High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill (Instruction) (No. 3)

Tuesday 21st May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I inform the House that Mr Speaker has selected amendments (a), (b), (c) and (d) as listed on the Order Paper. I will call the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South to move his amendments formally at the end of the debate.

16:44
Huw Merriman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Huw Merriman)
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I beg to move,

That it be an instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill is committed to deal with the Bill as follows:

(1) The Committee shall, before concluding its proceedings, amend the Bill by—

(a) leaving out provision relating to a railway between a junction with Phase 2a of High Speed 2 south of Crewe in Cheshire and a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire,

(b) leaving out provision relating to a railway between Hoo Green in Cheshire and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Bamfurlong, south of Wigan, and

(c) making such amendments to the Bill as it thinks fit in consequence of the amendments made by virtue of sub-paragraphs (a) and (b).

(2) The Committee shall not hear any petition to the extent that it—

(a) relates to whether or not there should be—

(i) a railway between a junction with Phase 2a of High Speed 2 south of Crewe in Cheshire and a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire, or

(ii) a railway between Hoo Green in Cheshire and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Bamfurlong, south of Wigan, or

(b) otherwise relates to a railway mentioned in sub-paragraph (a).

(3) The Committee shall treat the principle of the Bill, as determined by the House on the Bill’s Second Reading, as comprising the matters mentioned in paragraph (4); and those matters shall accordingly not be at issue during proceedings of the Committee.

(4) The matters referred to in paragraph (3) are—

(a) the provision of a high speed railway between a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire and Manchester Piccadilly Station,

(b) in relation to the railway mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) as set out on the plans deposited in January 2022 in connection with the Bill in the office of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons, its broad route alignment, and

(c) the fact that there are to be no new stations (other than Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport) on the railway mentioned in sub-paragraph (a).

(5) The Committee shall have power to consider any amendments proposed by the member in charge of the Bill which, if the Bill were a private bill, could not be made except upon petition for additional provision.

(6) Paragraph (5) applies only so far as the amendments proposed by the member in charge of the Bill fall within the principle of the Bill as provided for by paragraphs (3) and (4) above.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

That the Order of 20 June 2022 (High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill: Instruction (No. 2)) be rescinded.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to discuss:

Amendment (a), in paragraph (1)(a), line 2, leave out from “vicinity of” to end and insert—

“Chainage 281+350 in the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire, including all structures relating to a junction with the now cancelled Phase 2b railway between this point and a junction with Phase 2a of High Speed 2 south of Crewe,”.

Amendment (b), after paragraph (1)(b) insert—

“() leaving out provision for the Ashley Infrastructure Maintenance Base - Rail, and”.

Amendment (c), in paragraph (1)(c), line 2, leave out “and (b)” and insert “, (b) and ()”.

Amendment (d), in paragraph (4)(a), line 1, leave out “high speed”.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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The motion instructs the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill Select Committee to resume its work of scrutinising the Bill. To put it simply, the Bill was always going to cover the 15 miles that form the key backbone of Northern Powerhouse Rail, and the motion asks the Committee to continue its work of scrutinising the Bill to deliver this first section of the Liverpool to Manchester railway—the 15-mile section between Manchester Piccadilly station and the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire.

The motion also requests that the Committee remove the sections of railway south of Millington, which were only required to deliver the now cancelled elements of High Speed 2. Members and constituents who have expressed concerns about the impact of this 15-mile stretch of railway on their property and livelihoods will be able to have their petitions heard. It is therefore crucial that the Select Committee continues its work.

Turning to the detail, on 4 October 2023 the Government announced Network North, a transformative transport infrastructure plan that will see £36 billion invested in hundreds of transport projects across the country. Every region is set to receive the same or more transport investment as they would have under previous plans in transport projects—projects that matter the most to communities up and down the country. At the same time, the Government confirmed an additional £12 billion of investment to enable Northern Powerhouse Rail to proceed to better connect Liverpool and Manchester.

The change before the House is a crucial part of the Government’s Network North strategy, allowing us to invest the money put aside for HS2 in projects that will transform transport within the region. Specifically on Northern Powerhouse Rail, this allows us to deliver it in full, bringing in Bradford and Hull. Network North will radically improve travel between and within our cities and towns and around the local areas, benefiting more people, in more places and more quickly than in previous plans.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the Select Committee for their hard work up to this point. It is no small task that has been put before them, and they have all worked with a vigour that is to be admired, even if some of the work had to be paused while the Government refocused this agenda.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
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As is well known, I have been opposed to the HS2 project since its inception, which goes back about 10 years or so. The Minister is giving us a bit of a eulogy about what is being done, and I am very glad that HS2 has been substantially changed and will not go beyond Birmingham. The question I put to the Minister is this: is an instruction the right way to go? Doing so in effect bypasses the Standing Orders, and it puts my constituents and those of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) in an invidious position, to say the very least. I will come on to that later, if I may, but will he answer my question, please?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I had not really started the eulogy yet, but I do believe this is the right vehicle. The Select Committee on the Bill had already been set up, and it was set up to look at not just HS2 phase 2b, but Northern Powerhouse Rail. It was always on that basis that it was formed, so it makes sense to repurpose the Committee to allow it to continue to work on the one aspect that continues, and to take out the other aspects of HS2 phase 2b, which of course is no longer continuing.

I also want to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), who has been a diligent, conscientious and highly effective Committee Chair over the past year and a half. I know he will be looking forward to getting back to the task, as will the other Committee members.

Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire) (Con)
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My hon. Friend raises an important point in saying that we should repurpose the Committee. However, the amount of spend for Northern Powerhouse Rail is potentially quite different from what was agreed before, and he is almost depriving the House of the ability to have a proper view of it and to decide how much money is spent on the project.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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My right hon. Friend obviously believes the point he makes, but almost two years ago—I think it was back in June 2022—after Second Reading, this House passed the motion that has allowed the Select Committee to sit, and its remit was to look at phase 2b and also Northern Powerhouse Rail. By definition, we are looking to strip out the elements that are no longer relevant because HS2 phase 2b is not going ahead, but in my view the Committee should continue to sit to consider the parts that are still going ahead.

Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson
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I thank my hon. Friend for being so generous in giving way. There is potentially a significant difference in cost, and in terms of the impact on communities. By taking this process and railroading it through—excuse the pun—the Minister is not giving the House a proper opportunity to discuss the detail and make a decision on it, unless he accepts that there will be no difference in cost between the two proposals.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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The route selected as the preferred route, which the Bill Committee was tasked with hearing petitions on, remains exactly the same route as was previously identified. With respect, I contend that the Committee has already started its journey. It has already received petitions from those who feel they are affected by this issue, and I contend that that is the right vehicle. I have said warm words about the Committee’s Chair, and as I see the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) in his place, I also put on the record my thanks for his hard and heroic work.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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The question the Minister referred to is one of additional provisions. The real question—this is a technical question and not good for an intervention—and the bottom line is that additional provisions can be petitioned against. The manner in which the motion is constructed will effectively greatly inhibit, and/or completely prevent, additional provisions from being pursued by petitioners, both in the constituency affected by the Bill, and also for my constituents, who are affected by the fact that the two sections, from Birmingham to Crewe and from Crewe to Manchester, are interconnected. There is a vast amount of concern in my constituency about this issue.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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To be clear, I give a commitment that HS2 will not be going through my hon. Friend’s constituency, and therefore any petitions that were going to be relevant should lapse. This is a matter for the Bill Committee, but that would be the logical extension. Any petitions already made on this 15-mile stretch, which will continue to be within the remit because it continues to be the preferred route, will be heard by the Committee if this motion is passed. If there are amendments, such as from an environmental statement or any that I may propose, that reopens the window for petitions. On that basis, if there is anything new a petition can be made, but if there is not, the petition should already be in. I feel that is the right outcome.

