of their skills and talents. It is time for HS2; time for a new north-south railway line.

Today, we can get a high-speed train from London to Lille but not to Leeds, and from London to Brussels but not to Birmingham. That has to change, but of course our investment plans must also run much further. More than £38 billion is being invested in the existing rail network between 2014 and 2019, including about £16 billion of Government support as part of our plans to invest £73 billion in all forms of transport between 2015 and 2021. We are trebling the budget for our major road schemes to £15 billion between 2015 and 2021; we are investing £14 billion in local transport schemes between

28 Apr 2014 : Column 561

2015 and 2020; and next year, the Davies commission will propose options on future airport capacity. We need to do all this because if we are to support our economy, we need our infrastructure to work. Two years after the Jubilee line reached Canary Wharf in 1999, 27,000 people were employed in that area. By 2012, the figure was over 100,000.

We begin, it is true, with the advantage of our Victorian inheritance, but others are catching up. At the start of 2007, China did not have a single high-speed railway line; today, it has more than 6,000 miles in service, and by 2015, that will be 11,000 miles. France and Germany have been reaping the benefits of a high-speed rail network for decades, while we have just 67 miles from London to Kent and the channel tunnel.

Of course we have a good existing network, but we need to improve it, and upgrading Britain’s rail infrastructure is a key part of this Government’s long-term economic plan. In the south and south-west of Britain, the great western line is receiving more investment over the next five years than any other route. This will bring huge benefits to people working in that region.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): The Secretary of State has said that HS2 is not about speed but about capacity. Given that only 8% of the population regularly use trains, what percentage of the population does he think will actually use HS2 and who does he think will benefit from it?

Mr McLoughlin: I was happy to give way to my hon. Friend, but I am mindful of what he said about me yesterday on Radio 4, bits of which I agree with and bits of which I am slightly worried about. He said:

“Patrick McLoughlin is an excellent Cabinet Minister”—

I agree with him on that—

“and a former Chief Whip of the Conservative party. Indeed, if you had a difficult policy you wanted to push through Parliament, Patrick is your man. I would maintain that if the PM wanted the Herod Bill, Patrick would be the man to see that through Parliament.”

I am not quite sure whether to take that last bit as a compliment. When I talk about the need for capacity, I am talking about the need to free up capacity on other lines as well.

One of the great successes in the rail industry in this country is the massive growth in the railways, and I shall say more about that later. If we look at the tables, we see that 20 years ago, rail passenger numbers in this country were constant. Over the past 20 years, however, the numbers have risen from 750 million to 1.5 billion passenger journeys a year. The numbers continue to grow, and we need to address that fact. That is why we are right to do what we are doing with HS2.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): All the northern councils and chambers of commerce back HS2 unequivocally as a source of growth and extra capacity. Is it not the case that all major infrastructure projects are objected to at the time of their creation, and that 50 years on, the objectors fully support what took place?

Mr McLoughlin: I understand and respect those people who object. If some new piece of infrastructure is going to have an impact on their lives, there will be a fear of what might come. As we saw with HS1, there was a fear

28 Apr 2014 : Column 562

of what might come, but once it had been built, people said that it represented a vast overall improvement to this country’s rail network.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Secretary of State agree that those of us who object to HS2 are not flat earthers? We know that our rail infrastructure must be renewed and that there are real problems with capacity and much else, but this proposal is deeply flawed, and has never been scrutinised properly or planned properly. That is what we worry about, because so many of the independent inquiries find on the negative, not on the positive, about this HS2.

Mr McLoughlin: In the last Parliament, the hon. Gentleman was an absolute supporter of the Government of the day. Today, we hear him attack the scheme so violently, but he did not do that when he was sitting on the Government Benches behind that Government when they proposed it in the first instance. I am happy to accept the support he gave it in the first instance.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): The right hon. Gentleman has said that we have only 67 miles of high-speed rail in England, linking to two independent countries, France and Belgium. Does that not add to the argument that if Scotland were independent, there would be a greater push for rail north, as two sovereign Governments would be working on this rather than one?

Mr McLoughlin: I was expecting an intervention from the Scottish National party, but I am not quite sure which sea the hon. Gentleman is thinking of going under, how long the tunnel would be and which continent he is thinking of connecting up to separately with an independent part of Scotland. What I say to him is that I believe high-speed rail is very important for the whole country—it will be important for Scotland, too—and Scotland, part of the United Kingdom, will be much better off.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr McLoughlin: I give way to the former Foreign Secretary.

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): May I offer the right hon. Gentleman, without any caveats, my full support and say to him that most colleagues representing constituencies in the north actively back this scheme, for the very reasons he has spelt out? Does he also accept that those who represent some home counties through which this route is going of course have legitimate constituency concerns but that, for example, the Chiltern railway line has benefited twice over from investment—from the last phase of investment by British Rail and from Evergreen—and that the M40 was far more disruptive to people living in the Chilterns but nobody would now suggest it should be abandoned or greened over?

Mr McLoughlin: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and I completely agree with him. One of this morning’s papers, I believe it was The Daily Telegraph, said that this Bill will certainly have been scrutinised more than any major infrastructure project we have dealt with, across the whole piece.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 563

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con) rose

Mr McLoughlin: I will give way to my hon. Friend but then I will want to make some progress.

Michael Fabricant: I hope my right hon. Friend can assure me that he has not got anything in his folder about what I might have said yesterday. He spoke earlier about the importance of global trade and of HS2. Does he not accept that it is extraordinary that with this design, HS2, which I do not disagree with in principle, does not have a link with the channel ports, with HS1 or even with whichever airport will be chosen by his own Department to have the third runway?

Mr McLoughlin: As for notes on what my hon. Friend might have said yesterday, I do not think I have enough pages in the Department for what he might have tweeted out yesterday. I will address why I think this is the right scheme a little later, because I want also to talk about the links between—

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con) rose

Mr McLoughlin: I will give way for the last time and then I will want to make some progress.

Mr Cash: Phase 2, which affects my constituents directly, will have compensation arrangements which will clearly be based on the proposals being put forward with regard to phase 1—London to Birmingham. Given that, and given the scale of this operation, does my right hon. Friend accept that the only proper and reasonable basis for properly compensating the people concerned is if they get full value in relation to the losses they incur and not just the kind of provision currently on offer?

Mr McLoughlin: I want to talk about the compensation package a little later and indeed about the fact that I announced a new compensation package before the House rose for Easter, but that matter is out for consultation.

Before I took those interventions, I was talking about the improvements in the great western main line. We will also see improvement in east-west links, with faster electric trains between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle and a reopened railway between Oxford and Bedford. In London, we will see the Crossrail and Thameslink upgrades, which between them will cost £21 billion—about the same amount that is being spent on the first phase of High Speed 2. It is the scale of spending on London that has brought about amazing transformations at places such as St Pancras and King’s Cross stations. In the 20 years that I have been using those stations, they have become places that people wish to visit, destinations in their own right and places of which we can be proud. However, that necessary investment in London should not come at the expense of the rest of the country. Demand for travel is growing everywhere.

Twice as many people travel by train every day as they did 20 years ago. More people drive and fly, too, and that is because our horizons broaden in a better-connected world. Digital links do not replace travel; they fuel it. Smartphones and broadband are not an

28 Apr 2014 : Column 564

alternative to things such as HS2; they are part of the same growing links between people and businesses, and that pressure is felt acutely on our north-south rail corridors.

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s praise for the two brilliant stations in my constituency, one of which was started and finished under the Labour Government and the other of which was started under the Labour Government. Will he confirm that according to the documents of HS2 and his Department, Euston will be able to provide extra capacity only if there is investment in Crossrail 2, at a cost of an extra £15 billion to £20 billion?

Mr McLoughlin: The documents about Crossrail 2 have been put out by the Mayor of London. We shall see the completion of Crossrail 1 in 2018, which will make a massive difference to London overall. I know that the right hon. Gentleman feels very strongly about this matter and is proud of the stations in his constituency, but the truth is that when I first came to this House, we regarded Euston as the best station of the three. It is now way behind the other two stations. HS2 gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a transformational change to Euston station, which will bring it into line with the other two stations.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr McLoughlin: I will give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), but then I must make some progress.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way while he is laying out his case. However, the case he is making for HS2 fails to recognise that there will still have to be an awful lot of work on our classic railway. It would be wrong if he did not tell people that the west coast main line is crumbling and will still need major investment and repairs, and that our classic railway will suffer. I hope that the money will be there for those railways, too.

Mr McLoughlin: I do not think that I have been misleading. I have been very open about the west coast main line. I do not think it is crumbling—as I have said, there has been £10 billion upgrade on the line north of Rugby. Between 2014 and 2019, we shall be spending £38 billion on the existing railway network, on things such as the electrification of the midland main line and a number of other schemes that I have already mentioned.

Even on moderate forecasts, services will be increasingly full by the mid-2020s. If we do not create extra capacity, people at stations such as Milton Keynes and Northampton will have to queue to get on a train to get to work. That is despite the £9 billion that we have spent on the west coast main line in recent years. More upgrades like that will not provide the extra capacity that we need. A new north-south railway line is the right answer. From day one, it will improve journey times and train services to Manchester and to the north-west and Scotland, because HS2 trains will continue on the existing network. It will free up more space for commuters and freight on existing routes, and places up and down the country will benefit

28 Apr 2014 : Column 565

from more services and seats. Although it is too early to talk about precise timetables, Milton Keynes, an area of particularly close interest for my Parliamentary Private Secretary, could get 11 trains an hour to London compared with six now, and places such as Rugby would get more non-stop journeys to London.

Today's debate is about phase 1, but when it is complete HS2 will be a wider network. We have consulted on phase 2, and I know that many Members have a strong interest in ensuring that we get the plans right. That should include serving cities on the eastern leg through the east midlands, Sheffield and Leeds as well as the north-west, and we will set out more details later this year.

Of course we must design HS2 well and build it carefully, which means making sure that our young people have the skills to get the engineering jobs it will create. We have therefore announced plans for the first new further education college in 20 years, backed by HS2. Soon we shall announce the winning location for the central facility and a network of outposts. I know that many places are keen to take part, such as Aylesbury college, Manchester and Birmingham.

