David Lidington says he will resign as a minister if a ‘generous’ deal for residents affected by HS2 is not reached by the next time it comes before MPs for a vote.
The MP for Aylesbury has received criticism after it emerged he will miss today’s Commons vote on the scheme (the second reading), in favour of taking a foreign office trip to Estonia.
But the MP, who is Minister for Europe, said that he can best serve constituents from ‘inside the tent’, and says he used his position to met with Chancellor George Osborne last week to discuss the controversial scheme.
“I have decided to abstain, but I have been and remain opposed to HS2, I’ve fought alongside campaigns and the Prime Minister knows my views.
“The key test for me is, given there is a massive cross-party majority in favour of this scheme, can we get the generous and fair mitigation that the local area deserves?
He said he would resign at the third of the HS2 bill if he feels mitigation is not sufficient.
“I will resign at a later stage of the bill if they don’t get mitigation, and that for me includes a Chilterns tunnel.”
He added: “I can understand where residents are coming from and I thought long and hard about what I should do.
“But given the harsh reality of parliamentary arithmetic I felt that the best outcome would be to stay and fight for the mitigation and compensation that people deserve.
“If I stood down I would just be one more MP that is against HS2, but by staying in I have the inside track, it’s a pragmatic political judgement.
“I’ve always tried to work in the best interests of the constituents, and I came to the view in the end that a huge majority exists for HS2, therefore it is desperately important that our area is at the table when ministers are taking decisions about environmental mitigation and compensation.”
Mr Lidington is en route to Estonia today where he will meet with the foreign minister to discuss Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.
He said that the Ukranian crisis is such a sensitive issue that it would be destabilising for his ministerial position to be brought into question.
He said: “When I’m representing the Foreign Office on Ukraine policy I can’t be saying that I’m considering my position.”
Tomorrow he is speaking at a major conference on regulating internet freedoms across Europe, which he says was booked before the HS2 vote was announced.