I shall make some more progress. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) made clear on Second Reading, and as I have mentioned, part of the Bill’s original purpose was always to deliver this section of Northern Powerhouse Rail, the first half of the line between Manchester and Liverpool. Following today’s motion, the Committee will be able to go back to considering petitions from people and organisations still affected by the scheme. The Committee will also assess any changes to the Bill that I may bring forward to adapt it to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The proposed changes to the Bill will, quite rightly, prompt a new environmental assessment that will consider how any new element in the scheme will affect local areas. Where possible, I will use this as an opportunity to further reduce the construction impacts on communities, and the changes will be provided to the House in the usual way. Although this is a rather technical motion, holding this debate demonstrates good progress in developing the Government’s long-held ambition to improve connectivity between Liverpool and Manchester.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
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Can the Minister tell the House when Northern Powerhouse Rail will be complete?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an exact and firm date, but I am seeking to put the Bill Committee back on track, rather than restart the entire process—something that has been championed and supported by the Mayors of Manchester and Liverpool, and others. By its very definition we will be looking to deliver the Bill back, so that we can crack on and give the hon. Gentleman an earlier date than he may perhaps believe will be the case.

Since the Network North announcement, we have been engaging local leaders and MPs about the form the connection between Liverpool and Manchester will take, and we have held many discussions with local leaders to establish what their communities want from such a link. Alongside that, we must ensure that the options being considered represent the best possible use of the £12 billion funding available. On 25 March I was able to deposit a written statement in this place on the outcome of those discussions. We have heard clear support for a railway with stops at Liverpool, Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester airport and Manchester Piccadilly. Local leaders also supported the plan that the new railway should follow the broad alignment set out in the 2021 integrated rail plan.

The section of railway that we are discussing today is part of the plan’s larger Northern Powerhouse Rail network. We will improve connections on both sides of the Pennines, both by building new lines and by upgrading existing ones. Trains on this line will go past Manchester and on to York via Leeds. We will also upgrade the existing railway between Leeds and Bradford to reduce journey times and increase capacity between those destinations. Stations will also be upgraded and made more accessible. The environmental impact of the network will be reduced by further electrification.

With this plan, towns and cities across the whole of the north will benefit from direct services to Manchester airport. Passengers travelling to the airport from Liverpool could see their journeys slashed by almost an hour, while passengers from Leeds could benefit from a 41-minute reduction. The new station at Manchester airport will unlock the potential to further promote the international airport, acting as a catalyst for growth across the north-west.

That is just one of the benefits that Network North—our new long-term plan for transport—will deliver. We are refocusing on the journeys that really matter to people, connecting towns, cities and rural communities in all regions of the country. Every penny of the £19.8 billion committed to the northern leg of HS2 will be reinvested in the north. Every penny of the £9.6 billion committed to the midlands leg will be reinvested in the midlands. Bradford will get a brand-new station and connection, reducing journey times from Manchester from 56 minutes to 30 minutes.

Mark Hendrick Portrait Sir Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op)
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As the Minister knows, the commitment for Birmingham to Manchester was in three Conservative manifestos. What he is now announcing is controversial and breaks with the tradition of cross-party agreement that we have seen up to now. The offering in terms of east-west connectivity is laudable, but the fact that we cannot get a direct link and increased capacity—it is not just about speed—from Birmingham through to Manchester will affect the whole of the north-west and stop much of the wealth in the south from getting further north because of decreased business activity.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I take the hon. Member’s point. It comes down to choices, and the choice as led by the Prime Minister was to cancel the stages of HS2 north of Handsacre and dedicate those moneys to other parts of the north and midlands in particular to connect those cities, which would not have seen a direct benefit from HS2.

As an example, let us take Bradford, a city that felt sore that it had missed out from the integrated rail plan. That decision provides £2 billion for a new station for Bradford. The concern that Bradford would have had was that, as things had stood, it may have seen businesses relocate away to, say, Manchester, because not only was it not receiving anything, but Manchester was receiving a lot. Ultimately, it comes down to choices.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I will give way one last time.

Mark Hendrick Portrait Sir Mark Hendrick
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I take the point that the Minister is making—it is an improvement for Bradford—but HS2 would also have gone on another spur up from Birmingham to Leeds. Improving connectivity between Leeds and Bradford, which is not far, plus the station improvements, would have been far more beneficial than what he is proposing.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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We have committed to delivering a faster route between Leeds and Bradford that will bring the journey time down to 13 minutes; that commitment is there. Look, it comes down to choices, and we have been quite clear with our choice, which is to repurpose the moneys from HS2. I believe that Labour’s position is to do likewise, because the Leader of the Opposition went to Manchester and made the same point that the line would not be recommitted. The key point is this: is the Labour party committed to repurposing for those Bradford projects? I am sure that we will hear from its Front Bench spokesperson.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I will not give way again; I will finish so that others can speak.

We will be upgrading the connections between Manchester and Sheffield, between Leeds and Sheffield, between Leeds and Hull, and between Hull and Sheffield. We will reopen several of the lines closed more than 60 years ago by Dr Beeching, reconnecting areas such as County Durham, Burton, Stocksbridge and Waverley. We will halve the time that it takes to travel between Nottingham and Leeds by upgrading the track between Newark and Nottingham. We will increase our investment in the midlands rail hub to £1.75 billion, better connecting more than 50 stations, and we will improve journey times from north Wales to England, bringing parts of north Wales within an hour of Manchester by electrifying the north Wales main line. Network North is vital to our plans to level up the economy. It will connect labour markets across the north, expanding where people can work and where companies can recruit from. It will make it easier to deliver goods to markets and shorten supply chains in regions, growing the local economy. Instead of dragging investment towards London, we will contribute towards growth everywhere in the country.

As I said, although the motion is technical, this is still an exciting day for the north. We are taking a step towards providing the kind of infrastructure that people really want, connecting the great cities of Manchester and Liverpool, and making it easier to move around, work and invest in the region. I commend the motion to the House.

17:04
Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) (Lab)
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for outlining the detail of this motion. I thank all members of the Select Committee for their work to date on the Bill, and all hon. Members who are contributing to this debate.

Labour will back this motion because after years of delay by this Government, we back progress on finally delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail—even the limited progress that this motion appears to bring. I say “finally” because the Government first promised Northern Powerhouse Rail over a decade ago. It has been in three consecutive Conservative manifestos yet has not been delivered. Plans have been continuously chopped, changed and scaled back.