One of the things that matters most about HS2 is the huge opportunity it offers to the next generation. There will be 2,000 apprenticeships—not just one-off jobs building the line, but careers. The numbers involved mean that we will take the skills base in this country to a new level, so the country will not only be better connected but better trained with the skills we need to compete not only in transport but across a range of industries. This is not just investment in steel and rolling stock; it is a huge investment in our people across the nation.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): The Secretary of State mentions apprenticeships and training. With HS1, the building of Stratford and, up to a point, the Olympics, there was a clear commitment that local people should be used on those building projects and that training schemes would be put in place to ensure that they had those opportunities. Will that same commitment apply to HS2?

Mr McLoughlin: Definitely. A little later, I shall go on to my obligations under the paving Bill, which will, I hope, go some way towards reassuring the hon. Lady.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): In response to an earlier intervention, the Secretary of State answered a question about Crossrail, which, of course, qualified for full Barnett consequentials. Today we are debating high-speed rail between London and the west midlands, which seems to me to be an England-only railway. Why are the UK Government not awarding Barnett consequentials in this case?

Mr McLoughlin: Because, as I said in earlier, the simple fact is that the trains will run on to Scotland. I think that Scotland will get the benefits from the first day that the new railway line is open. I have got used to people from Scotland and Wales talking to me about Barnett consequentials, and we will obviously follow any rules that require such consequentials, but my belief is that the benefits will go to both Wales and Scotland from the point at which HS2 first opens.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 566

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr McLoughlin: Well, I will give way to my hon. Friend, but this will be the last intervention for some time.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: I am delighted that my right hon. Friend wants to give way to me. Given that some of us approve of the principle of the Bill but believe that the route could be improved, will he say a little more about whether the Select Committee will have some latitude, given the instruction that it should consider only the broad alignment of the current deposited plans? Will it be able to consider matters such as the route to Heathrow?

Mr McLoughlin: Scrutiny is one thing that the Bill has not been short of since it was published. The Select Committee will be given certain instructions, which will be debated tomorrow, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will have the opportunity to raise his point in that debate.

It is essential that we get this investment right. That is why I welcome Sir David Higgins’s recent report “HS2 Plus”, which took a hard look at the plans. He proposes better developments at Euston, getting services to the north sooner, integrating HS2 more effectively with the existing rail network, and working with local authorities and businesses across the midlands and the north to ensure that they get the right railway for their needs. The Government support him in all that.

It is also right that the project should be built to budget and that is an essential part of the task we have set. In his report, Sir David says that the current £21.4 billion budget for phase 1 is right, but he goes on to warn that time is money. He cannot reduce the contingency budget of around £6 billion at this stage while the legislation has not yet been passed. In short, he throws a responsibility to all of us in the House; yes, a responsibility to consider the Bill properly, but not to delay it needlessly.

Sometimes people ask why we are rushing HS2. Some people ask why on earth it is taking so long. The answer is that we are doing it properly and to the timetable set out by the last Government in 2010, so that the first services run in 2026. But the final choice lies with Parliament. Last year, we passed the paving Act, which prepared for a new high-speed route to the midlands and the north. With support from the Government and Opposition, the House voted for the Act by 350 to 34. The Bill before us today will provide the detailed authorisation. As Parliament considers the Bill for phase 1, we will prepare our proposals for phase 2, responding to the Higgins challenge to accelerate and improve it so that the most can be made of this investment—a commitment to get high-speed services to more towns and cities in the midlands and the north, and, crucially, to make sure that we get the most out of the economic opportunities it will bring.

Mr Jim Cunningham: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way to me a second time. He said earlier that he would say what benefits cities such as Coventry would get from this project. Will he tell me now?

28 Apr 2014 : Column 567

Mr McLoughlin: I think I did so a short time ago, but the simple fact is that Coventry will have the potential to get much better train services than if we failed to build HS2. There will be a far greater chance for commuters from Coventry to Birmingham or Leeds to have seats as longer distance passengers transfer to HS2. Without HS2 it is likely that trains to Birmingham and London from Coventry will become increasingly congested, with there being little chance to book a seat. Coventry residents will also have the opportunity to use the nearby Birmingham Interchange station. I was on a train from Birmingham to London last Tuesday in the middle of the day, and by the time it reached Coventry it was very nearly full. There is a capacity problem.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): I am following my right hon. Friend’s arguments closely. Can he put a date on bringing forward the route to the north, and can he put a figure on how much the north can be expected to benefit if we are not to have any connectivity? I believe that the economic development between Manchester, Leeds and York is being held back by the lack of investment in that route.

Mr McLoughlin: We are investing in the new intercity express programme, or IEP, trains, which is a massive upgrade of the railway network serving my hon. Friend’s constituency and region, and in this spending round we will be electrifying more than 800 miles of line throughout the country, which will benefit the northern hub, which I have just talked about.

I thank the Commercial Secretary for his work in leading the growth taskforce, developing proposals for maximising the benefits of HS2, alongside senior industrialists, senior trade union leaders and city leaders. That task matters because designing and planning work on the project is already under way and construction is set to begin in 2017, just three years away. Firms throughout the country are bidding for contracts, and places from Penzance to Edinburgh can benefit. Engineering students, currently sitting in classrooms in our towns and cities, will be the ones shaping and delivering the scheme, and pupils who are today in secondary school will be using it.

I come now to the content of the Bill. Put simply, Parliament is being asked to grant planning permission and the other powers needed for the first phase. A number of motions have been laid to facilitate the Bill’s passage, most of which will be debated tomorrow. Tonight the House is being asked to vote on the principle of the Bill: that there should be a high-speed railway between Euston and a junction with the west coast main line at Handsacre. The railway should include a spur to Birmingham Curzon Street and intermediate stations at Birmingham Interchange and Old Oak Common. If agreed tonight, this means it cannot be re-aligned or extended as part of the Bill. The proposed link to High Speed 1 will be removed from the Bill. It is not part of the principle of the Bill; instead, we are working on proposals to improve connections between the rail network and HS1.

Of course, projects of this size do not come without negative impacts. Rather than shy away from the challenges, however, we have been transparent. Parliament, as the decision maker, has a duty to ensure that the Government have met their legal obligations. We have carried out the

28 Apr 2014 : Column 568

largest environmental impact assessment of a major project ever undertaken in the UK. We have considered the alternatives, invited the views of the public and presented an environmental statement to Parliament alongside deposit of the Bill. We have observed all the European requirements, taking measures to protect species, to avoid harming special areas of conservation and to comply with the water framework directive. It is, however, not only about meeting our obligations, but about ensuring that we carefully balance the scheme’s progress with its impact. It is right that those directly affected by the scheme will have the opportunity to be heard by the Select Committee.

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Nearly all those who support the scheme are pleased that the route in the Bill, which the Secretary of State has just outlined, has substantive support across the House. There is, however, one exception. Given that the London chamber of commerce and industry has said that it is unlikely that Heathrow will close in the foreseeable future, why can the Secretary of State not be clear about what link there will be to the airport?

Mr McLoughlin: I do not want to pre-empt the review of the Davies commission, which is doing excellent work, but there is no doubt that Old Oak Common will serve Heathrow as far as Crossrail is concerned.

Our proposals strike the right balance. More than half the route is in tunnels or cuttings and more than two thirds of the line’s surface sections will be insulated by cuttings and landscaping. No grade I listed building is affected and only some 100 homes will be demolished in the nearly 100 miles of the rural part of phase 1. The line is designed to be secure against flooding. Indeed, it is notable that while weather affected many rail lines this winter, the HS1 line in Kent ran as normal.

We have also consulted and changed. There will be a longer tunnel at Northolt, a new tunnel at Bromford and a bypass at Stoke Mandeville. We have worked hard on state-of-the-art noise mitigation, but if more can be done by spending the budget better, I will ensure that that happens.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr McLoughlin: Who said, “Me first”?

Andrew Bridgen: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. Is it not true that some 240,000 dwellings lie within a kilometre of the route, many of which are totally ineligible for any form of compensation under the current scheme, and that many people will go to their graves having been trapped in houses that they could not sell because of HS2?

Mr McLoughlin: I do not accept what my hon. Friend says, which was not reflected in the experience of building HS1.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): My right hon. Friend’s written statement mentions the express purchase, which is

“being launched today and is for those people living closest to the line, in…the ‘surface safeguarded’ area.”—[Official Report, 9 April 2014; Vol. 579, c. 20WS.]

Will he clarify how far from the line that would be, as it is not clear from his written statement?

28 Apr 2014 : Column 569

Mr McLoughlin: I will come on to compensation in a little while, but I am slightly constrained in what I can say because the issue is being consulted on.

Mr Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I am glad that the Secretary of State wants to keep an open mind about getting the final designs right. High Speed 2 will be of huge benefit to the city of Birmingham, but we must not leave east Birmingham behind. The current proposal to destroy a space the size of 105 football pitches, where we have plans to create 7,000 jobs in the worst unemployment hot spot in the whole United Kingdom, is not a good idea. Birmingham city council will oppose the proposal during the petitioning stage. Will the Secretary of State keep his mind open to the idea that there could be a better site for the rolling yard that would not destroy east Birmingham’s economic future?

Mr McLoughlin: I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, and indeed Birmingham city council, is very supportive of the overall scheme. Of course we will want to make those presentations to the Select Committee during the passage of the Bill. That site was looked at very carefully when we considered those that were available, because a new railway line requires areas where trains can be serviced. A number of people can argue about whether we have the right sites or the wrong ones, and of course that will be taken into consideration.

Of course I understand the depth of concern that the line has caused in some places, which is why I have made it clear to my officials that there is no place in the Department or in HS2 for talk of luddites or nimbys. We must respect people and try to meet their concerns.

Sir John Randall (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comment about luddites and nimbys, terms that were used unhelpfully at the beginning of the process. As he will know, there is still a great deal of concern. Will he say a little more about what can still be done during the process?

Mr McLoughlin: I understand the particular concerns that have been put to me by many Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright)—they never cease to remind me of them. I certainly agree that we need to do what we can to help. Aylesbury is, after all, the largest settlement near the route between London and Birmingham, and there may be more that we can do. We will continue to talk to people in the Hawkslade part of Aylesbury, for example, and the National Trust about its idea for a land bridge near Hartwell house. I am sympathetic to the specific concerns in Wendover about any noise impact on St Mary’s church, which has become a really successful concert venue, thanks to local efforts. There are creative things that can be done along the route, such as planting tree screens to cut noise, which also makes ecological sense by creating green corridors. For places such as Fairford Leys, the line offers a chance to create new woodlands.

