High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill: Revival

(Bill reintroduced: House of Commons)
(Bill reintroduced: House of Commons)
(motion to revive Bill: House of Commons)
Andrew Stephenson Excerpts
Monday 2nd March 2020

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Bill Main Page
Department for Transport
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 8:37 p.m.

Before I call the Minister to move the motion, I should inform the House that Mr Speaker has not selected any amendments.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Andrew Stephenson)
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 8:37 p.m.

I beg to move,

That if a Bill is presented to this House in this session in the same terms as those in which the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill stood at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the 2019 session—

(a) the Bill so presented shall be deemed to have passed through all its stages in this House, and

(b) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the 2019 session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in this session.

That the above Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

I am delighted to be here this evening to undertake my first piece of parliamentary business as the new Minister for high-speed rail. I have been given specific oversight of this hugely significant project.

The High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill, also known as the phase 2a Bill, concerns a section of HS2 that will extend the railway from the end of phase 1, just north of Birmingham, to Crewe. Hybrid Bills are unusual and relatively rare. A hybrid Bill is both a public Bill and a private Bill in one—hence, hybrid. The Bill could be characterised as an alternative planning consent process.

The Bill was introduced into this House in July 2017. It passed its Second Reading in January 2018 and moved into its Select Committee stage. Over 300 petitions were received. In response, two additional provisions were promoted that made changes to the Bill to resolve those petitions. That process took over a year. Hearings finished in the spring of 2019, and the amendments were agreed. The Bill then completed its stages in this place and moved to the House of Lords, where it had its Second Reading last September.

It is normal for a Bill like this to carry over from one parliamentary Session to another. The previous Parliament did not make time available to secure carry-over motions, so I am bringing the Bill back today with this revival motion. Private Bills that are not carried over are often revived. Revival has been used before for a hybrid Bill. For those who may be geeky and interested, the process is set out in “Erskine May”, in paragraph 37 of chapter 45 on page 1,162.

Andrew Percy Portrait Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is indeed very geeky and technical, and all very interesting, but can I urge the Minister, particularly when he responds to the debate, to talk about the benefits of HS2 and how we can bring those benefits online now? May I particularly commend to him the new Siemens rail factory that is coming to Goole, with £250 million of investment, and our excellent steelworks at Scunthorpe, which already supplies Network Rail with all of its railways, thereby demonstrating the benefit to the whole of the country of this Bill?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 8:41 p.m.

Order. The hon. Gentleman asks the Minister whether he can make certain commendations. He can try, but I am afraid he cannot, really, because this is a very, very narrow motion on procedure; it is not a debate on the merits or otherwise of the Government’s railway policy.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 8:41 p.m.

Thank you for that guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I can, however, assure my hon. Friend, who is a doughty champion of the Brigg and Goole constituency, that 98% of businesses involved in HS2 are British, and approximately 70% of the contracts already awarded are going to small and medium-sized enterprises. I am sure he will continue to champion the businesses in his constituency to ensure that they get the maximum benefit from this scheme.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a procedural point, my hon. Friend will be aware that there are some experienced politicians who could use various tactics to delay this measure. I would not like to join those people. Can I just mention, though, that if we are spending £100 billion on this, my constituents are very keen on the Government giving £1 million only to London North Eastern Railway for our through train to Grimsby and Cleethorpes via Market Rasen? I would very much hope that the Minister, in terms of procedure and ensuring a smooth passage and support for this measure, could perhaps give a gentle green light to my through train for just £1 million.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 8:42 p.m.

Order. No, the right hon. Gentleman cannot talk about Grimsby. I call the Minister.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 8:42 p.m.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Once again, I am tempted to talk about a very laudable proposal from my right hon. Friend. I know that the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), who is sitting next to me, sees significant merit in that proposal and will hopefully be looking at it in due course.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 8:43 p.m.

As my hon. Friend may know, the amendment that I proposed, which has not been selected—I do not complain about that, or rather I complain about the principle but not about the action—says that these Standing Orders would contradict fundamental constitutional principles. Bills come to an end in the Session in which they were introduced unless a carry-over motion is passed before Prorogation or Dissolution. It is extremely rare, and almost unique, for the process that we are now witnessing to take place. I just put that on the record; I have further points that I am sure the Minister is expecting me to make later.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 8:43 p.m.