The impact of that dither and delay is becoming painfully clear. Just last week, the Government’s own infrastructure adviser, Sir John Armitt, warned that the Conservatives’ failure to boost rail capacity in the north risks undermining levelling up and constraining economic growth. Sir John pointed out that the UK is the only country in Europe where productivity is below the national average in the second and third biggest cities. What a damning indictment, after 14 years of Conservative chaos.

After more than a decade of stagnation, the window is closing in which to deliver the transport infrastructure that our country needs to make people’s lives better, boost growth and reach net zero. Because of the fiasco that the Government have made of the now staggeringly expensive High Speed 2 project, poor connectivity, high congestion and low capacity will continue to hold back the midlands and the north. It is therefore vital that today’s motion does not unintentionally restrict any future plans to address rail capacity between Birmingham and Manchester.

As we know, under the sponsorship of the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the former Mayor of the West Midlands, work has started with private partners to find a new solution to the capacity issue between Birmingham and Manchester caused by this Government’s mishandling of HS2. However, the detailed final plans have not yet been presented to the Government, and no public decision has been made by Ministers on whether to support the findings. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that today’s motion will not result in the proposals from that review being hampered or prejudged, or bind the hands of the working group before the consortium makes its full recommendations.

As we know, the Government did not consult local leaders or experts when they cooked up their error-ridden Network North plan. The shambles that we have seen play out since is an inevitable result. It is vital that Ministers learn from these glaring mistakes and do not fall into the same trap again. I hope that the Minister will make it clear that today’s motion is no substitute for a serious, detailed delivery plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail, or the credible and transformative programme of transport infrastructure investment that the north and midlands need and deserve.

The Government’s current approach of developing small sections of projects that are ignorant of each other is neither coherent nor sufficient. As a result, it remains unclear how the Government plan to achieve their supposed objective of levelling up all parts of the north. As stated, after years of delays, it is vital that we finally begin to make progress on Northern Powerhouse Rail, no matter how limited that progress might be, which is why we will support the motion today.

Let me emphasise again that the progress must be made in partnership with local leaders, and that piecemeal announcements should not be seen as a substitute for a credible plan for Northern Powerhouse Rail, which is desperately needed if we are to deliver for the north. I hope that the Minister has taken those comments on board. I look forward to hearing his response to my points and those raised by others in the debate.

17:04
Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)
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I must say that the motion before the House is quite bizarre. Now that the hybrid HS2 Bill has been adapted to supposedly deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail, we are asking the Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill to agree a Bill for a railway that ends in a field, with no connection to the rest of the rail network. This is effectively a railway to nowhere. The motion and the adaption of the hybrid Bill will not facilitate a functioning railway until a connection is established to the rail network at Latchford in Warrington. The Department for Transport is presuming that the remainder of the line will be approved through a completely separate planning process, but does not say what that process is and when it will be brought forward. That is a massive departure from what was experienced in phase 1 or even phase 2, in which a whole corridor approach was considered, with clear connections possible, in each phase, to the existing network. It is totally flawed to segment NPR in the way proposed, rather than looking at the whole corridor, or even a whole phase or section. The proposal does not even properly consider what could be thought of as the NPR core route. The House should not be asked to approve something that will not deliver a functioning piece of infrastructure.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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The instruction states:

“The Committee shall, before concluding its proceedings, amend the Bill by—”

and then sets out certain arrangements relating to certain aspects of the railway. It then states:

“making such amendments to the Bill as it thinks fit in consequence of the amendments made by virtue of”

the previous sub-paragraphs. The words “as it thinks fit” are an absolute carte blanche. If the railway ends in a field, it is not a railway. That is just the starting point. Have the examiners been asked to look at the Bill using the procedures for a hybrid Bill? Effectively, it will not be a Bill, when it has been treated in this way, if the instruction goes through. Should we not put forward petitions, irrespective of the constraints imposed by the instruction, to test just how much this is a matter of principle? The Bill is also constrained by the fact that Second Reading is now effectively torn up, and a new principle is being inserted into the Bill.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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I thank my hon. Friend for those very thoughtful points. I entirely agree that the instruction is wide-ranging. It is concerning to see those sorts of powers being put forward to the Committee. It really does show the abuse of the hybrid Bill process. If any services are to use the line, the railway would have to secure much wider enhancements and additional complex infrastructure, and there is no guarantee of that being delivered. As I said, the delivery of any services on this line will depend on permission being secured for the rest of the section, and that will be approved under a completely separate planning process. The approach being taken really is totally back to front.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer
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As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have a principled disagreement with him on HS2, but I respect his position. He is making a powerful case for dividing the House on this matter. Will he divide the House on it?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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We may come to that shortly, but I am very concerned about this. Certainly, we may consider dividing on the motion.

We should focus first on properly understanding the connectivity enhancement need, and then design the infrastructure to meet that need. Instead, we already have the infrastructure design, and are trying to make it fit with the improvements that we would like for connectivity across the north, because we do not want to spend time doing this properly and restarting the hybrid Bill process. It might have made sense to use the proposed route when the track would be shared with HS2, but it does not make any sense now that phase 2 has gone. It is neither the optimal route for benefits nor the most cost-effective to deliver. I am afraid that this really is an abuse of the hybrid Bill process.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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May I refer my hon. Friend to paragraph 3 of the motion? It states:

“The Committee shall treat the principle of the Bill, as determined by the House on…Second Reading, as comprising the matters mentioned in paragraph (4); and those matters shall accordingly not be at issue during proceedings of the Committee.”

What the motion is actually saying, surely, is that the principle of the Bill as originally passed will now be replaced by a new principle, and that any petitioner or anyone else who gets up to speak about it in any context will be told, because of an instruction by the whole House on what I could describe as the misleading basis—I am not accusing the Minister of this; I am merely commenting on the wording of the motion—that the issue cannot be put, and indeed is not to be regarded as an issue. That is a contradiction of what is clearly going on.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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My hon. Friend has made a powerful point. That, too, illustrates the failings of the hybrid Bill process. My hon. Friend and I know about this all too well because of the abuses of the process that we have seen in Staffordshire, which really have not guarded against some of the issues and challenges to which people have been drawing attention. It brings into question the fitness of the process in its entirety, and the way in which hybrid Bills have been enacted.

This Bill was designed and set out to deliver phase 2b of HS2. It was never about NPR alone, so its original objectives were very different. To try to adapt the Bill in this way is totally flawed. It would not afford the due process that is required for the decision in question. I believe we should abandon this phase 2b Bill, and come back with a new hybrid Bill that will deliver NPR properly. We should look at the whole corridor between Liverpool and Manchester, and at areas beyond, not just at the section in the middle, which does not go anywhere. We need a Bill that is capable of delivering the whole project. We cannot just deliver a partial scheme, and expect it to magically result in capacity being released to enable the promised enhancement of services.