As I have said, I well understand that the people directly affected by the route are concerned about it. As Members have said in interventions, that is the case for all major infrastructure schemes. There is no doubt that

28 Apr 2014 : Column 570

major infrastructure schemes will inconvenience a number of people. That was certainly true when we rebuilt St Pancras and King’s Cross stations, and indeed with Crossrail, as we can see at Victoria station at the moment. Ultimately, however, we usually see a huge improvement for the general infrastructure of the nation as a result.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr McLoughlin: I am slightly concerned about the amount of time I am taking, but I will give way to the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson).

Frank Dobson: King’s Cross and St Pancras are both in my constituency. They had the support of the local council, the support of the local MP and the overwhelming support of local people, even those directly affected. That is not the case with the proposals for Euston.

Mr McLoughlin: I am not sure what point the right hon. Gentleman is trying to make. If we only built infrastructure projects when we had the support of everyone concerned, we would be building very little infrastructure in this country.

Mrs Gillan: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for acknowledging that some parts of the country will take all the pain of this project but get none of the gain, unlike with the M40, which benefited Buckinghamshire and contributed to its economy by enabling people to get on and off it. I hope he is not ruling out looking at further mitigation, particularly for the area of outstanding natural beauty, which concerns not only my constituency but that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington). If one is to have environmental credentials, it is important to protect our environment to the highest degree when implementing projects of this nature.

Mr McLoughlin: Of the 20.8 km of the route that passes through the Chilterns, only 3.3 km will be on the surface—at the moment the rest will be below ground level. I understand my right hon. Friend’s point, and that is something we need to bear in mind. She is right that her constituents benefited directly from the M40, and that was paid for by taxpayers across the whole country, rather than just by those in that area. I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), as she has not yet intervened.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): My constituency is not directly affected but my constituents have concerns about this, which have not been helped by the fact that the Major Projects Authority’s report on the risk has been suppressed or vetoed. If we are going to have projects like this, greater transparency is needed in respect of them.

Mr McLoughlin: I cannot think of an infrastructure project that has had more reports on it than this one. I set out my reasons for withholding the MPA report: it is important for civil servants to be able to speak freely and in confidence to Ministers. I made a full statement on that particular matter at the time I took the decision.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 571

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I declare my interest as a commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The commission had serious concerns about the elements of deregulation in the Bill that remove protections for monuments and burial sites where Commonwealth war graves are sited in this country. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that organisations like the Commonwealth War Graves Commission will be consulted as the Bill goes forward?

Mr McLoughlin: Yes. I give the hon. Gentleman that assurance on a matter that was raised with me privately by another member who served on the commission. We certainly will consult.

Of course, we must also get the property compensation right. I have announced an enhanced property compensation package and I wish to consult quickly on the further proposals. I want to do more, so we will introduce a need-to-sell scheme, which I want to be easy to understand and to work fairly. It is more than just a re-labelling of the previous exceptional hardship scheme. It will be more generous, too, but it does not stop there.

Let me outline the powers that the Government are seeking through this Bill. It provides the authority to undertake works required for the construction and maintenance of phase 1 of HS2: deemed planning permission for the railway; the power to purchase compulsorily the land required for the phase 1 route, as well as for business relocation and regeneration; modification of existing legislative controls that are not designed for a hybrid Bill—a process based on that used for HS1 and Crossrail; and the ability to nominate a person or organisation to deliver phase 1 on behalf of the Secretary of State.

I believe that the Bill before us today has the power to change our nation profoundly and for the better. Yes, HS2 is ambitious; yes, it will take a great deal of investment; yes, it will take time to complete—but so did the canals, the railways and motorways that previous generations left as their legacy. Our age can achieve something just as great. I am from the midlands—I was born in Staffordshire and I represent Derbyshire—and I know the potential of Britain. I know that, built right, on time and to budget, High Speed 2 can help our great cities thrive.

The choice comes down to this: do we invest in modern transport links to make sure that every part of Britain can compete for the best jobs, or are we really happy for London and the south-east to power ahead while the rest get second best? Put like that, the answer is clear to me. Yes, this project deserves careful scrutiny—the processes are in place to ensure that—but it also deserves to go ahead. Britain needs it to go ahead. Tonight, I hope that we will make good progress towards that end. I commend the Bill to the House.

5.28 pm

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): I begin by congratulating the Secretary of State on bringing the Bill before us, and I would like to thank him for the patience and generosity with which he has treated us today and for the cross-party approach he has taken on this vital national issue.

Michael Fabricant: On that very point, will the hon. Lady give way?

28 Apr 2014 : Column 572

Mary Creagh: Yes.

Michael Fabricant: Does she share just a teensy-weensy bit of my unease that where there is a love-in and a cross-party approach, it invariably means that the parties are getting something wrong?

Mary Creagh: Well, I do not share anything teensy-weensy or of any other size relating to the hon. Gentleman—[Laughter.] I think we will leave it at that. To give the hon. Gentleman a straight answer, I think that it is important to work co-operatively across the House on issues of national significance The debate that we have had has shown that the vision is important, but also that the concerns and the case for mitigation must be listened to. If we are elected next year, I hope that that will continue during the construction of the line.

High Speed 2 will cut congestion on the railways, better connect our cities and help to deliver a one nation economic recovery, which is why Labour will support the Bill tonight. Its 335 miles will be the longest and most ambitious piece of rail infrastructure to be built in this or the last century. Managed properly, HS2 has the power to transform the economic geography of our country. It will build up our great cities and bring them closer together; it will connect people to each other, to work and to leisure; and it will help to rebalance the economy, creating new skilled jobs and apprenticeships in every nation and region of our economy.

Mr Kevan Jones: My hon. Friend says that the project will link the cities and regions of our country. Does she include the north-east in that?

Mary Creagh: I certainly do. The full Y line will terminate 14 miles south of York so that the classic compatible network trains will be able to run from the north-east—directly from Newcastle—and join the high-speed line outside York, significantly cutting the journey time to Old Oak Common in London and to those intermediate cities of Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Birmingham. There will be significant benefits to the north-east.

Paul Farrelly: Given the urge for more speed in the Higgins report, what comfort can my hon. Friend give to the people of north Staffordshire who, as HS2 stands, face the prospect of having only three direct services a day to London from Stoke-on-Trent station, instead of more than 30?

Mary Creagh: It is too early to write the railway timetable for 2026, but when phase 1 of the line is open people from my hon. Friend’s constituency will be able to get on a classic train at Stoke-on-Trent, go down the west coast main line and join the high-speed line at the Handsacre junction—

Michael Fabricant: In my constituency! Perhaps they should pay a toll.

Mary Creagh: We will not be paying any tolls to go through Lichfield. Journey times to London will be significantly cut. One of the benefits that has perhaps been undersold is the connectivity that HS2 will bring even to those cities not directly connected. Given the

28 Apr 2014 : Column 573

anxieties in Stoke-on-Trent and the key decision to be made on Crewe, when will the Secretary of State bring forward his response to phase 2? It would be helpful to know his thinking.

Mr Redwood: What has changed between last autumn and today to move the Labour party from thinking that HS2 offers very poor value for money to thinking that it is a great financial project?

Mary Creagh: David Higgins and Simon Kirby, the former Network Rail chief engineer, have been appointed to the project, and the Higgins review has shown where costs can be brought down. The key risk to the project costs is political delay. We have also looked at the strategic alternatives, as we did in government, and we believe that HS2 is the best way to move to the low-carbon transport infrastructure that our country needs if we are to meet our climate change emissions targets.

Mr Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con): Does the hon. Lady accept that in addition to improving journey times for people living in Warwickshire, Buckinghamshire and Staffordshire, an even greater benefit will be the release of capacity on the west coast main line? That will mean that people travelling to London will be able to get seats and will have a better journey.

Mary Creagh: Absolutely. It will also be a key issue for my right hon. and hon. Friends from Coventry, because one of the pinch points on the west coast main line is the crush when commuting from Coventry into Birmingham in the rush hour.

Andrew Bridgen: Can the shadow Secretary of State confirm that the Opposition’s support for HS2 is still contingent on its being delivered for under £50 billion?

Mary Creagh: We will have to see what the Committee delivers as the Bill goes through the Committee process. There are clearly issues to do with the High Speed 1 and High Speed 2 link, which has now been taken out of the Bill. Some of the issues that the Committee will consider will be debated more fully tomorrow.

A Bill of this size and importance will be controversial, and we must debate it properly. A project of this size will affect very many individuals and communities, and the environment. We must minimise the negative impacts wherever possible and deal with the utmost sensitivity with the people whose homes are affected.

On the capacity crunch, HS2 will deal with some of these constraints on our railways. Already, thousands of commuters are standing on packed rush hour trains into Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Euston. Last week’s figures from the Office of Rail Regulation showed that the number of rail journeys has more than doubled since 1996. This number will continue to rise, and by 2026 peak demand will be two and a half times the capacity at Euston, twice the capacity at Birmingham New Street, and nearly twice the capacity at Manchester Piccadilly. There is already more demand for train services than there are train paths available on the west coast main line, and by 2024 it will be running at full capacity.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 574

This congestion will have a significant impact on the freight industry and its customers. The west coast main line is the key artery in the Rugby, Daventry and Northampton golden triangle for freight. Over the next decade, passenger constraints will become more serious on the east coast main line and the midland main line. Network Rail’s £38 billion investment programme for the next five years will deliver signalling improvements, platform extensions and some additional services, but those incremental changes will not deal with the looming capacity problem.

Labour Members know from our time in government that major infrastructure takes years to plan and to construct. Many right hon. and hon. Members will remember the Crossrail Bill, which Labour introduced in 2005 and which received Royal Assent in 2008. That railway will open in 2018. Labour in government identified the need for more capacity on London’s railways by the end of this decade, and we acted to deliver it. We must do the same now to build the infrastructure we need to mitigate the looming capacity crunch on our railways.

Mr Brian Binley (Northampton South) (Con): Is the shadow Minister aware that we need 20 paths to take care of increased freight over the next 10 to 15 years, and that our current network cannot supply even one of those paths? Is not that a major reason for arguing for this Bill?

Mary Creagh: Yes, absolutely. Freight has been a Cinderella subject; the focus tends to be on passengers, and that is absolutely right. If we are to achieve the modal shift by getting HGVs off our roads and freight on to trains—that is key in the hon. Gentleman’s area—we have to make sure that freight is able to go on the west coast main line.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The hon. Lady said that we need to mitigate the worst effects of the railway. Does she accept that as regards ancient woodlands there is no way of mitigating those effects because we cannot replace ancient woodland? According to the Woodland Trust, the preferred route for phase 1 will see the loss of, or damage to, 83 irreplaceable woodlands.