I note my hon. Friend’s concern. My direct reference to “Erskine May” would, I hope, have put his mind to rest as to why we are using this procedure in this rather unique circumstance.

Since the Government have decided that HS2 should go ahead and that phase 2a should be built, we now need to take the next step, which is to revive the Bill. This motion has the same effect as a carry-over motion, and if Members agree it today, the Bill will resume in the same place that it stopped. That means it will pass to the House of Lords, where it would resume its Select Committee stage. Passing this motion therefore allows the progress already made to be kept. It allows those directly affected to continue with the legal processes they still have to complete, safe in the knowledge that the changes they requested to the Bill and previously received will be kept.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 8:45 p.m.

I welcome the Minister to his place. The Labour party is supportive of the motion—as can be seen from the massed ranks of the Opposition behind me right now!—because we see HS2 as key to boosting regional economies and reducing climate emissions. It is essential for increasing rail capacity and freeing up other lines for freight use. I rather think that some of the troubles we have had with High Speed 2 might have been avoided had we come up with another name for it, but that is by the by.

Successive Conservative Transport Ministers have shown themselves lacking in competence and unable to oversee the finances and governance of HS2, among other infrastructure projects. In recent years, the Government have presented inaccurate information to both Parliament and the public about the cost of HS2. The public need to have confidence in the project, but sadly the Government have undermined that with their failure to exercise any control over not only costs but redundancy payments. There is real concern that the true costs of the project were known to be much higher than the figures that the Government continually promoted. As the project progresses, it is essential that there is much greater transparency.

In addition, when the contracts for phase 1 were being granted, despite hedge fund managers making a packet out of the inevitable demise of Carillion, this Tory Government crashed on regardless, awarding the doomed organisation a valuable HS2 contract.

Break in Debate

Adam Afriyie Portrait Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My brief contribution will not be about the merits or disbenefits of HS2 but about the novel motion before us. I have not seen anything like it in my 15 years in this House, and I therefore seek two points of clarification from the Minister in his summing up.

First, will passing this motion today, irrespective of the effect on the Standing Orders of the House, pass the budget for HS2, or will there be a further opportunity to vote for or against and to contribute to a debate on the budget and the cost of HS2?

Secondly, have contracts been signed at the figures we have seen thus far? If they have not been signed, does this measure enable the signing of contracts? Will this House have an opportunity to examine those contracts and the amount of money assigned to them before this goes any further?

This is a novel motion, and it is important that the House understands the implications of proceeding via this route rather than the more traditional route for bringing legislation back to the House.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Andrew Stephenson)
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 9:30 p.m.

I should like to reply to as many of the issues raised today as I can while discussing the motion. First, I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in the debate this evening. In his speech, the Prime Minister made it clear that things at HS2 need to change, and decisive action is being taken to restore discipline to the programme. I have been appointed to oversee High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the trans-Pennine route upgrade, ensuring that there is one Minister dedicated to focusing on this project, allowing many of the other issues that have been raised in the debate, such as the issues in the south-west, to be focused on by my ministerial colleagues in the Department.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 9:30 p.m.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister also alluded to the fact that the Beeching line fund would be £1.5 billion. Can the Minister confirm that, and, if so, will he be able to suggest that more money can be levelled up across the entire United Kingdom, not just in relation to the HS2 line?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 9:30 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that point. He will be aware that we have officially launched our £500 million Beeching reversal fund and details about additional funding will of course be made available in due course, but the Prime Minister has been crystal clear about our intention to invest heavily in bringing back rail routes and stations and to level up all parts of our country.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 9:31 p.m.

Does not the short debate this evening show that the project is very different from the one that the previous Parliament approved, and that the Opposition have invented a magical railway that is very different from the one that the Bill actually captures? That shows that we need to debate this again properly, rather than rushing the thing through and regarding it as settled. It is clearly not settled and is a highly contentious project.

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 9:32 p.m.

I appreciate that my right hon. Friend has been a long-term opponent of the scheme, but I would say that the motion before the House tonight is very limited. There will be many future occasions to debate the issue, I am sure.

There are about six minutes left, so, Mr Speaker, if you will allow me, I must make some progress in responding to some of the comments made by right hon. and hon. Members. The Prime Minister has made a firm commitment that we will get hold of this project and have a firm grip on it. It goes alongside a programme of wider transport investment. The Prime Minister outlined a vision for a revolution in local transport to ensure that our towns and cities in every region have the modern joined-up network needed to fire up economic growth.