There are constraints along the whole route. What about the complexities of crossing the M56, the M6 and the Manchester ship canal to connect with the rail network at Latchford, east of Warrington Bank Quay? What about the enhancements that will be needed between Warrington and Liverpool, including the upgrading of the Fiddlers Ferry line to facilitate services, and what about the capacity improvements that are needed at Liverpool Lime Street station? All these issues need far more detailed consideration and focus, as well as a proper process for approval—and we have not even mentioned how all this will be delivered within a tight £12 billion budget envelope; it is more likely to cost more than £16 billion. As for the point raised by the hon. Member for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick) about connecting with the west coast main line, I am afraid that that will not be possible because of the challenges presented in the Warrington area; the Arpley chord cannot provide a connection with the west coast main line to serve west coast stations north of Warrington.

One might ask why we in Staffordshire are so interested in these matters. It is because we fear those who are seeking to reignite phase 2 of HS2 and all the horrors that it was set to wreak on our fine county. People in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire have overwhelmingly welcomed the Prime Minister’s courageous and correct decision to scrap phase 2. They want the £36 billion released to be spent on projects that will truly deliver the improvements in local transport that will help to transform their lives, and not on remote “white elephant” pet projects.

It is disappointing that the eagerness to progress the plans set out in the motion has not been mirrored in the actions to wind down site compounds, fill in the thousands of boreholes that have been left, and return land to its rightful owners across the rest of the phase 2 route. Little to no progress seems to have been made yet, and the significant costs continue to spiral, even though the project has been cancelled. People in Staffordshire communities such as Swynnerton and Yarnfield, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), are still fearful, given that they have not yet seen any visible signs of unwinding. Motions like the one before us today do nothing to dispel those fears, and there are concerns that some people would like nothing better than to see phase 2 restarted. That is why I have tabled several probing amendments, because we need to know that all elements relating purely to phase 2 will be removed.

Amendment (a) would leave out the provisions relating to the entirety of phase 2b from the junction with phase 2a at Crewe to where it would have joined the line to share track with NPR—importantly, including the stub and junction for where the line would join NPR, which would otherwise remain part of the design. Clearly, following the cancellation of phase 2, the stub and junction are no longer needed, so they should be removed from the design. Removing them would help to reassure that phase 2 could not be restarted at a later stage.

Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson
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I thank my hon. Friend for making such powerful points. Does he hope that the Minister will come to the Dispatch Box and give him those reassurances—maybe right now?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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Absolutely. We need reassurances from the Minister to allay the many fears among our communities throughout Staffordshire.

Amendment (c) is consequential on amendment (b), and both relate to the “Ashley infrastructure maintenance base - rail”. This IMB-R was specifically designed to service phase 2 of HS2. Given that phase 2 has been cancelled and that the IMB-R will no longer be required, NPR will be served by other facilities on the wider network. Again, the removal of the facility would give much reassurance about the cancellation of HS2 phase 2, and confirm that the project will not be brought back at some future point.

Amendment (d) would remove references to “high speed” but retain the word “railway”. This would be an important change, given that the line will be a conventional railway, not high speed. The NPR route between Manchester and Liverpool cannot and will not be high speed, because it is too short, at 67 km. It has two intervening stations and involves the use of sections with very sharp bends at Warrington and south of Liverpool, so it would be impossible for the route to be high speed. Without phase 2, it makes no sense to design this short section to high-speed standards, which would end up being dramatically over-specified and incur huge additional and unnecessary costs—unless, of course, the intention is to reignite phase 2.

On NPR, I must make it clear that I fully support the intention to properly connect cities and communities across the north. I know the importance of improved rail connectivity for my own city of Stoke-on-Trent, and I have led efforts to reopen more of our local rail network. I am incredibly grateful for the Government’s support for projects such as reopening Meir station and the Stoke to Leek line, which were included as part of Network North. I know the transformative impact that improving such rail services can have on the opportunities available to our communities.

What has been set out today, however, will not deliver on the intention of Northern Powerhouse Rail and communities in the north—it will not even come close. As the Minister and the Secretary of State will know, we have presented the Department with far superior alternatives, which should be given more serious consideration. The alternative upgrade proposals for the Chat Moss route would not only entail half the cost, but deliver far greater benefits. Upgrading the alternative route could deliver a shorter route between Manchester and Liverpool that is capable of delivering a 26% quicker journey time than is proposed. That is 26 minutes, as compared with the 35 minutes in the proposals.

Additionally, due to the extreme complexity and over-engineering of parts of the proposed route, not only could our proposal be delivered eight to 10 years sooner, meaning that communities across the north would feel the benefits far earlier, but our proposals would allow connectivity of the NPR core route to a far greater range of destinations throughout the north-west, including Preston, Wales and even into Scotland. It would also release the budget needed to enable the delivery of the much-desired underground through-platform at Manchester Piccadilly, which would otherwise remain far beyond reach.

To conclude, I hope that the Government will give far greater consideration to how NPR can be delivered, which can mean greater benefits and better value for money for the taxpayer. The proposal before us today does not do that. It is not even capable of delivering a functional piece of infrastructure. I strongly believe that the only way that can be achieved is through the introduction of a new hybrid Bill that is capable of properly delivering on the aspirations of Northern Powerhouse Rail and properly divorcing the scheme from phase 2 of HS2. It is essential that we see greater clarity and reassurance of communities throughout Staffordshire. Most importantly, we must see far greater urgency in progressing the unwinding of phase 2. I hope the Minister and the Department will take on board those concerns and reflect them in the action we need to see.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. I just point out that there is a bit of interest here, and the debate must conclude by 6.13 pm. If Members could focus on pithy speeches, that would be useful for getting in as many people as we can.

17:21
Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab)
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I do not think I will detain the House long. I want to say two or three things. The first is that there is an element of unreality about this debate, as there has been about many debates on Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 phase 2b. Mr Deputy Speaker, you may remember this as a northern MP—I am sure the Minister will remember it, too—but almost exactly 10 years ago, on 23 June, George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer went to the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and announced Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Since that time, the rail system across the north of England has had three names: it has been HS3, Crossrail of the north, and Northern Powerhouse Rail. How much work has been done on it? There has been no design work, no land purchased and no money dedicated to it. Ten years later, we are here, and the Minister says, “We will crack on with it.” “Crack on”, if I may say, after 10 years of complete inactivity when it was a Government commitment, is a rum old phrase to use for Northern Powerhouse Rail, if the Minister does not mind me saying so. He has made a decent fist of a cackhanded decision by the Government on HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.

At different times and for political reasons and for other reasons, people have counterpoised against each other the Crossrail of the north, or Northern Powerhouse Rail, or HS3, against HS2. That is a strange thing to do, because if we increase the capacity of the rail system with HS2, those passengers have to have somewhere to go. The same applies if we increase the capacity, as I hope we do, with Northern Powerhouse Rail. If we have a good system going from Manchester to Hull via Bradford and Leeds and York, those passengers have to go somewhere.

If we have a new station at Manchester airport, we want people to come through it in great numbers, not just east-west but from the south as well. So that is a mistake, as has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan). While I respect the hon. Members for Stone (Sir William Cash) and for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), they have been consistently opposed to HS2 for constituency reasons and how they see the impact of HS2 on Stafford, for example. Many of us on this side have seen the economic and transport benefits of HS2.