Mary Creagh: I will come to the environmental part of my speech in a moment. I would say to the hon. Lady, as the sole representative of the Green party in Parliament, that her party is in an extraordinary position in voting against what will be the key plank in moving towards a low-carbon transport infrastructure.

Let me turn to reductions in travel times. High Speed 2 will not just increase capacity; it will use the latest high-speed technology to reduce travel times between Scotland, the north, the midlands and London. It will connect with existing railway lines so that from the end of phase 1 direct high-speed services can be operated from Glasgow, Wigan, Preston and Liverpool. [Interruption.] They will go through Lichfield, without a toll. The full scheme will cut journey times from London to Birmingham Curzon Street to 49 minutes, to Sheffield Meadowhall to 69 minutes, and to Leeds to 82 minutes. When both phases are complete, HS2 will link our northern cities, providing new express commuter services between them, as we have seen with High Speed 1 in Kent. That will drive jobs, regeneration and growth across the midlands, the north, Scotland and Wales.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 575

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): The hon. Lady mentioned the journey time to Curzon Street, but I am sure she is aware that the journey time from London Euston to Birmingham international will go down to 31 minutes. That will result in an under-utilised runway becoming competitive with some of the London airport runways, which could help relieve congestion in the south-east.

Mary Creagh: That is a very important point. The impact on western Coventry and Birmingham international airport cannot be overstated. When I was 18, the journey time from Coventry to London was two hours, and the £9 billion upgrade has got that down considerably to an hour. To reduce it still further would be a phenomenal achievement in one’s own lifetime.

Mr Sheerman: My hon. Friend and I have been parliamentary neighbours and friends for a long time, so I say in a very positive spirit that I started off, as the Secretary of State has said, supporting HS2 because I thought it would bring power, wealth, activity and jobs to the northern regions, but I have changed my mind because the research increasingly shows that it will suck more power into and give more strength to London and the south-east. Does my hon. Friend share my concerns? The Institute of Economic Affairs raised such questions this morning.

Mary Creagh: I missed that last bit about this morning, but the report we have had and the Treasury analysis show that the benefits will accrue to Yorkshire and west Yorkshire, including my city and my hon. Friend’s town of Huddersfield. One of the key points of the Higgins report is that full investment in east-west rail links across the Pennines is one of the great prizes that HS2 can bring to our area.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): In view of the fact that the French, the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians and many other nations have a high-speed link, does my hon. Friend not think it is high time that this country had one? It is about not just those areas that will actually get the link, but interconnecting areas, so people in north Wales and mid-Wales will also benefit from the Crewe link. We have to look at the budget, but surely it is high time to get on with it. That is why people in Wales who do not back everything the Labour party says, such as Professor Stuart Cole, are backing it.

Mary Creagh: The benefits of increased connectivity for north Wales cannot be overstated, given the potential for new railway links to towns and cities that currently have no direct rail link to London, and I will now address that in greater detail.

HS2 frees up capacity on the existing network. The full route will provide up to 18 long-distance train services into London every hour, which is the equivalent of a new green motorway. It will separate long-distance trains from local commuter services and freight and free up capacity on the network. That free capacity will bring new commuter services into London from areas of significant housing growth, including Milton Keynes, Luton, Northampton, Peterborough and Corby. The free capacity could also provide more direct, long-distance services to London from places such as Blackpool, Shrewsbury and Bradford.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 576

Jonathan Edwards: The Labour Government in Wales changed their position on calling for equivalent Barnett consequentials following a call from Jim Pickard in the Financial Times asking why they were not making the same case as Plaid Cymru. The financing decisions on HS2 will be made during the next comprehensive spending review, when I suppose the hon. Lady would hope to be making such decisions as Secretary of State for Transport. Will she therefore give a guarantee that, should the Labour party form the next UK Government, Wales will get a fair share?

Mary Creagh: I understand that the pressing issue in south Wales in particular at the moment is the electrification of the Cardiff valley lines. I would hope that that is at the top of everybody’s in-tray to try to sort that out, because there seems to have been some sort of miscommunication, to put it charitably.

Mrs Main: To take the hon. Lady back a few moments, has she actually seen the major projects report on risk, which has been vetoed, and does she believe it should be vetoed?

Mary Creagh: No. I am not a Government Minister, so I have not seen it. The hon. Lady will have to ask her colleague the Secretary of State to share its contents with her.

Mrs Main: Should it be vetoed?

Mary Creagh: That is a decision for the Government and they have taken it. Perhaps the hon. Lady should have put that question to the Secretary of State.

I want Sir David Higgins and his team to look carefully at how High Speed 2 integrates with our national strategic road network to minimise travel disruption during construction and operations. Network Rail’s future investment plans must be aligned to maximise benefits to the north. We need an integrated transport system for the UK.

As the Bill proceeds through Parliament, Labour will continue to hold the Government to account to keep costs down. Across the country, our constituents face a cost of living crisis. In this time of austerity, it was right for my right hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor to call the Government to account for their mismanagement of this project. We know that construction costs in the UK are higher than for comparable projects elsewhere in Europe. They must be rigorously controlled.

Let us look at how the project has been managed. The Government inherited a detailed plan for HS2 from the previous Labour Government, but Labour’s brainchild has been sadly neglected. Four years of delays and mismanagement have caused costs to rise. First, the Government split the project into two phases for financial reasons, which has delayed the benefits of the line to the midlands and the north. Secondly, their review of strategic alternatives took 18 months, and costs have continued to rise as time scales have slipped. Thirdly, their initial consultation on property compensation was a lesson in incompetence: the process had to be rerun after a High Court judge ruled that it was

“so unfair as to be unlawful”.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 577

Fourthly, the Government did not launch the consultation on phase 2 of the route until July 2013; yet it was being worked on when we were in power three years previously, so what was the hold-up?

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): My hon. Friend rightly says that the Opposition will be looking at the costs. If they keep rising, at what stage would she, on behalf of the Labour party, say, “No, this has gone too high, and is sucking out too much money from the rest of the railway network”?

Mary Creagh: We have been very clear that there is not a blank cheque for this project. The Select Committee will obviously look at the parts of the Bill, as it goes through it and hears the petitioning process, but a very clear budget is set out for the project from now until 2020. There will be annual reports on the budget under our amendments to the paving Bill. We look forward to receiving the first report from the Government.

The Transport Secretary has admitted that the legislation will not be passed before the 2015 election, as was apparent to all Members, so his Government have missed their target on that. It is right that there is proper scrutiny and ample opportunity for the Select Committee to examine every complaint and comment thoroughly, but there must be no more Government delays.

I want the Secretary of State or the Minister who replies to the debate to tell us when we can expect the Secretary of State’s response on the phase 2 route to ensure that the north, the north-east, the north-west and Scotland reap the full benefits from HS2 quickly. What impact does the Secretary of State anticipate the construction of the line will have on the Great Western franchising process, which is due in 2016?

On workers memorial day, we remember all workers who have been killed at work, particularly in constructing our transport infrastructure across the decades. In particular, we remember the worker who was recently killed on the Crossrail project, and send our condolences to his family and friends. Our ambition, which I am sure is shared in all parts of the House, is that this railway is free from fatalities and serious injuries.

Mr Redwood: Is the hon. Lady at all worried that the business case says that load factors on the west coast main line will be only 31% in 2037, and that there will have to be cuts of £8.3 billion to non-HS2 services to try to keep costs under control?

Mary Creagh: The right hon. Gentleman refers to a part of the report that does not immediately spring to mind—I have not perhaps digested it and kept it in mind as thoroughly as he has done—but there is broad consensus across the parties that the project is the right thing to do for the nation, and I hope that we can proceed on that basis.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): As a Yorkshire MP who is now behind the project at full throttle, will the hon. Lady commit herself to selling it in Yorkshire—to her council and beyond—to ensure that we make the most of this project for our region and every city in it?

28 Apr 2014 : Column 578

Mary Creagh: Absolutely. It is right for Wakefield council to represent the views of local residents. The costs of HS2 are significant, but I believe, as does the hon. Gentleman, that the benefits are great.

As I said earlier, we want a one nation economic recovery to rebalance the growth across sectors, nations and regions. A long-term high-speed rail investment programme presents huge opportunities for the UK’s design, engineering, construction and manufacturing sectors. It offers a secure future for the railway supply chain and will showcase the UK’s expertise in the global high-speed market. The Olympics, Thameslink and Crossrail have transformed travel in London. It is time for the wider UK economy and society to benefit from the transformational opportunities that a major infrastructure project brings. The first phase will bring more than 40,000 jobs: 9,000 jobs in construction, 1,500 permanent jobs in operation and maintenance, and 30,000 jobs at Old Oak Common, Euston and Birmingham.

Mr Straw: I entirely support the case that my hon. Friend is making. Would she like to remind sceptics like the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) that as much money is being spent on a single railway station that serves his constituents, namely Reading, as is being spent on the electrification of services across the north-west?

Mary Creagh: That was an excellent point, well made. My right hon. Friend has triggered my memory. There has been £6 billion for Reading, £6 billion for Thameslink and £18 billion for Crossrail—pretty soon there will be enough for a high-speed rail network. I have read about the debates over the disruption that Crossrail has caused. Tottenham Court Road station was closed for two years, yet the centre of our global capital was prepared to put up with that because it realised the benefits that it would bring through reduced journey times. The right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) has the freight flyover at Reading station, as well as a couple of new platforms and re-signalling work. He will no doubt enjoy the faster journey times to London. I would like the same for my constituents and the constituents of the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith).

I wonder when the Government will be able to report on the vocational training elements of phase 1, which were provided for by Labour’s amendment to the paving Bill. We want to see the annual report and to see what is happening. We welcome the new further education college that will train the next generation of young women and men to become rail engineers. Members on both sides of the House have been bidding to host the college. I look forward to hearing where and when it will open.