Let me turn to the points raised in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) has been a vocal opponent of HS2 for many years, speaking frequently and eloquently on behalf of his constituents, and I understand the concerns he has expressed tonight. He asks whether I would consider not providing phase 2a until the phase 2b review has been completed, so that phase 2a can be looked at again in the light of the integrated rail plan. What I would say to him is that in giving his go-ahead to HS2 in this House on 11 February, the Prime Minister committed the Government to getting on with building phase 2a immediately and this has been reflected in the terms of reference set out for the integrated rail plan. However, I appreciate my hon. Friend’s concerns, and although I cannot change the terms of that review I am keen to work with him to ensure that the views of his constituents are heard throughout this process. I am therefore happy to commit to working with him and facilitating meetings with HS2 Ltd to address the deep concerns that I know he still holds as the Bill completes its passage.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 9:33 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 9:33 p.m.

I am sorry, but we are perilously close to running out of time. My hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) spoke eloquently in support of the motion. He is right on capacity and he is right in what he said on carbon. I want to reassure him that the Government are taking decisive action to restore discipline to the programme and I welcome the oversight that will be brought by the Public Accounts Committee to that project.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 9:33 p.m.

On that point, will the Minister give way?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 9:33 p.m.

indicated assent.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 9:34 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend. The Public Accounts Committee has had two inquiries and we are about to have another. There is universal agreement on this side of the House tonight that we need to get control of the governance of the thing and we need to get control of the cost. Will my hon. Friend give an absolute assurance to the House tonight that he will redouble his efforts to get control of the costs?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 9:34 p.m.

Yes.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2 Mar 2020, 9:34 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Andrew Stephenson Portrait Andrew Stephenson
- Hansard - -

2 Mar 2020, 9:34 p.m.

No.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) talked eloquently about the benefits to his constituency, and it was great to visit his patch last week. My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) has been consistent in his opposition to High Speed 2, but I am afraid that I agree with his good friend Andy Street; this scheme has huge benefits for every part of the west midlands and we need to move forward. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke), despite being elected only in December, has already raised with me the concerns of her constituents by phone, text, WhatsApp and letter, in face-to-face meetings and again in the Chamber today. I have been left in no doubt about the strength of feeling in her constituency and about the fact that she will work tirelessly to represent all those directly affected by this section of the line. I share her concern about the way some people and communities have been treated by HS2 Ltd, and it must improve, as the Prime Minister said on 11 February. She asked about a timeline for compensation. As she will know, HS2 Ltd is required to pay landowners 90% of HS2 Ltd’s valuation within three months of receiving a claim or the date of possession, whichever is the later. The time taken to agree a settlement will often depend on the time parties take to negotiate and agree a property’s valuation and other statutory compensation. However, this is an area where I want to see real improvement, and I will be happy to meet her to discuss specific constituency cases and what more can be done to end the uncertainty that has hung over people for far too long. I thank her for the tone of her remarks tonight.

My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) raised his concerns about cost. We have made it clear that we are committed to drawing a line under the past problems of cost control, and the Government recognise that things must change going forward. The latest cost estimate, as outlined in the Oakervee review, indicates that the full network cost will be between £72 billion and £98 billion, in 2019 prices. My hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) raised issues relating to the south-west. I can reassure him that we will not take our focus off other issues, particularly those he raises. That is why the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) is here with me tonight, and it is why the Government are spending £48 billion between 2019 and 2024 on the conventional rail network. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie) asked a few questions, on which I may come back to him, but this measure does not pass the budget—there will be many more debates.

Finally, I wish to remind the House of the reasons for bringing forward this motion to revive the Bill. By reviving the Bill, we allow those who are directly and specifically affected by the building of this section of HS2 to get the earliest possible resolution to their petitions. We prevent the need to restart this Bill, saving time and money for those who have already petitioned and protecting the investment already made by the taxpayer. This Government want to get on and provide certainty to those affected by phase 2a, the west midlands to Crewe section of the line. By reviving this Bill tonight, we provide that certainty to people as quickly as possible. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That if a Bill is presented to this House in this session in the same terms as those in which the High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill stood at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the 2019 session—

(a) the Bill so presented shall be deemed to have passed through all its stages in this

House, and

(b) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the 2019 session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in this session.

That the above Orders be Standing Orders of the House.