What I do not accept at all is the Prime Minister, unselected by his own party and unelected by the people of the United Kingdom, turning up after manifesto commitments from both parties—all three parties, in fact, if we go back to the original decision in 2009 when all three parties supported HS2—and saying, “We will stop it.” Whether we are talking about Northern Powerhouse Rail or HS2, the economic development of the north of England has, in effect, been abandoned by this Government. I do not know if the Prime Minister has ever driven up—or been driven up—the M6, but it is at full capacity. The decision to not go ahead with HS2 will reduce not only the capacity of the rail system but the speed because the trains will have to be split and they will not tilt. So the Government have isolated the north of England, and Manchester in particular.

Incidentally—this is not the main point of what I was going to say—I hear the Minister using the pork barrel politics of this Government by saying, “Well, Bradford can get this, so therefore it will not be supporting HS2.” When I chaired the board of Manchester airport, people in Yorkshire, the north-east and across the north of England knew the economic benefits of transport coming to Manchester. There was a North of England regional consortium that supported both Manchester airport and better links to it. So it is completely wrong to juxtapose investment in Bradford—which Bradford needs, as it has been neglected by most of the north of England—against investment in HS2 going to Manchester airport and to Manchester.

Mark Hendrick Portrait Sir Mark Hendrick
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I declare an interest, in that I was a director of Manchester airport as well, some years back, as a Salford city councillor appointed to that position. Many in the House—although not the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton)—will remember phase 1of HS2, and I sat on that Committee for the best part of a year and a half. The whole process was very elongated—I will try not to make my intervention too elongated—but what it boiled down to was that when members of that Committee, particularly those on the Government side, had constituency interests, they tended to be far more accommodating, and the costs spiralled because there were tunnels going here, there and everywhere instead of going direct. That inflated the price. The reason we are in this mess now is that the Government have realised that we are close to an election and they want to spend £12 billion of the £37 billion that should have been spent on phase 2. They are now scattering it around certain places in the north of England in the hope that they can use that promise to get more—

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. This is a very elongated intervention.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his very long intervention. He is obviously right. Cheryl Gillan did a fantastic job.She was opposed to HS2, and she increased the costs enormously by getting tunnels built under the hills in her constituency.

Another way of looking at the economic nonsense we have had from this Government is that we do not have a high-speed route for the nation; we have an extension of the London underground. We have tunnels leading out of London to Birmingham. I do not know the train times, but my guess is that the times going to Birmingham, going through the tunnels out of London, will be shorter than using the Elizabeth line to travel across London. HS2 is just part of the underground system. It is a London scheme now, not a national scheme.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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At the moment, travelling from Stoke-on-Trent or Stafford down to London Euston, as Conservative Members do, takes just over an hour. I would have thought that most people regard that as pretty fast.

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer
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Indeed, but we are talking about major national infrastructure. I always hoped that HS2 would not just go to Manchester and Leeds but, for both political and transport reasons, would go to Scotland. As someone who believes in the Union between England and Scotland, I think that would help, and it would be very good transport policy, too.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for taking another intervention. Does he agree that cancelling the northern leg of HS2 has taken away capacity that is now ending up on the roads, and that we therefore have more congestion, more pollution and more environmental damage?

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer
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I agree with the hon. Lady, and I hope I have already made that point.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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The hon. Gentleman mentioned Scotland. Of course, it was always intended that HS2 would be compatible with the conventional network that serves Scotland. Why does he think the Department for Transport specified HS2 trains that are not able to tilt and are not the right size to go on the classic network?

Graham Stringer Portrait Graham Stringer
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I cannot answer that question. It was a Government decision, and the Minister has indicated that he will answer.

I respect those who oppose HS2. This House has supported HS2, which has been in all of our manifestos. I think it is outrageous that HS2 to Manchester has been cancelled by an insulting edict from the Prime Minister. The most important point in this debate was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan), who said that the elected Mayors of the west midlands and Greater Manchester have put together a plan to consider alternative methods of funding HS2. I hope the Minister can reassure the House that the Government will not follow a “burnt fields” policy of destroying it to make it more difficult for an incoming Labour Government to resurrect it.

The Conservative Members present say that they will remain opposed to HS2, and I remain supportive, because HS2 is good for the country, good for the environment and good for the economy of the north of England.

17:33
Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire) (Con)
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I am conscious of the time, and we have a number of Members to get through.

This debate is about fairness and scrutiny. For those living along the 24 km section of Northern Powerhouse Rail that is common with phase 2 and who will be blighted by this process, especially between Rostherne and Warrington, is it really fair that the route has not been defined? I do not think it is fair, because it will have a major impact on all the people in that area for an awful long time.

I think all of us in this House believe that it is right to be investing more in our railways and road networks, whether they are in Staffordshire and the wider midlands or in the north of England. I, like many Members in this House, find it crazy how much difficulty we have crossing from Yorkshire into Lancashire or vice versa and on infrastructure that has sadly been neglected over multiple generations. But we are not talking about small amounts of money here. We are talking, at the most conservative end of the spectrum, about £12 billion, and if one were to speak to less-involved individuals and rail experts, most of them would say that the current proposals on NPR are in region of £16.2 billion.

Surely on the basis of scrutiny and accountability, this House should be very interested and engaged in how such large amounts of money are going to be spent and properly purposed. Some of us across the House will have differing views, but we should be able to scrutinise the proposals properly and put arguments forward for our constituents and the communities we represent, as opposed to this just being shuffled off upstairs into a Committee. Though we are grateful to many members of that Committee and the former Committees there have been for the work they do, this issue involves significant amounts of public money and will not be properly debated.

Looking at this project in its purest form, we are giving permission for a railway that starts in a field in Cheshire and ends somewhere in the Pennines at a place called node 3. I am not quite sure where node 3 is, and I am not sure whether many constituents of mine or people in this House have expressed a particular desire to visit node 3. That is how ill-defined this all is. We are effectively giving a complete pass to a small group of—I am sure—well-meaning and well-intentioned Members of this House to determine so much, when there is much debate we need to have.

There may be a great amount of discord. There will be Conservative Members such as my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and for Stone (Sir William Cash) and myself who have great concern about the HS2 project in its entirety and considerable concern as to whether what is being proposed will get the best value for money and deliver the best service for our constituents across the midlands and the north. There will be Members on the Opposition Benches, and perhaps those on the Government Benches, with contrasting views, but it is right that the project is properly debated and properly discussed. We are going to be blighting the lives of so many people across Cheshire and other parts of the north-west of England without having had a proper debate.

Mark Hendrick Portrait Sir Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op)
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Is the right hon. Gentleman not missing the point by talking, as he has done for however many minutes, about process rather than outcomes? When other countries around the world do major infrastructure projects, they look at the whole picture, decide what they want to do, they get on with it and they finish it. They do not have all the hurdles we have in this country. The French, German, Japanese and Chinese look at this country and laugh. They laugh because the nimbyism that exists on both sides of this House is stopping economic progress and impacting the standing of this country.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. We must ensure interventions are brief because the debate has to finish at 6.30pm. Four more Members wish to speak, possibly, before I have to call the Minister, so I ask colleagues to be conscious of that.

Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson
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I guess I agree with a lot of what the hon. Member for Preston (Sir Mark Hendrick) says. We are talking about a programme that will deliver something for some people in the mid-2040s, which does not seem to be much of a dynamic, outcome-driven process. The hon. Gentleman wants to drive the programme through so that his constituents, and all of our constituents, can get to node 3 in the middle of the Pennines. That is not necessarily the best form of process. He is right that we should be concerned about outcomes and how we deliver the best outcomes for people across the country, but we are shuffling the matter upstairs without having a proper debate. We are effectively abdicating democratic accountability and responsibility over a budget and moneys of over £16 billion. I think we should be interested in that.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse
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Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should ultimately draw a line under the mess they got themselves into with HS2, start again and allow us all to start with a completely new process?

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I warn those who want to get in later that I will have to limit speeches to five minutes.

Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson
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In light of colleagues wanting to speak, I will draw my remarks to a conclusion.

There is a serious question about whether we are in danger of spending a lot more money. Members of Parliament in Staffordshire are concerned that these measures are being used as a Trojan horse to ram HS2 through by the back door. There is also concern that we are trying to bend a scheme that does not deliver the best outcomes for people in the north, the midlands or across the country. When there is so much concern that a scheme is not delivering those outcomes, we should ensure there is proper scrutiny of the process. I urge the Minister to give clear reassurance about the concerns that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South, other hon. Members and I have raised. If he does not, he may have to start afresh and anew.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) has indicated that she does not want to speak, but I urge colleagues to limit their comments to five minutes or so in order to get everyone in.

17:42
Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab/Co-op)
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I welcome the debate so we can reflect on the importance of high-speed rail, the Northern Powerhouse Rail project, and connecting our towns and cities.

When we talk about connectivity, we always talk about the great powerhouses that are our cities, but our towns matter too. In many cases, towns have been the first to see cuts and the last to see investment. We need to use this opportunity to talk about our communities in the round. Generations to come will look back at this period in our history with regret at a missed opportunity to invest in the future of our country. When previous generations planned the infrastructure we see today, and in many ways take for granted, whether that is the canal, railway or motorway network that we enjoy, people had foresight. They planned well ahead, understood that in order to create a connected country they had to plan for a connected country, and took decisions for future generations, not only the current one. In that spirit, the cancellation of HS2 from the midlands to the north is a matter of serious regret.

The proposals have been pitched to say, “Well, the north of England can now have Northern Powerhouse Rail. Isn’t that good news?” Of course the £12 million investment connecting Manchester and Liverpool is welcome, but London did not have to choose between HS2 and the Elizabeth line, which cost £19 billion. If London does not have to choose, why on earth should the north of England have to choose on the same basis? Again, it is because the north of England has been shortchanged when it comes to investment.

Local leaders and Mayors across the midlands and the north have been working hard to try to rescue this decision and make some sense of what it can mean for future investment. We owe a significant debt of gratitude to our great council leaders, our Mayors and our transport authorities—particularly the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Transport for the North and the local transport bodies—for the work they have done.

None the less, there are serious questions about the proposal on the table. Why do the Government seem to want to close the door completely on the idea that a midlands to Manchester link of HS2, funded by private finance, might be an option in the future? If the Government do not want to fund it today, why close the door for a funding model tomorrow?

Why has Manchester Piccadilly been told that it cannot have tunnelling that would take the platforms underground instead of overground, when the whole of the south of England is more or less tunnelled from the centre of London outwards? Why is a tunnel good enough for a field in the south of England, but not for one of our major cities in the north of England?

Manchester Airport station is a significant hub not just for Greater Manchester, but for the whole of the north of England, so why is Greater Manchester and its taxpayers being asked to make a local contribution to that scheme, when it is essentially a national project?

Why not use this as an opportunity to look at transport in the round? Heavy rail is important, and all the benefits of HS2 were well-rehearsed: they were about capacity, passenger transport, taking freight off the congested motorways, increased frequency and reducing costs. The whole project was also an opportunity to look at transport in the round—multi-modal transport, including bus, trams, trains and other airports. Why not use this as an opportunity to look beyond the cities to our towns? It is a significant frustration in Greater Manchester that most of our transport relies on the centre of Manchester to go in and out, because the cross-borough connectivity is so poor. Why not use this as an opportunity to bring forward plans to have an orbital tram for Greater Manchester—for the north-east of the conurbation—connecting the Bury line to Middleton and on to Chadderton and Oldham and through to the Ashton line, which, under these plans, faces a two-year closure during engineering works at Manchester Piccadilly. Why not use this as an opportunity for that?

Why not use this scheme as an opportunity to reinvigorate plans for reopening some of the lines closed by Beeching? It would be fantastic to reopen the Middleton Junction station on the Rochdale to Manchester Victoria line, serving new communities that have been rebuilt around the Foxdenton Lane area in Chadderton. Why not use it as an opportunity to have a joined-up transport system? FirstGroup, through the Lumo brand, has suggested a potential 2027 connection from Rochdale to London Euston. It will pass through Mills Hill in Chadderton and Moston, which serves Chadderton, without stopping to say hello. Why not look at that in the round and say that, since the light rail system was introduced in Oldham, there is no longer a heavy rail station for Oldham town centre. The nearest that we have is Mills Hill, so why not have that national connectivity at Mills Hill, joining up to Victoria and on to London Euston?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Sir Gavin Williamson
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The hon. Gentleman is making an incredibly powerful argument, but he is also making an argument as to why this should be a wider discussion; it should not just be shunted upstairs. Does he agree that we need to open up this debate so that we can have bespoke, clear legislation to make this happen?

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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The problem is that there was no debate or legislation when the Prime Minister woke up one morning and decided to cancel HS2; it was done on a whim. All those manifesto commitments, all those promises to the business community and to the public that we would see this through, because we had a generational responsibility to plan for the future, were scrapped overnight. I have no faith that any further parliamentary process will ultimately deliver better transport in the north of England. In the end, it will be used by people who have another interest, which is to stop it entirely.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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If we had a Labour Government—I hope that we will not—does the hon. Gentleman think that they would bring phase 2 back?

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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In the end, it would be for the Labour Government to assess what they inherit at that point, but does that not make the case for not having a scorched-earth policy of completely derailing what could have been HS2 by selling off the lands and the assets that were purchased to free up that route in the way this Government are currently proposing?

James Grundy Portrait James Grundy (Leigh) (Con)
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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I will, although I am conscious of time, Madam Deputy Speaker.

James Grundy Portrait James Grundy
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The hon. Gentleman calls it a scorched-earth policy. I declare my interest as somebody whose family farm is affected by the proposed route of HS2 phase 2b, but ultimately people such my own family and the community I live in have been suffering for over a decade with uncertainty about whether the project would go ahead. He calls it scorched earth, but is it not only fair that people get their life back after having that uncertainty for so long?