Sir David Higgins’s report called on the Government to be more ambitious in the development of Euston station. The iconic new developments at King’s Cross and St Pancras show how stations can transform and regenerate their local areas. I hope that that will also happen at Reading. Euston is potentially central London’s biggest regeneration site. Its redevelopment must provide new social housing to tackle the acute housing crisis in Camden, as well as retail and office space. It would be a disaster if it followed the housing developments in the city centre that are sold off-plan to foreign investors, creating ghost towns, rather than going to local people.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 579

I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) and Councillor Sarah Hayward, the leader of Camden council, will continue to battle to get the best deal for their community. It has been inspirational to talk to my right hon. Friend about the life sciences hub that he wants to see around the Francis Crick Institute, which is due to open near Euston in 2015. To have the tech hub at Old Street and a life sciences hub at Euston would be an enormous boost for young people and jobs in his constituency.

Frank Dobson: I welcome what my hon. Friend has said. Will she bear it in mind that the investment in the Francis Crick Institute, which is a biomedical research centre, is just over £300 million? I believe that it represents a bigger contribution to the future of this country than spending £50 billion on a railway.

Mary Creagh: Perhaps I will break the consensus now. My right hon. Friend’s constituents will benefit from the investment in Crossrail and Thameslink, which will improve London’s transportation system. I gently say to him that his might be a slightly London-centric view. I hope that HS2 will be of benefit to every nation, region and sector of our country’s economy.

We welcome the removal of the HS1-HS2 link from the Bill, which would have caused huge disruption to Camden. Removing it will save £700 million from the budget. We also welcome David Higgins’s proposals for a coherent transport plan for the north, which has been historically underfunded, and for proper east-west rail links between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull. Our cities must plan and are planning how to maximise the regeneration and growth opportunities around the stations.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) and I have formed the new all-party parliamentary group on integrated transport strategy. We are about to do a piece of work that will show that we can start building phase 2 in the north as well as phase 1. Does the hon. Lady have a view on the sequencing of the building?

Mary Creagh: Tempting though it is to offer up my words of complete ignorance on the best way to build a railway, I will leave the matter to Sir David Higgins, who has a bit more experience in the area than me. I would certainly welcome anything that brought the benefits to the midlands and the north quicker, but he is the expert on delivering such large-scale projects.

The transport authorities must prepare to ensure that regional towns and cities reap the benefits of HS2. Railway engineering and advanced construction skills should be a national priority. We want more UK businesses, large and small, to win the large contracts. I hope that in his conclusion the Minister will tell us how he will support cities and businesses to make the most of the scheme.

Mr Cash: The hon. Lady just referred to the benefits for the midlands. Will she explain what benefits there will be for my constituents and people from one end of Staffordshire to the other?

Mary Creagh: There will be more frequent train services, not just to London but to the major cities of

28 Apr 2014 : Column 580

the north, and there will potentially be better east-west rail links in the north for people who want to visit friends and family on the other side of the Pennines.

More capacity on the existing network means more space for rail freight. That will take lorries off the motorways, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. The full network should reduce the number of flights from Manchester and Scotland to London. HS2 will help us to move towards a sustainable, low-carbon transport system.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): My hon. Friend spoke about flights from Manchester airport to London. At the moment, taking a train from my constituency, which contains Manchester airport, to London takes two hours and 24 minutes. When HS2 is completed, the time will be brought down to 59 minutes. Is that good for the regional economy and for Manchester?

Mary Creagh: I knew exactly how long that journey took, because I looked at train times during my hon. Friend’s by-election campaign and thought that it was a very slow journey. HS2 will be transformational, because it will bring Manchester and London very close together. It will also create a modal shift away from aeroplanes. For any journey that takes about three and a half hours, passengers will be taken out of aeroplanes and on to high-speed rail. That is obviously of benefit and will help us to meet our climate change emissions targets.

High-speed rail offers some of the lowest carbon emissions per passenger kilometre. The emissions are significantly lower than those from cars and planes. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a green spine that links our great cities and to open up wildlife corridors. I was inspired by the Wildlife Trusts’ vision for Low Speed 2, which is a green network of cycleways and footpaths along the line that would connect communities with nature and each other. We must learn from and build on the excellent biodiversity work that has been done by Crossrail. It has worked with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and others to create new habitats for bird life at Wallasea island, using spoil from Crossrail’s tunnelling that was carried down the Thames on barges.

Caroline Lucas: The carbon benefits that the hon. Lady is talking about will happen only if HS2 is responsible for a modal shift away from high-carbon sources such as cars and aeroplanes. Only 11% of passengers are likely to make that modal shift. HS2 is therefore about new journeys, so it will not cause the carbon reductions that she claims.

Mary Creagh: As our country grows and as people travel more, there will be new journeys. One hundred and fifty years ago, people thought that going at 3 mph on a canal through the Standedge tunnel between Huddersfield and Manchester was a marvellously fast way of getting goods from the port of Hull to the port of Liverpool and vice versa, but today we expect a little more. We built the M62, the nation’s highest motorway, which provides a stunning drive from Leeds to Manchester and Liverpool. That is fantastic, but if we end up with transport links that cut down journey times and that get people out of their cars and on to trains, it will be of huge benefit.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 581

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): Given that 80% of the London to Paris travel market is by train not plane, does the hon. Lady agree that the channel tunnel demonstrates that if transport links are good enough, people will shift the way they travel?

Mary Creagh: Absolutely; people have a tendency to work it out all by themselves. Particularly in this era of the internet and smartphone apps, I am sure that people will be pretty cute about figuring out the best railway and greenest journey that they can make. I do not share the scepticism of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) about whether people will shift. However, she also mentioned ancient woodland, and HS2 should set the gold standard in environmental mitigation and in promoting plant and animal life along the route. We will hold the Government and HS2 to account to reduce its environmental impact.

The Secretary of State mentioned climate resilience, and we saw in the devastation of the Great Western main line at Dawlish and the flooding near Maidenhead in February the direct impact of climate change on our transport networks, and on communities and businesses in the south-west and Wales.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): I will support the Government tonight in the Lobby. The hon. Lady talks about the north and London and so on, but does she recognise that this whole debate has very little impact on the west country? [Interruption.] We have just had the most devastating effects through losing our railway line, and it is important that while we proceed we ensure that the west country is not forgotten in the whole story, so that we can deliver growth too.

Mary Creagh: Absolutely. [Interruption.] I pay tribute to the Network Rail staff whom I visited out by Reading and who worked around the clock in difficult circumstances to open the route—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Lady, but there is a low level of conversation going on around the Chamber. This is an important debate. If Members wish to have conversations, by all means they can leave the Chamber to do so. If they are in the Chamber, they should allow the hon. Lady a fair crack of the whip.

Mary Creagh: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) who have continued, along with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), to raise the need for resilient transport links in the south-west. I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that his Government previously promised his community £31 million of funding for rail resilience works, including at Cowley bridge outside Exeter—money that failed to appear in last year’s autumn statement and which was brought forward only after the devastation at Dawlish in February this year. However, he makes the important point that today’s vote is not about choosing between HS2 and other rail projects, and his great western main line will be electrified over the next five years. The Government have repeatedly raised expectations in the south-west and said that money will be found to make the transport infrastructure more

28 Apr 2014 : Column 582

resilient. Perhaps in his closing remarks the Minister will tell the House when we can expect some of those scenario planning options, which I know Network Rail is acting on—I think there are three scenarios at the moment.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mary Creagh: I will conclude my remarks, because I know that other Members want to speak.

High-speed rail in Britain is nothing new. The great western line, built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was the first high-speed line, taking travellers from London to Oxford in just over an hour in the 1850s—twice as fast as the competition. HS2 follows in Brunel’s great tradition of railway innovation, and we should learn from that ambition for our railways. HS2 is our opportunity to connect our cities, rebalance the economy, and deliver a railway fit for the 21st century. Let us continue to work across the House to realise that ambitious vision for our country.

6.3 pm

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

“this House, while accepting the need to increase overall railway capacity, declines to give a second reading to the Bill because there has been inadequate opportunity for Members and those affected by the Bill to consider and respond to the report of the Assessor appointed under Standing Order 224A, which was not published until shortly before the Easter recess; because assessments of the relative costs and benefits of works envisaged by the Bill have been repeatedly unconvincing and still fail to demonstrate a sound economic case for the proposed works, particularly in relation to other options; because the Secretary of State has declined to publish the Major Projects Authority report on High Speed 2, with the result that Members have been denied access to highly significant evidence on the viability of the project; because the case for starting further high-speed rail construction in this country with a line from London to the West Midlands rather than in the north of England has not been convincingly made out; because the Bill will cause widespread environmental disruption to many areas of the country including areas of outstanding natural beauty; and because the Bill should be preceded by proper consideration of and a strategy for integrating high-speed rail with other transport modes including the UK’s international airport hubs.”

This cross-party amendment commences by stating that we accept the need to increase overall railway capacity, and I make my remarks against that background. It is good to follow the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), but I am afraid my speech will break the cosy consensus over this project between those on the two Front Benches, which will be no surprise to anybody in this Chamber.

It has been four years since Labour first announced HS2, and I want to thank the vast armies of people from all the conservation groups, including the Chiltern Countryside group and the Chilterns Conservation board, lobby groups such as HS2 Action Alliance, district and parish councils, individuals, and volunteer engineers and county councillors, who have contributed to trying to put this project under scrutiny. In Buckinghamshire I am most grateful for the support of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), and to Mr Speaker himself. All our constituencies are affected by this project.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 583

I believe that more than 50 Members have applied to speak about this project, and in the short time available I hope to register the risks associated with it and the pain and anguish that it continues to bring to so many people, and to ask the House whether this is really the top priority and the best way to spend £50 billion of taxpayers’ money. I started as a nimby, but over time I have come to look at this project and I do not believe it is the answer to the UK’s transport issues.

Let us consider some of those issues. Originally, the costs totalled about £20 billion, yet they have now doubled to £42.6 billion and we should not forget that that does not include the trains, which are budgeted at £7.5 billion. An apparent leak from the Treasury to the Financial Times estimated that the costs as they stand could run to £73 billion or more. In fact, such high risks are attached to the project, that the contingency is £14 billion. We are now on the fifth business case for phase 1 and the benefit-cost ratio is now 1.4, so for every £1 of taxpayers’ money spent, only £1.40 comes back. If we strip away the flawed assumptions and replace them with a more realistic value of time, the true benefit-cost ratio falls way below £1, and there would actually be a loss to the taxpayer.

Mr Straw rose—

Mrs Gillan: I am sorry; I do not have enough time to give way.

Economists claim that the benefits of HS2 are also exaggerated. Some 79% of those benefits arose from the value allocated to time savings by businesses assuming no valuable work was done on trains and a huge increase in business travellers. If that is now not correct or has been overestimated, the benefits fall again considerably. Looking back, HS1 predicted 28 million passengers per annum—the reality is 9 million. Should we really trust the projections by the Department for Transport? The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have already raised significant concerns about the project and the passenger projections for HS2, but despite that the figures have not been revised.

Mr Straw: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs Gillan: I am awfully sorry, but if I give way to the right hon. Gentleman I will have to give way to others, and so many people want to speak that I will eat into the time allowed to them. The right hon. Gentleman can make his own speech.

The Secretary of State for Transport claims that HS2 is essential to deal with an impending capacity crisis on the west coast main line. However, the available figures show that intercity trains on the west coast main line coming into Euston are on average just 52% full in peak hours. There is severe commuter overcrowding on many commuter lines into all our major cities, and HS2 will do very little, or in many cases nothing at all, to relieve that. Is the commute into Euston really the priority over other areas?

The big picture is the claim that HS2 will heal the north-south divide. Even today the Institute of Economic Affairs has again questioned the promises of an economic transformation of the north. There is no academic peer-reviewed evidence to show that the presence of a high-speed rail line will lead to increased economic output at the levels suggested in what is now a questionable

28 Apr 2014 : Column 584

report from KPMG, commissioned by HS2. The report claims that HS2 would bring benefits of £15 billion per year. However, it assumes that rail connectivity is the only variable driving local economic growth. We know that that is simply not the case; if it were, Ebbsfleet in Kent would be a boom town.

However, London could be the winner. The majority of academic evidence available in other countries shows that where a high-speed rail line connects a dominant city to a less dominant town or city, it is the dominant city that gains. HS2 will suck skills and businesses to London rather than to our regions. If HS2 had a viable business case, it should have been built starting in the north, connecting the northern cities to each other and then eventually to London.

We are getting a project that has markedly changed since it was first proposed. HS2 was going to allow someone to jump on a train in Manchester and travel straight to Brussels, but that has now been ditched. The direct link to Heathrow has of course now been dropped, but in any event why are we not going for maximum connectivity to our airports in the south by finalising our high-speed rail policy after the result of the Howard Davies commission?

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield would also like assurances from the Government on the so-called Heathrow spur, on which he still has many questions. Even the much vaunted connections between the towns and cities are far from perfect. In fact, HS2 connects only four city centres. The proposals for Euston are not settled and Old Oak Common will require an enormous amount of work to connect it to the rest of London’s transport infrastructure. The HS2 station in Birmingham is a 15 minute walk through an underpass to Birmingham New Street, where the rest of the city’s trains come in. If we look to the plans for Sheffield Meadowhall, Toton and Derby, the HS2 stations will be miles outside city centres. The latest business case included £8.3 billion of cuts to existing rail services, affecting many towns and cities, and the KPMG report showed that many local economies away from the line of the route would suffer. The main objective to shorten journey times drastically has now been questioned by calls from the Environmental Audit Committee to decrease average speeds. That means that HS2 may not even achieve its original aims on either speed or connectivity.

Finally, HS2 is not really green. A meagre 1% of HS2 passengers are predicted to transfer from air, and just 4% from cars. The remaining 95% of passengers are predicted to be new journeys or transfers from less polluting modes of transport, and that is before we examine closely the vast amount of power needed to power the railway. If the project goes ahead, it is important that we protect the environment and the people who will be affected. People expect the project to be implemented to the highest standards, ensuring the best environmental protections and giving support to the communities and individuals who are severely affected.

The Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty is in my constituency, as everybody now knows. It is known as the lungs of London and is the last large expanse of protected unspoilt countryside in the south-east of England. There are more than 50 million visits annually, and many of the villages, hamlets, ancient woodlands and hedgerows remain largely unchanged since Norman times. The Chilterns is designated under

28 Apr 2014 : Column 585

the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and the Government have a legal duty to adhere to those protections: anything less would make a mockery of all the Government’s pledges to protect our natural environment.

The Environmental Audit Committee’s report of 7 April was highly critical of the project and said that the Government have “significant work to do” to prove that they are prioritising environmental protection. Some 40% of the route is yet to be examined. If the project does proceed, I now believe that the only way to mitigate properly the damage to the AONB is to fully tunnel the whole area. The demand for longer tunnelling through the AONB was the most frequently raised concern in the responses to the environmental statement, with more than 8,000 people raising it as an issue. The line will already have a devastating impact on the AONB, including destroying 10.2 hectares of irreplaceable ancient woodland, as well as communities such as South Heath and Wendover.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury and I have worked together on considering HS2 and the long tunnelling option. He has said to me that if he is not satisfied with the arrangements for mitigation of the AONB and compensation, particularly where Dunsmore, Wendover Dean and Wendover are concerned, he will join me in the Lobby and vote against the project on Report and Third Reading. As it stands, Buckinghamshire will take all the pain and have no gain. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield has constituents in Denham who remain entirely unpersuaded by the arguments put forward both in respect of the generality of the proposal for HS2 and of the detail. The impact of the Colne valley viaduct travelling through a site of special scientific interest, with no details on how the noise will impact on the local community, is a source of real anxiety. His constituents have argued for further tunnelling under the Colne. It is important to remember that the voices of our Buckinghamshire colleagues in Government are as equally important as the voices of Back Benchers, if not more so. I want allies inside the Government, as well as on the Back Benches, as we scrutinise this project.

On compensation, we have had no fewer than five consultations and still those people whose homes and livelihoods have been devastated by HS2 have had to wait for over four years for the final compensation scheme to be announced. The eventual compensation announcement on 9 April was not popular. I know that the concerns are shared by Mr Speaker. He believes that the fact there is no provision for homeowners whose properties are further than 300 metres from the line but who have seen their property fall in value as a result, is unacceptable and so do I.

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

Mrs Gillan: I am sorry.

People blighted by HS2 will not only be negatively affected by the line itself, but by the construction, noise, traffic, impact on our blue light services, decrease in tourism, and the disruption to our waterways; I need not go on. The effect of these has not been explored fully to any adequate degree.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 586

Lastly, what worries me most, and what is in my reasoned amendment, is this: if the project goes ahead, this House should be aware of the risks. Many people are concerned at what I consider to be the wholly deplorable position of the Government in not publishing the Major Projects Authority’s reports into the project. The Information Commissioner is now challenging the veto placed on it by the Government in the courts and maintains that the release of the documents is in the public interest, as do I. The reports rate the project as amber/red, meaning that successful delivery is “in doubt” because of major risks or issues in key areas. The Government expect the support of Members to carry the Bill, so they should be expected to produce this information and make it accessible to Members of this House. All projects carry risk. It is unacceptable that we should not be aware of the risks when we are spending such vast sums of taxpayers’ money.

I will be voting for my reasoned amendment to halt the project and I hope that colleagues will join me in the Lobby. I know that many colleagues will abstain, but I hope that the vote tonight—even though this is David and Goliath and for once Goliath is going to win—will ensure that, as the Bill passes through Committee, our colleagues who are scrutinising it will be able to support the maximum environmental protection and compensation for those communities and people who will be paying the highest price for this project with their homes, businesses and local countryside. They will be gaining none of the benefit. Whoever joins me tonight in the Lobby, I am grateful for their support. I do not expect that we will win the vote, but my goodness we are giving notice to the Government, and any future Government in charge of this project, that it will be scrutinised inch by inch.

6.18 pm

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the Bill to start the building of the high-speed line from London to the west midlands. High Speed 2 was first put forward in 2009 by Lord Adonis when he was Secretary of State for Transport. Since then there has been considerable and very necessary discussion and debate. The project has all-party backing; it is now time to fire the starting gun.

This must be just the first stage in building a high-speed network for the UK, with phase 2 expanding the network to the north. It must be built as a major addition to the national network, linked with investment in the existing classic line so that essential increased capacity and connectivity, together with the potential for regeneration, are realised. Increasing capacity for both passengers and freight is required on both the east coast main line and the west coast main line. The figures released last week by the Office of Rail Regulation showed a phenomenal doubling of rail passenger journeys in recent years, together with a vast increase in freight on rail. In the past decade, rail passenger journeys have increased on average by 5% per annum and freight has expanded. On some routes, the increase in passenger journeys has been more than 70% over that decade. That increase is expected to continue, and the demand for freight is increasing.

The growing demand for rail from both passengers and freight is already causing problems on the west coast main line, where there are insufficient rail paths

28 Apr 2014 : Column 587

available to meet the needs of the new services that are required, and delays are already occurring. The Transport Committee has addressed this issue on a number of occasions. In our first inquiry in 2011, we looked at alternatives to building a new high speed network. We looked specifically at upgrading the west coast main line as an alternative. The Committee was very clear that that will not provide the step change that is required. The £9 billion west coast main line investment of 2008 has brought essential improvements, but it has not created enough capacity for the future.

I was pleased to see that the recent reports from both Sir David Higgins and Lord Deighton took forward the very specific recommendations made by the Transport Committee to ensure that the best possible value is obtained from this necessary investment across the nation. Those recommendations include building a line, together with continuing investment in the classic line at the same time as the new capacity is built.

Mr Redwood: I am grateful to the hon. Lady. As over this weekend the marketing materials for the current railway said that one could travel to Birmingham for £7.50 and to Liverpool or Manchester for £12.50, is she worried that when this huge amount of capacity comes on stream, if it does, there will be even more intense price competition and huge disappointment in the fare revenue needed for the scheme?

Mrs Ellman: One of my concerns is that if the new line is not built, the problems of capacity will lead to whatever Government are in power being tempted to increase rail fares to manage demand.

Further recommendations from the Select Committee taken up by Sir David Higgins and Lord Deighton include ensuring wider access to the new network—

Andrew Bridgen: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs Ellman: I am sorry; I am limited in time to allow other hon. Members to participate.

Further recommendations include ensuring wider access to the new network and providing new services on the freed line—perhaps we should designate those as high speed Britain projects—together with promoting regional economic strategies with local enterprise partnerships and others, making sure that the potential for economic regeneration along the lines and beyond is recognised.