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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Any functioning Government should be able to balance the need to involve local people in decisions that affect their day-to-day lives, providing certainty about the future and being able to get vital infrastructure investments for the country off the ground. It should not be a trade-off between one or the other, where people’s livelihoods and lives are left in the air for years and years, only for the project to be taken away. In the end, nobody wins, do they? People cannot get the time back that they wasted being stressed about the impact because they were not properly consulted and engaged, only to have it scrapped overnight—and for what? It is about involving people in the right time in the right decisions, so that they have agency in the process.

I will bring my remarks to a conclusion with this: if London did not have to choose between its sub-regional investment and its national investment, why on earth should the north of England?

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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In order to get the last two speakers in, I need to put on a time limit of six minutes.

17:50
William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
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Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker; I think I can do it a lot quicker than that.

I agree with the remarks made by my hon. Friends from Staffordshire and, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), who set out the practical side. I also agree with the scrapping by the Government of the Birmingham to Crewe section, but that does have consequences, both for my constituents and for those between Crewe and Manchester.

Having looked at the appalling behaviour of HS2 over the years, the mess over compensation that is still carrying on, and things like that—I have been into all that in the past, and it is not strictly speaking the subject of this particular debate, but it is a very serious point—I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South that the Bill should be withdrawn and reintroduced, to ensure that the petitioners by reason of valid additional provisions, as a matter of principle, can have it examined properly in all respects, ab initio.

As I said in my interventions, the sleight of hand of this instruction, which as I have already noted is self-contradictory and purports to provide for matters that are, in my opinion, unprincipled and, as a matter of law and procedure, are stating things to be so that simply are not so, is not the way to proceed. There is a lot of merit in the way the Government are reorientating the objects in order to improve the situation in other parts of the country. However, as regards those directly affected—and ultimately the hybrid Bill procedure and its principles are about protecting those petitioners injuriously affected by a Bill’s provisions—I believe the motion is morally unjustified, indefensible and damaging to the rights of petitioners, with respect both to the constituents between Birmingham and Manchester and to my constituents who will be affected between Birmingham and Crewe.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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As the hon. Gentleman has been admirably short, I will call Grahame Morris, but please remember that I need to bring in the Minister as well.

17:54
Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
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Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker—I will respect your wishes. I had not intended to speak in the debate, so I apologise for being late. I serve on the House of Commons Transport Committee, along with colleagues who spoke earlier from the Government Benches. I also served on the HS2 hybrid Bill Committee that dealt with the section from Crewe to Manchester Piccadilly.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash
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Is the hon. Gentleman actually involved with a Bill that is currently in existence, or is he suggesting that something should be done in respect of a Bill that is not the same as the Bill that was introduced in the first place?

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
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My goodness, that is a complicated intervention—I am not sure that I am suitably qualified to answer it. I just thought that I might share some of my thoughts having served on the Bill Committee, without any particular axe to grind.

I served on the Bill Committee because I was asked to do so as a servant of the House, in order to consider the merits or otherwise of the various petitions. I do not know whether Members are familiar with the process. I am not suggesting for a moment that it is perfect, and I know that there are arguments for revising the hybrid Bill procedure, which is quite lengthy, but some right hon. and hon. Members have suggested—perhaps through a lack of understanding of the process—that it is a mechanism for steamrolling through opposition, and I can absolutely assure them that that does not happen. In fact, if anything, petitioners—who may be individuals, businesses, environmental groups, local authorities or groups representing commercial interests, such as the National Farmers’ Union—are given ample opportunity to make representations to the Committee through petitions, and then to speak to those petitions and articulate their arguments for mitigation, compensation and route variation.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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Will the hon. Member give way?

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
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I will, but I am conscious of time.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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The hon. Member will know from Transport Committee visits that some of the commitments made in the hybrid Bill Committee have not been honoured. Does he share my concerns about that?

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
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As well as having served on the hybrid Bill Committee, I serve on the Transport Committee, and part of that Committee’s duties is to scrutinise HS2 and hold the Rail Minister, who is responsible for the delivery of HS2, to account. Certainly, concerns were expressed to the Transport Committee that statutory undertakings and assurances were not honoured—at least not in the form in which they were presented to the Committee.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
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I will give way one more time, very briefly.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon
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This was only separated out because, as in this debate, some tried to make out that residents were opposed to the project overall. However, my hon. Friend must have seen in the hybrid Bill Committee process that quite a lot of the opposition was about the operational performance of HS2 Ltd and the considerations for local people in construction traffic, delays and the rest of it, which probably could have been done much better.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that perfectly reasonable point. Indeed, it is certainly true of requests for variations to traffic in locations of construction sites and so forth. However, I only have a couple of minutes, so I do not want to be tempted on to the wrong track, as it were, and will just share a couple of thoughts.

I am a bit of a buff. I might be an anti-node, but I am familiar with the locations on the route.

This afternoon, those of us on the Transport Committee have been involved in the pre-legislative scrutiny of the rail reform Bill, and have been listening to representations from representatives of the Welsh Government and the sub-national transport bodies. They were commenting on the new structure and the new draft Bill, and there is general recognition—not just from Transport for the North in my region; we had witnesses from Midlands Connect and Transport East, as well as the Welsh Government—that there is a major transport infrastructure issue. For many decades, we have concentrated on north-south connectivity—principally on connectivity with the capital city. We have done that for sound economic reasons, but the case for east-west connections is supported vociferously by the metro Mayors of Manchester, Liverpool and West Yorkshire, and there are sound economic and connectivity arguments for addressing the need for those connections.

This mechanism is far from perfect. As a separate matter, the House should look at whether the pre-legislative scrutiny process can be truncated in some way to speed it up, but we must give petitioners—Members of Parliament, individuals and businesses—the opportunity to raise their concerns. Imperfect though the mechanism may be, and imperfect though I may be in advocating for it, it does have its merits when it comes to scrutinising major infrastructure schemes such as this one, so I will support today’s motion.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Before I call the Minister, I think the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) opened his remarks by saying that he might have been late for the debate. I can assure him that I have been told he was certainly in the Chamber at the beginning of the debate. Otherwise, I would not have let him speak. I call the Minister.

18:01
Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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With the leave of the House, I commend the motion to the House. As I said earlier, today’s debate marks an important step forward in improving travel in the north, and I thank all right hon. and hon. Friends and Members for their input. In the time I have, I will try to address as many of the contributions made as possible. Colleagues from across the House made important points, which I will do my best to address.

I will start with the amendments, beginning with amendment (a). My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) talked passionately about the need to reduce uncertainty for local communities. There should be no doubt that the result of the unamended motion will be solely to remove all elements of the scheme that need to be removed for the cancellation of the cancelled section of HS2—I hope that provides the reassurance that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) asked for. I am sure that the House would agree that the Network North announcement was unambiguous in its commitment to stopping that scheme, and the Government have already started reinvesting the money that was saved in alternative projects across the country.

The Government agree that it would be ideal if we could announce the precise point of truncation now, but that point of truncation cannot be specified until there has been a full assessment of the works that will be needed to deliver this section of Northern Powerhouse Rail. However, I assure the House that the Department and the organisation are working to deliver that assessment, with an eye to securing the best value for money for taxpayers and reducing disruption for residents. The results of the assessment will be published in a supplementary environmental statement as soon as possible. As an aside, accepting amendment (a) as drafted would leave a hole in the railway in the event that the truncation was not as specified by the amendment, which would obviously not be an ideal way to build a railway.