High Speed 2 will improve connectivity, but that improvement is not solely in relation to connecting the midlands and the north to London. It is also about improving the links between the major cities of the north and the midlands, between cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool. The potential benefits of High Speed 2 are immense. The current benefit-cost ratio estimate for the full network is 2.3. That means £2.30 in benefit generated for every £1 invested, but those figures do not take into account the very real potential for major economic regeneration. It is the major cities which recognise what that potential might be, and they are among the strongest advocates of the new line. Indeed, the research commissioned by the core cities themselves identifies around 400,000 new jobs that would come from the development of High Speed 2.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 588

Little attention has been given to the major potential for employment across the country from building and operating HS2. According to the Government, this could provide over 3,000 jobs in running the railway, and more than 24,500 jobs in construction, together with 400,000 additional jobs through regeneration. It is essential that the Department for Transport produces a strategy for procurement to deliver maximum opportunities for British firms. The Department must be more active in doing that. The proposals for a new skills college will be extremely important in widening those opportunities.

Those who oppose High Speed 2 discuss the size of the investment required. Indeed, HS2 involves a major investment of around £50 billion over about 20 years. Costs must be controlled to secure value for money, but the benefits must be maximised. I understand that some hon. Members will have justifiable local concerns which should be addressed, but these do not outweigh the strategic case for HS2. Without HS2, the west coast main line will become increasingly overloaded. Commuters will suffer from overcrowding and there will be fewer passenger services on the line than the public require and the market could sustain. Future Governments will be tempted to use price to control demand. Growth in rail freight will be stifled, leading to more lorries on the roads. Perhaps more significantly, the chance to reshape the national economy and boost growth in the north and the midlands will have been lost. This is an opportunity to show vision and commitment through a bold investment decision. It must be grasped.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The House will be aware that a very large number of colleagues wish to speak—over 50 Members have indicated that they wish to speak in the debate. I am therefore obliged to impose a time limit of five minutes for Back-Bench speeches. Members will be aware that the five minutes is increased if they take interventions. Of course Members need to take interventions, or we will not have a debate, but I ask them, if at all possible, to keep within the five-minute limit out of consideration for other Members of the House. I am certain that we will have an exemplary performance to begin with from Mr Simon Burns.

6.26 pm

Mr Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con): I support the Bill and high-speed rail. Having spent a considerable amount of time taking the earlier stages through this House, I fully appreciate that a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends and Opposition Members have terrible troubles with regard to their constituencies because of the line of route and the impact the railway might have. I respect them for the way in which they are carrying out their duties as assiduous constituency MPs to fight for the best deal for their constituents, but I believe passionately that it is crucial that there are major infrastructure projects in this country to make sure that we keep ahead of our competitors, and that we deal with issues of connectivity and rail and road transport in this country.

Too often, there is a tendency for people immediately to oppose a major infrastructure project. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, there was opposition to the M1 in the late 1950s. If we had

28 Apr 2014 : Column 589

listened to that opposition, we would never have had our motorway network and this country would have suffered considerably. The same is true of High Speed 1, which I remember when I first became a Member of this House. There were even great objections to the building of the original railways in this country in the 19th century, when those who were opposed to them said that they would terrify country folk, turn cows’ milk sour and stop hens laying, and that travelling at speeds of more than 25 miles per hour would cause engines to combust and passengers, amazingly, to disintegrate. That is an attitude that one has had to put up with.

To me, the overwhelming reason why High Speed 2 is needed, building on the success of High Speed 1, is capacity. Of course, greater journey speeds are a good thing, but the need is for capacity, capacity, capacity, as a former Prime Minister said in another field of policy, the reason being that the west coast main line will run out of capacity in the mid-2020s. We in this House would be negligent if we were not taking measures to deal with that prospective problem. We must also deal with current problems. In 2011, for people travelling by train to London, there was overcrowding of 4,000 passengers, and going into Birmingham, overcrowding of 5,000 passengers. That is before the west coast main line capacity is used up. The beauty of this scheme is that it will unleash capacity on the west coast main line by taking from it passengers who want to travel to London. Some people have said, as they have during this debate, “Well what is it going to do for Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire or Staffordshire, where there may not be a station?” What it will do is release and create capacity on the west coast main line, so that those who want to travel between towns and cities on that route or into London can get a seat and have a better journey experience. That is the crucial thing.

We also have to bear it in mind that our competitors are racing ahead with high-speed railways and that we cannot afford to stand still. I will make another plea. When the Secretary of State’s review is completed, I hope the commitment is given that High Speed 2 will form High Speed 3, into Glasgow and across to Edinburgh. I also see it as a spine, so that if there is a need for a high-speed railway in south Wales, north Wales or the south-west of England into the east of the country, we can have it. This is a building block.

Yes, we have to take environmental protections with the building of the railway, but I urge my hon. Friends not to lose sight of the big picture of what this country needs and demands to improve our infrastructure and ensure that we are streets ahead of our competitors, give a better journey time and capability for passengers, and get more and more freight off our congested roads and on to our railways. For those reasons, I will be wholeheartedly supporting the Government and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

6.31 pm

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): In the ridiculously short time available, I will have to confine my remarks to the impact on my constituency.

I should point out the ridiculous situation whereby the hybrid Bill before the House proposes major works in my constituency, none of which the Government now

28 Apr 2014 : Column 590

intend to carry out. The Bill also provides for a link from HS2 to HS1. That ridiculous proposal has been abandoned altogether. The Bill provides for the option 8 design of the station at Euston. That ridiculous proposal, we are told, is shortly to be abandoned, but the design, cost and construction timetable for the alternative to it have not yet been worked out, so there’s nowt to vote on.

The neighbourhoods to the east and west of Euston station and its railway approaches are densely populated with a variety of uses. Most of the streets are overwhelmingly residential. They are home to large numbers of residents living in high densities in settled and varied communities, with a wide range of incomes, housing tenures, jobs, ethnic origins and religions. Most of those residents want to continue to live there. They rightly resent patronising references to their neighbourhood by the much lauded chair of HS2 Ltd and have asked me to remind him and everyone else that where they live is not like the Olympic site. It is not a brownfield site, ripe for redevelopment.

The HS2 project as now proposed would wreak havoc on those neighbourhoods. It would expand Euston station by 75 metres to the west, demolish the homes of 500 people and subject 5,000 more to living for a decade next to the construction site or beside roads that will be made intolerable by the heavy goods vehicles servicing the main site and the 14 satellite construction compounds. No consideration has been given to the cumulative harm that all this would do to the quality of life of my constituents. The proposed working hours regime enables work to proceed at any hour of the day or night. Every little park and play space near the site is to be taken over. Small, locally owned and locally staffed businesses, especially cafes, shops and restaurants in Drummond street, face financial disaster. Between 40% and 70% of their business is passing trade from pedestrians going to and from Euston station, which, for the duration of the works—10 years—will be cut off by a solid, 3.6 metre-high security fence.

The people I represent believe that HS2 should not go ahead. Failing that, they believe that HS2 should terminate at Old Oak Common, at least temporarily, to test its capacity and permit the assessment of any capacity needed at Euston to be based on experience rather than the guesswork used so far.

Mrs Gillan: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Frank Dobson: No, I do not think I should.

If the Government insist on Euston, local people want the new station to be designed to fit within the curtilage of the existing station. HS2 has failed to properly appraise such alternatives, including the double-deck down design put forward by local professionals, who also want the bulk of the space created above the station to be devoted to housing that local people can afford or low-cost units available to spin-off companies developing and exploiting products of the biomedical research organisations in the area.

In December 2010, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), then Transport Secretary, told the House:

“it is right and proper that individuals who suffer serious financial loss in the national interest should be compensated.”—[Official Report, 20 December 2010; Vol. 520, c. 1207.]

28 Apr 2014 : Column 591

That promise has not been kept. The arrangements for compensation in my constituency are infinitely worse than those in the rural areas. Right-to-buy leaseholders—Mrs Thatcher’s children—will get compensation, but not enough to buy an equivalent property in the area. People living next to the site—within 5 metres, not 500 metres—whose houses are not demolished will not be entitled to a penny of compensation. That is ridiculous. Neither financial nor practical mitigation measures are being offered to enable the diverse communities in Euston to survive 10 years of turmoil. They do not object to the railway; they object to 10 years of destruction.

6.36 pm

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Five years ago, I would have thought it incredible that I would probably be in the same Lobby as the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), not united in some unholy alliance, but instead united in opposing my Government’s Bill. This, for me, is a first. Five years ago, the leader of the Conservative party, now the Prime Minister, supported HS2 in principle, and so did I. Five years ago, my right hon. Friend said that the Adonis route was profoundly wrong—that its implementation would be damaging to the environment, damaging to local areas that could otherwise enjoy peace and quiet, and damaging to the nation as a whole. Yet here we are, five years on, with the Government supporting the original Adonis plan. I find that quite extraordinary.

I totally agree with the arguments for HS2. There is a major capacity problem. Every day some 5,000 to 10,000 people arrive at Euston standing, because there are just not enough seats on the trains to let them sit. However, I agree with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras and, indeed, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, when he argues that there is not enough capacity at present for those disembarking at Euston to travel across London. How on earth can that be sustained when, in addition, something like 30 trains an hour will be arriving from the midlands and the north when High Speed 2 is completed?

I believe that the implementation of HS2 is deeply flawed. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) has already pointed out, the promises of breakfast in Brum and lunch in Paris with a through route have all gone. There will be no connection between the midlands and the north and HS1 and the channel tunnel. Meanwhile, the Department for Transport, which is supposed to be an integrated, joined-up Department, has, quite rightly, commissioned the review by Sir Howard Davies of which airport is to be the main airport for London. We will not know its conclusions until after the next general election, yet HS2’s route is already fixed and we do not know which airport it will link to. Indeed, it probably will not link with any airport, like HS1. This is a deeply flawed system.

What about compensation, a topic that has been raised by colleagues? What about constituents in Lichfield who are facing spoil heaps for five or six years, as all the soil from the tunnels in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham is transported up to Lichfield to support giant viaducts that we are going to have built? Where will that be stored? In Lichfield. There will be no compensation

28 Apr 2014 : Column 592

because the spoil dumps are being regarded as temporary only. Believe me, for someone who is 70 or 80 years old and living next to a temporary mountain, with dumper trucks running by every day, five or seven years can be a lifetime. There should be compensation, and I hope that the hybrid Bill Committee will consider that. I have already talked about the problems of disembarking at Euston and homes being blighted, but what about the arbitrary distances? Beyond a certain distance, there will be no compensation. Absolutely no account has been taken of the local topography; whether someone will be affected by HS2 will depend on whether there are hills or the land is flat.

So it is that, with the greatest regret and for the first time in my membership of this House, I am going to support the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham and vote against my own party on such an important piece of legislation. I hope—I say this for the benefit of the Whip—that it will be the last time I do so.

6.41 pm

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): I have three points to make on this important Bill: one about the economic analysis, one about the capacity, and one about the speed of delivery of the project.

We have heard a lot about the benefits, or lack of benefits, from the project. All sorts of different studies have been done, but the one thing we can almost guarantee is that when the project is brought to completion it will be found that none of those studies is accurate. They are studies that the Treasury demands before it agrees to expenditure. So what we need to do is look at the real world scenario and see what people who are running cities and people who have experience of projects like this one are saying.

Those people who do not think HS2 is worth doing and that it will not benefit cities in the north should produce evidence that there is a single leader or mayor of a major city in this country who wants slower connections to anywhere else in the country. The case being made by my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) and for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) is not that the project is bad and will not bring economic benefits; it is that they would like their areas to have the economic benefits from the project—and there will be economic benefits in many areas.

Robert Flello: My hon. Friend is probably aware that there is a KPMG report that says Stoke-on-Trent will lose to the value of £78 million a year. That is a finger in the wind, but it is a very damning figure.

Graham Stringer: It is a relative figure from a general uplift.

We should look at the experience of countries that have high-speed lines, such as France, Spain and Germany. The most direct comparator is the line between Lyon and Paris. When the Transport Committee went there in 2011, it found, and was told by the director-general of SNCF, that both cities had benefited from it. All the economic benefit had not been sucked out of Lyon and into Paris; both ends had benefited. The same is true of the lines between Frankfurt and Cologne and between Lille and other parts of France. That does not just happen because the line is built, however; it happens if there is a strategy of the Government and the city

28 Apr 2014 : Column 593

governments to make sure there is benefit from that high-speed route. It relies on active involvement from local and city government to make sure all the benefit of that investment is captured.

Damian Collins: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Graham Stringer: No, as I have given way once and many Members want to speak in this debate.

There are people with genuine and serious constituency interests in this debate, but some of the interests lined up against the project are vested interests. Referring back to what the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) said, I wrote an article recently about HS2 in which I guessed that when the railways started, in the early and mid-19th century, they would have been opposed by the stagecoach owners and bargees at that time. The editor of the journal I wrote the article for found a cartoon of the 1830s depicting horses that were unemployed queuing up. So there are vested interests against this project, as well as constituency interests.

My second point is about capacity. The point has been well made that this project is driven by capacity issues and it will have economic benefits. The question that people who want to stop this project have to answer is this: are they really saying to our country that, by the middle of this century, we are going to be relying on railways that were built in the middle of the 19th century and motorways that were built in the middle of the 20th century for our transport infrastructure? There has been very little investment in any of our transport infrastructure—motorways, roads and airport runways—over the last 30 or 40 years. That would be a disgrace to the United Kingdom and it would mean that we fell further behind our competitors.

The final point I want to make has two aspects. I sympathise with the arguments made by those Members who have constituency interests and are opposing this Bill, and I hope the Secretary of State will listen carefully, because my experience of being involved in more than one major infrastructure project is that if we pay more and earlier in compensation, we save in the long term and the projects happen more quickly. A lot of the resistance comes from people who think they are being treated unfairly. So I hope the Secretary of State will listen.

The other side of the coin has already been referred to. The Higgins report calls for the project to be speeded up and I agree with that, but I think we can do still better. Building north to south as well as south to north and speeding up the project would bring more immediate benefits. Whatever we say about the cost-benefit analysis, all the analysis shows it is not the actual quantum of money—£25 billion, £30 billion or £40 billion—that counts; it is that we will get more economic benefit back than the money we put in. So the quicker we do it, the better.

6.47 pm

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): It is a refreshing change to speak in a debate on a Bill that has overall cross-party support. My party was, I think, the first to commit to high-speed rail, before the heady days of Government ever came along. [Hon. Members: “Where are your party colleagues?”] I am their representative.

28 Apr 2014 : Column 594

Several colleagues have already mentioned the economic benefits to the United Kingdom of high-speed rail. Nationally, it will create £50 billion-worth of economic benefits to the UK and 400,000 jobs, of which 70% will be created outside London, but I will focus my remarks on the benefits that I envisage for my own region, the west midlands.

My region will be the first to benefit from high-speed rail, and local councils tell me that it is a once in a century opportunity. By 2026, HS2 will reduce the journey time between London and Birmingham to 31 minutes. It will put 45 million people within two hours of Birmingham airport. With the new runway extension, this will create a synergy that will enhance and ensure investment, tourism and jobs.

The west coast main line is the biggest mixed-use railway in Europe. It has 12 operators and carries a quarter of the UK’s freight. Passenger journeys have increased by 50% in the last decade and now stand at 1.46 billion per year. From Birmingham to London at peak times, there are 162 passengers for every 100 seats. Declaration of interests notwithstanding, that is no fun. HS2 will help to ease that pressure, and by doing so it will help the environment.

Research by Greengauge 21 suggests that freeing up capacity on the west coast main line will improve the service that it can offer. This will encourage more people to shift from road to rail travel, which emits half as much carbon per passenger kilometre. HS2 is often described as carbon neutral, but this research suggests that that understates its benefits to the environment. The environmental statement consultation is now closed, and there will no doubt be more to say about that when the Government publish their response, but I would ask the Secretary of State to pay particular heed to the concerns of the National Trust in relation to Hartwell house, Coombe Hill, Claydon house and the Waddesdon estate.

The west midlands were hit particularly hard by the recession in 2009. Despite significant drops in unemployment, which are thanks to the tough economic decisions taken by the coalition Government, joblessness there is still above the national average. Birmingham council estimates that HS2 could bring 50,000 extra jobs to the region, raising economic output by £4 billion every year, but we are investing in the existing rail network, too. This Government are putting more money into our infrastructure than any Government since Victorian times, and electrifying 80 times more track than the last Labour Government did. I believe that infrastructure is absolutely key to the future economic prosperity of our country. In particular, it will help the building industry, ensuring more consistent growth instead of the boom and bust that we have seen in the race for short-term results by previous Governments.

Our rail network was mostly built in the mid-19th century, and we are already outgrowing our infrastructure while the rest of the world is overtaking us. Railway journey times in the UK are actually slower today than they were 15 years ago. Meanwhile, Japan has had the bullet train for 40 years. Turkey will soon have over 1,500 miles of high-speed rail track, compared with just 67 in the United Kingdom. HS2 is a long-term investment for our country’s future. If we do not invest in it now, the next generation will be forced to rely on a railway network that is 200 years old. We do not want to be

28 Apr 2014 : Column 595

another short-termist Government; we want to leave a legacy that will continue for generations and secure the prosperity of our country well into this century and beyond. For all these reasons, we believe that this project should and must go ahead.

6.52 pm

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): I want to compare the relative wealth of the home counties, including Buckinghamshire—with Chesham and Amersham and many other constituencies—with that of the north-west, using figures provided to me by the House of Commons Library. Sixty years ago, the GDP per person in the home counties was just below that of Britain as a whole, and it was identical to that of the north-west. In the four and a half decades to 2001, a large gap opened up. By 2001, the home counties were on average nearly 20% better off than the average for mainland Great Britain, while the north-west had fallen back relatively to more than 10 percentage points below the average, 30 percentage points below the home counties. Similar data apply to the north of England as well.

Part of this widening gap is a consequence of factors that were, to a great extent, beyond the control of any Government—not least the fact that mass manufacturing migrated to the east of the globe. It was also due to factors within our control, however. I am not suggesting that, in the intervening period, the great cities of the north—Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle—have sat and wallowed in self-pity. When my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) was leader of Manchester city council, for example, that city pulled itself up by its bootstraps. A big gap remains, however.

Among many others, there is one significant reason for that gap. Ironically, a clue is to be found in today’s report by the Institute of Economic Affairs that is otherwise noteworthy only for its internal incoherence. In the report, the institute comments on the regeneration of London’s docklands, which it says

“has been subsidised by taxpayers through large sums spent on government transport schemes and other projects”.

It lists some of those projects. They include

“the Jubilee Line Extension, Docklands Light Railway…the south-east leg of Crossrail”,

as well as many road schemes. This is the same engine of growth that has benefited Buckinghamshire and the home counties, and that has led to the widening gap.

I do not blame any Member for speaking up for their constituency. I have no direct constituency interest in this matter. In any configuration, the line will not go through Blackburn, but I believe that it will greatly benefit us. I part company with those who have spoken in defence of their constituencies, however, when they try to elevate their understandable constituency concerns into some overall economic case against the project; that is frankly disingenuous.

The amendment speaks of its acceptance of the need to increase overall railway capacity. Had I been able to make an intervention on the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) in her untimed speech, I would have asked her, given that she accepts that need for increased capacity, how she intended to achieve it in the absence of HS2. I have been in the Chamber since the moment the debate started, and

28 Apr 2014 : Column 596

everyone has accepted that the west coast main line is full to capacity—




I hear someone say no. They have obviously not been on that line.

Mr McLoughlin: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the biggest problems of capacity relates to the feed into London? That is our biggest capacity problem. A lot of people have said that we should start in the north, but although that is tempting, the biggest capacity problem is in the south.

Mr Straw: I accept that. I came into the House a long time ago, when the line to Manchester and Liverpool was so slow that there was still a need for sleeper trains. They were very reliable, because they went slowly. I accept that for those travelling from the north-west and from the midlands, the main capacity constraints are those south of Rugby. The amendment proclaims a need for greater capacity, but it fails to provide further and better particulars on how to achieve it.

One reason that the west coast main line upgrade took so long and cost so much was that it had to be added on to the existing infrastructure. That was far more disruptive and costly than the provision of additional lines. I look forward to hearing alternative suggestions, but the only way I have heard of providing additional capacity for passengers and, critically, for freight is through the provision of additional two-track capacity. That would be far less disruptive than the construction of the M40 or any other motorway, and it would produce benefits to constituents in the home counties, as well as to those in the north and north-west, by relieving the present capacity constraints.

I am passionately in favour of the HS2 proposals—all the way: phase 1 and phase 2—but they can go ahead only on an all-party basis. I welcome the decisions of the Cabinet and the shadow Cabinet to back the Bill now and for whoever wins the election to back it, the other side of the election.