Amendment (b) would remove a proposed maintenance depot from the Bill. That depot, which could be a temporary structure, in place during the building of the railway, is in Ashley in the constituency of Tatton. For clarity, I should add that all aspects of the scheme between Millington and Manchester are being reviewed to ensure that they are necessary. Whether there should be a maintenance depot at Ashley is a matter for petitions to the Committee, and if the motion is carried unamended, the Committee will have the opportunity to discuss the maintenance depot through petitions.

In general, we believe that the works at Ashley mentioned in amendment (b) will be needed to minimise road traffic in the area as far as possible, and that is why there is no proposal to remove it at this stage. Furthermore, some of the materials needed to build the railway are very large, such as sections of rail, and these very large items can only be brought in safely by rail. We will, however, assess whether the size of the site can be reduced. Amendment (c) is consequential on amendment (a), about which I have already spoken.

Finally, turning to amendment (d), removing the words “high speed” could have unfortunate consequences for the Bill. It would allow petitioners to argue for amendments that stipulate speed restrictions, which could greatly impede the eventual operation of the railway. It would also mean that the motion was less aligned with the current title and agreed purpose of the Bill. The Government’s aspiration for the Northern Powerhouse Rail project is to deliver the best for the north, including the fastest journey times possible. We want to bring the urban centres of the north closer together, driving economic growth by making it easier to live, work and recruit across the different parts of the region. The reference to “high speed” rail in the instruction to the Committee underlines this commitment.

Robin Millar Portrait Robin Millar (Aberconwy) (Con)
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Will the Minister give way?

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman
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I will not take any interventions because of time.

Let me touch on some of the other points raised. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South, just to be absolutely clear, the original instruction for the Select Committee was to consider HS2 phase 2b and Northern Powerhouse Rail, as was debated at length in June 2022, and I believe that was the mandate given. It was never the case that we were going to talk about phase 2b alone; NPR was very much part of the purpose.

Opposition Members have said that we should crack on—or I used those words—but let me make it clear that my advice is that it would take an extra five years to start this process all over again, as opposed to two weeks to repurpose the Committee, so if we want to see Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered, it makes sense to follow this mechanism. Having worked with officials in Parliament, I believe that this mechanism is correct, and I do not agree with the points made about how it is somehow not valid. We would not put something through the House if the House officials had not agreed that it was in order.

On Chat Moss, I have made the point time and again to my right hon. and hon. Friends—we have discussed this a lot; no one can say that we have not had a good, rigorous discussion—that the proposal would miss out Manchester airport and Warrington Bank Quay. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South knows, I do not agree with the points he makes, and he does not agree with the points I make; that is the beauty of democracy.

The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan), as well as the hon. Members for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) and for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), spoke along the lines of the north being short-changed. I absolutely dispute that, and let me give them the example of the TransPennine route upgrade, because that is the start of Northern Powerhouse Rail. It is going on right now, and the electrification for Stalybridge will be ready for next year. On the points about Crossrail, more money will be invested by this Government or the UK taxpayer on the TRU—just that section, which is the backbone or precursor of Northern Powerhouse Rail—than on the entirety of Crossrail, so I do believe that we are investing in the north, and I support investment in the north.

As far as the plans for Birmingham to Manchester are concerned, I understand that the mayors are working on proposals. Those proposals have not been put to us, so we do not have anything to address. The Government have been clear—others may not agree with us—that we are not moving forward with phases 2a or 2b of HS2. Those are our proposals.

There was talk of pork barrel politics in relation to Bradford, which I think is a new one for Conservative Members, but I went there with the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris), and the Government are committed to giving Bradford what it needs to regenerate the youngest city in this country. I fully support what we are doing to repurpose moneys from HS2 for Bradford, Hull and other parts of the north and the midlands.

On the point made by the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton about an underground station in Manchester, the options available are being assessed, so the proposal is on the table to discuss and look at. I think there is only one London station that has an underground element, which is the Thameslink part of St Pancras, so London does not have a plethora of such underground stations. However, we want to work with the Mayor of Manchester to see what is possible, and that also applies to the Mayor of Liverpool.

The great man the hon. Member for Easington talked about the hybrid Bill Committee. He talks with experience, because he has been on it. I thank him for that, and I hope his work will start again in a couple of weeks’ time. He is absolutely right, and I have talked to the Chairman of Ways and Means to ensure that we can amend the process to make it faster, so that we can build this railway faster.

In conclusion, my officials and I will continue to engage with local residents, leaders and communities, and Members of this place regarding how we design the railway and how to minimise disruption from construction. I understand the differing concerns of hon. Members across the House, but I am keen, as always, to work with them constructively to try to address those points and move this project forward. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put.

18:10

Division 156

Ayes: 323


Conservative: 222
Labour: 86
Independent: 5
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Reform UK: 1
Workers Party of Britain: 1
Liberal Democrat: 1

Noes: 7


Conservative: 5
Liberal Democrat: 3

Resolved,
That it be an instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill is committed to deal with the Bill as follows:
(1) The Committee shall, before concluding its proceedings, amend the Bill by—
(a) leaving out provision relating to a railway between a junction with Phase 2a of High Speed 2 south of Crewe in Cheshire and a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire,
(b) leaving out provision relating to a railway between Hoo Green in Cheshire and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Bamfurlong, south of Wigan, and
(c) making such amendments to the Bill as it thinks fit in consequence of the amendments made by virtue of sub-paragraphs (a) and (b).
(2) The Committee shall not hear any petition to the extent that it—
(a) relates to whether or not there should be—
(i) a railway between a junction with Phase 2a of High Speed 2 south of Crewe in Cheshire and a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire, or
(ii) a railway between Hoo Green in Cheshire and a junction with the West Coast Main Line at Bamfurlong, south of Wigan, or
(b) otherwise relates to a railway mentioned in sub-paragraph (a).
(3) The Committee shall treat the principle of the Bill, as determined by the House on the Bill’s Second Reading, as comprising the matters mentioned in paragraph (4); and those matters shall accordingly not be at issue during proceedings of the Committee.
(4) The matters referred to in paragraph (3) are—
(a) the provision of a high speed railway between a point in the vicinity of the parish of Millington and Rostherne in Cheshire and Manchester Piccadilly Station,
(b) in relation to the railway mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) as set out on the plans deposited in January 2022 in connection with the Bill in the office of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Private Bill Office of the House of Commons, its broad route alignment, and
(c) the fact that there are to be no new stations (other than Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport) on the railway mentioned in sub-paragraph (a).
(5) The Committee shall have power to consider any amendments proposed by the member in charge of the Bill which, if the Bill were a private bill, could not be made except upon petition for additional provision.
(6) Paragraph (5) applies only so far as the amendments proposed by the member in charge of the Bill fall within the principle of the Bill as provided for by paragraphs (3) and (4) above.
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.
That the Order of 20 June 2022 (High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill: Instruction (No. 2)) be rescinded.